First Amendment Gallery
Wednesday 04 October @ 15:31:48
by LIBERTY FINCH
For a gallery that opened less than a week ago, First Amendment is making a lot of noise—literally and figuratively—in its new digs at Broadway Ave. and Stinson Blvd. in Northeast Minneapolis. First Amendment’s debut last Friday peacefully (but loudly) assembled hundreds of hipsters into the 3,000-square-foot basement space that is the new studio and showplace for Burlesque of North America and artists Amy Jo Hendrickson, Lonny Unitus and Kirk Snyder. A massive crowd packed the space to ogle the latest in socio/pop art, and swagger to beats by POS, Paper Tiger (Doomtree), The Seawhores, Andrew Broder and Tim Glenn (Fog).
Burlesque of North America is an art cooperative comprised of premier screen printers and graphic designers, including Todd Bratrud, Letta Christianson, Bjorn Christianson (Letta's brother), Mike Davis, Aaron Horkey, Skye Rossi, George Thompson and Wes Winship. They produce posters, illustrations, CD and album packaging and logos.
Davis, who moved from St. Louis to join the group in 2003, explains how the
cooperative evolved. “Wes and some of his graffiti friends were working
on Life Sucks Die, a well-known local and international graffiti magazine. They’d
been doing it a long time, but some of the guys had moved on to other things,
and they wanted to do something more profitable and career based. I’d
helped them out writing articles and doing graphics for the magazine, and they
said if I moved up here, it’d be the kick in the butt they needed.”
(Life Sucks Die has ceased publication, but Davis says they still get weekly
calls from people anxiously awaiting issue #9.)
Winship, who’d been screen printing from his apartment, moved the gear
to a studio a few floors above the “Life Sucks Die” office and invited
Hendrickson and Unitus to share the space. But even that got cramped. “It
got to the point where the business had grown and we were tired of working out
of that space,” says Davis, “so we started looking around town and
stumbled upon this building.”
The current location provides ample space for the enormous screen-printing machines,
and also includes office space, storage and a gallery. First Amendment’s
inaugural exhibit features its co-op members, but also showcases a breadth of
work by friends and acquaintances, offering diverse mediums and execution styles.
Most of the show is screen-printed poster art, but there are also acrylics,
mixed media, collage and photography.
“The Twin Cities is a huge place for posters right now,” says Davis.
“There are a lot of really incredible artists in the community: DWITT,
Squad 19, Aesthetic Apparatus, KHS. Everyone knows everyone, and everyone’s
willing to help out. I don’t even consider it friendly competition, because
everyone has their own niche. We couldn't be happier than to be showing their
work in our gallery.”
Davis says the show crosses musical lines, and there’s no denying Burlesque’s
ties to both the local and national music scene. Skye Rossi, who works with
Rhymesayers, captures hip-hop culture in his photographs “Self-Destruction”
and “The R.” Wes Winship has posters for “Gay Beast,”
“The Melvins” and “Zebulon Pike,” and has collaborated
with George Thompson on “Pelican.”
Aaron Horkey’s meticulous prints will astound with their level of mind-boggling,
exquisite detail, particularly “Flight of the Black Osprey.” Hand-cut
stencil artist John Grider commands attention with his visually arresting pieces,
such as “Chimpanzee Gets Really Angry,” which shows handgun-wielding
chimp covering his eyes as he aims out of frame. Perhaps the most unusual work
is the “Puke Blood Series” by Todd Bratrud, which uses screen prints
made with human blood.
What can explain the plethora of artistic graphic talent here in the Twin Cities?
“The weather,” suggests Davis. “It’s kind of humbling,
and when it gets cold people stay inside to work on cool projects. There’s
always been cool stuff happening in the Twin Cities … the music inspires
the art, and the art inspires the music—it goes both ways. We're fortunate
to be in such a supportive community.” ||
First Amendment’s inaugural show runs through Oct. 20. The gallery is
located at 1101 Stinson Blvd. NE, Mpls., 612-379-4151. Gallery hours are Tue.–Fri.
11 a.m.–5 p.m. and by appointment.