Soo Visual Arts Center’s annual “Untitled” exhibition is always a great time to visit the southwest Minneapolis gallery because the juried exhibition distills the essence of SooVAC — adventurous and forward-thinking — into one high-proof show.
For the first time ever, the 12th-annual “Untitled’ jury was two out-of-towners: painter and critic Enrico Gomez of New York City and Winnipeg-based artist Theo Sims. But “Untitled” always reflects the spirit of SooVAC more than anything, like almost any one of the 20 artists could hold down a solo show at the gallery.
Give yourself some time to experience the emotional slow burn of “Portrait of Tillie,” an installation by Minneapolis artist Laura Andrews that covers an entire wall at the back of the gallery. The piece consists of scores of personal checks written by the artist’s great grandmother between 1957 and 1997, all tacked to the wall in chronological order, creating a narrative that unfolds from left to right, check by check.
It’s a piece that repays close attention, a collage of Tillie’s financial life that hints at major events, from the death of a spouse to the purchase of a new car to, finally, her declining health. In her once neat script, now grown ragged and spidery, Tillie writes out payments to Dakota Foot Clinic and Pulmonary Health Associates.
“Gleaming Beryl,” an abstract painting by St. Olaf College art instructor Michon Weeks, is one of the strongest visual statements in the show. On a slate gray background, Weeks paints a field of tightly spaced white dots that create an undulating, opart visual effect. In this wave pool of dots float mysterious, line-based symbols that resemble petroglyphs.
A recent Minneapolis College of Art and Design graduate, Sara Suppan, paints what could be the darkened interior of any student apartment: a double window above a radiator, the blinds drawn to block out the light. But Suppan makes the blinds an imposing, almost monumental presence, a cage of black, horizontal bars that seem to hold back the light of the outdoors.
Two small, wall-mounted wood sculptures and a drawing by Cody VanderKaay, an art professor at Oakland University in Michigan, share an appealingly clean-lined, geometric aesthetic. VanderKaay’s “Western Ziggurat” sculptures have serrated edges that resemble the rooflines of cookie-cutter suburban homes.
His drawing is executed with mechanical precision, using thin strips of black tape applied to raw canvas. It looks, at first, like a jumbled pile of empty picture frames, but the quadrilaterals slowly reveal themselves to be subtle optical illusions with lines that defy the logic of perspective.
“Postcards From the Middle,” a suite of small oil-on-panel paintings by Minneapolis artist and practicing physician Samuel Hanson Willis, seem to describe an idyllic alternate history of post-World War II America, one which didn’t force gay men into the closet. The men in these scenes dress are dressed like you grandfather in old family snapshots, but they display their affection openly in a way that wouldn’t be accepted for decades. They even marry, dressing for the occasion in conservative blue suits.
By contrast, Dustin Yager’s cheeky and sexually explicit work draws inspiration from the here-and-now of gay male culture. The imagery in “Minneapolis Boys Cycle,” realized on a set or porcelain plates, comes from texts Yager, who earned his masters from School of the Arts Institute of Chicago in 2011, exchanged with other men since moving to Minneapolis. Some viewers may find them salacious, but shifting the context from screen to dinnerware just underlines the ridiculousness of sexting.
An installation by St. Paul artist Charles Matson Lume, consisting of a sheet of acetate a dozen rolls of fluorescent no trespassing tape, casts a tiny nebula of light onto the gallery wall. Named after a famous Marilyn Monroe quote — “No one ever told me I was pretty when I was a little girl” — it’s a mysterious and elegiac piece, the light like a ghost hovering above a crime scene.
When: Through June 4
Where: Soo Visual Arts Center, 2909 Bryant Ave. S.
Info: soovac.org, 8716623