Landscapes industrial and rural

Paintings by Michael Banning and Larry Hofmann at Groveland Gallery; plus, Amy Toscani and Chad Rutter at Minneapolis Institute of Arts

"North Pacific Street, Minneapolis, Winter," a painting by Michael Banning. Credit: Submitted image
"North Pacific Street, Minneapolis, Winter," a painting by Michael Banning. Credit: Submitted image

LOWRY HILL — For a particular type of urban explorer, there’s something romantic about seeking out the forgotten corners of the city, the weedy parking lots, forlorn underpasses and restricted zones on the edges of rail yards.

It’s the city’s industrial underbelly that interests painter Michael Banning, a former Minneapolitan who now lives in Chicago. Head to Groveland Gallery for a Banning-led tour of the Twin Cities, including stops at Currie Avenue near the impound lot, where tractor-less trailers are parked on the street; a crumbling expanse of asphalt near 27th Avenue Northeast, a stone’s throw from the train tracks; and a rain-slicked red brick street on the less-traveled backside of the Warehouse District.

Always in these panoramic scenes Banning orients the view toward the city center. But the skylines of Minneapolis and St. Paul lie somewhere beyond the converging lines of perspective — traced by tire tracks in slushy snow or power lines dangling far above the sidewalk — underscoring the sense of remoteness.

The streets Banning travels are the old bones of a disappearing city, one of commerce enabled by barge and railcar, a city quite removed from the downtowns’ gleaming office towers and luxury condominiums.

Out back in the Groveland Annex, paintings by Larry Hofmann make for a nice counterpoint to the work in the main gallery. Hofmann’s bio identifies him as a native of Mankato, and his rural landscapes capture the essence of southern and central Minnesota, where the prairie is carved by lush river valleys and dotted with stands of trees.

Hofmann works from photographs taken while tooling along rural byways, and he devotes much of his attention to the changes in light and atmosphere at the end of the day: a summer afternoon saturated with haze or an evening sky streaked with pink and blue like a trout’s belly.

“City’s Edge” and “Discoveries from the Car Window”

WHEN: Through June 7

WHERE: Groveland Gallery, 25 Groveland Terrace

INFO: grovelandgallery.com, 377-7800

Submitted image
Amy Toscani’s sculpture “Cuccu.” (Photo by Sarah Whiting.)

Russian poetry and lines from “Walden”

WHITTIER — The title of Amy Toscani’s exhibition of recent sculpture at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts is at first baffling, but then you return home and look it up on trusty old Google and things start to makes sense.

“Chastushki” (plural; singular, “chastushka”), it turns out, are a form of Russian folk poetry — fast-paced, rhyming, comic, decisively lowbrow and often sung. Toscani’s sculptures remix some of those same elements, humorously appropriating found objects and pop-culture artifacts, including collectible ceramic figurines, which are about as lowbrow as it gets.

To one of these, a sad-eyed spaniel figurine with a chipped snout, Toscani adds a grotesquely large lower body, a fun-house mirror effect that turns its mawkishness monumental. To a chainsaw sculpture of a bear climbing up the side of a tree she attaches a huge burl of multi-colored plastic, making for an odd juxtaposition of natural and man-made materials and of folk art and gallery art.

Paired with Toscani for this installment of the Minnesota Artists Exhibition Program is “Floodplain,” an installation by Chad Rutter that meditates on a line from “Walden.” Played on an electronic highway message board, it draws a comparison between Thoreau’s habitual walk from cabin to pond and a commuter’s daily drive to work.

On one side of the gallery hang three large blue tarps next to a large rectangle of chocolate-colored earth painted directly onto the wall. On the opposite wall are three pencil drawings made from found photographs. They’re fuzzy and indistinct, but it’s possible one depicts a sun-baked field, and the others seem to include cars and maybe a highway viewed through a rain-covered windshield.

The informal dirt paths that cut through public spaces, often the shortest way between points A and B, are sometimes called cow paths, places where repeated footfalls leave a lasting impression in what Thoreau called the “soft and impressible” earth. Rutter doesn’t offer many answers in this exhibition, but the vague questions he poses seem to have to do with the paths we create and where they take us.

“Chastushki” and “Floodplain”

WHEN: Through June 29

WHERE: Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 2400 3rd Ave. S.

INFO: artsmia.org, 870-3000