This modern world

Trash and public transit at MIA

WHITTIER — How does an artist depict the epic scale of human consumption in the first decade of the 21st Century?

Minneapolis painter Michael Kareken begins with a 9-foot by 14-foot canvas, large enough to cover almost an entire wall of the Minnesota Artists Exhibition Program (MAEP) Gallery at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Kareken fills it with a cascade of clear glass bottles: beer bottles, tea bottles, a jar of Vietnamese fish sauce, an empty Starbucks Frappuccino, the stuff you set out for recycling last week.

Kareken is reporting from the scrap yard, which in other paintings in the MAEP exhibition is depicted as a grimy, waterlogged purgatory where old engine parts and rusted oil drums await — we hope — recycling. It’s a dirty, depressing station in the lifecycle of consumer products, one few consumers ever visit.

Still, Kareken’s loose, exuberant brushstrokes reveal what little beauty there is in the ugly, guilt-inducing scenes of piled trash.

Smudges of green, blue and pink form rusted oil drums compressed into cubes. The pile of glass sparkles with daubs of white paint.

Up close, the paintings teeter between representation and abstraction. Depicting a powerful, crane-hoisted magnet as it sweeps up scraps of metal, Kareken lets the bottom of the canvas dissolve in slashing brushstrokes and drips of paint.

In an adjacent gallery, an installation by Testuya Yamada touches on another aspect of modern life: the commute.

While the sights and sounds of the scrap yard are often hidden behind barbed wire and metal fencing, the commute is something most city workers experience every day. Ever-shifting scenes of city life flow past bus and car windows, first in one direction and then the other.

Yamada grew up in Tokyo, though, where the commute for many workers means a trip on a crowded high-speed train. Moving at a pace Minneapolis light-rail riders could only dream of, Tokyo commuters watch the suburbs fly past in a blur.

Yamada approximates the experience by turning two video cameras on a large, motorized wheel covered in a pattern of black, vertical lines. As the wheel spins, the feed from both cameras is projected into a darkened space.

The result is an optical illusion: at high speed, the lines blur into one another, rhythmically flowing forward and backward. You imagine staring out a train window at the Japanese countryside, watching telephone poles fly past.

Go see it
Both “Scrap” and “Commuter” run through Jan. 24 in the Minnesota Artists Exhibition Program galleries at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 2400 3rd Ave. S. (888) MIA ARTS.


Ice cold art

Did Santa come through on your Christmas wish for local art? If not, there’s still time to make it over “Prints on Ice” at Highpoint Center for Printmaking.

The co-op members’ annual winter exhibition and sale again features a number of strong prints in a diverse array of styles.

Anna Tsantir expands on a theme seen in her recent work, showing several prints of delicate geometric shapes. Tsantir previously stacked her triangles and trapezoids in towers, but here they clump together like crystals growing in a Petri dish.

Therese Krupp draws on mid-century European advertising art for her playful, primary-colored screen prints. Krupp’s keen graphic sense and witty cartooning delight.

Sister Sarah Voss, a Benedictine nun, contributes several charming prints illustrating scenes for a children’s Bible. Voss’ version of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse brought to mind a Jean de Brunhoff illustration from his children’s classic “Babar the King,” where angel-like winged elephants chase demons representing despair and misfortune through the sky.

Inspired by the migrations of birds, Jeremy Lund fills sheets of paper with hundreds of tiny black marks. The marks coalesce like a swarm of starlings in flight.

Go see it
“Prints on Ice” runs through Jan. 16 at Highpoint Center for Printmaking, 912 W. Lake St. 871-1326.