Art beat // Aesthetic at work

MCAD marks a decade (plus one) of Aesthetic Apparatus

WHITTIER — Part retrospective, part testament to the creative life lived.

That’s how things were shaping up as gallery workers installed “AAXI: A Decade of Aesthetic Apparatus, One Year Late” the morning of its May 28 opening at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. Along with a healthy sampling of their aesthetic — including a two-story cascade of screen-printed gig posters — the show celebrates the humble apparati that keep Dan Ibarra and Michael Byzewski’s Seward print shop humming.

Nothing is so evocative of printmaking as a physical process as the ink-splattered squeegee the two used to hand-print their posters for years (until 2006, when Ibarra said they started to develop carpal tunnel syndrome and invested in an auto press). Basically a long rubber blade used to push ink through a screen, the squeegee’s wooden handle has two deep, polished grooves where it met Ibarra and Byzewski’s palms.

“Pulling that squeegee 50,000 times is going to teach you the best way to print,” Ibarra said.

The hard work paid off in the form of national and international recognition for the design duo who met while working in the ’90s at a Madison, Wis., graphic design studio. They continued their design work when they left to form Aesthetic Apparatus, and have since produced work for clients like prestige DVD publisher Criterion Collection and brewer Stella Artois.

(You know the Kings Wine Bar logo? They did that, too.)

But the studio is best known for its rock ’n roll poster work for groups like Dinosaur Jr., The Hold Steady, Animal Collective, Spoon and scores of others. Their first foray into screen-printing was a gig poster produced after hours while still working in Madison, and it was their success in the genre that, in part, inspired Aesthetic Apparatus.

There’s no rigid house style, but the typical Aesthetic Apparatus poster includes elements of collage — often sampled from mid-century advertising illustration — minimal use of color and layered patterns that add texture to the images. Born of necessity, they became trademarks.

“We were horrible printmakers,” Ibbara said of those early days. “We had to actually accommodate for our bad printmaking ability and add a lot of texture and make sure that nothing really had to line up really tightly.”

He added: “That kind of haze and those haphazard mistakes that were part of a bad print we started adopting into our aesthetic decisions when we made a poster.”

The MCAD show includes some of their earliest work as well as a slideshow of 500-plus posters produced over the past 11 years that will give the gallery audience a sense of how the aesthetic of Aesthetic Apparatus evolved. While their skills as printers have developed, they’ve retained a preference for bold, forthright imagery.

Byzewski, who credits their success with “not over-thinking things too much,” said: “Keeping it simple is what has led us to where we are.”

That, a lot of elbow grease and a few beers. Among the studio artifacts included in the show was a vitrine of beer bottle caps, a testament to many a hard day’s work washed down with a Summit.

Go see it
“AAXI: A Decade of Aesthetic Apparatus, One Year Late” runs through June 27 at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, 2501 Stevens Ave. S. 874-3667.



FULTON — Gallery 360 has hosted about 80 shows since opening in Fulton in June 2000, but owner Merry Beck said nothing could top the 10th-anniversary exhibition that opened June 5.

“This is probably the biggest show we will ever do,” Beck said.

With contributions from nearly 50 artists who have shown in the gallery over the past decade, “10 Years!” at Gallery 360 includes a bit of everything, from the pastel fantasies of Jen Davis to the freewheeling whimsy of local font-designer Chank Diesel to the visionary work of Southwest original Mari Newman.

“It’s supposed to be the culminating piece of the last 10 years of their art career, so we’re seeing some good work,” Beck said.

Go see it
“10 Years!” runs through July 4 at Gallery 360, 3011 W. 50th St. 925-2400.