Art beat // Geography and identity

Intermedia Arts’ ‘Dimensions of Indigenous’ measures the impact of colonization

THE WEDGE — Seventy-nine lumps of cast iron, tinted orange with oxidation, each about the same size, are arrayed on a low pedestal in five rows of 16, minus one corner piece.

It’s Pritika Chowdhry’s “The Master’s Tongue,” perhaps the most understated piece in Intermedia Arts’ annual “Dimensions of Indigenous” exhibition, and its simplicity is its strength. Upon closer inspection, the lumps turn out to be tongues, each slightly different, and the number is significant: one for each of the 54 Commonwealth countries and 25 territories under British governance, the remains of the once globe-spanning British Empire.

Language is one of the legacies of colonialism — the chief concern of “Dimensions of Indigenous” — and Chowdhry, an Indian-born and St. Paul-based artist, reminds us not just of the spread of English, but of all the other languages lost or suppressed during the age of colonialism. These are tongues without mouths, after all.

Curators Sarah Sarzoza and Rebekah Crisanta get kudos for expanding the bounds of the exhibition beyond what we might expect. Minnesota’s own indigenous community is well represented, but the exhibition also includes artists from Central America, the Philippines and the Middle East.

Colonization is also about displacement, both of the colonizers and the colonized, and this process seems to play out in the life story of Avigail Manneberg. Manneberg was raised in Israel, where her family emigrated from Germany (on her father’s side) and the United States (on her mother’s side), and has lived in all three countries as an adult.

In a video piece, “Unwilling Ambassador,” Manneberg films herself writing out, diary-style, her ambiguous feelings about her homeland. She hits upon an ingenious device to depict the divisions of personal identity and geography that are a part of her biography: on one half of the screen, she writes left-to-right, in English, and on the other writes right-to-left, in Hebrew.

Nathanial “Bobby” Wilson, a Minneapolis artist and member of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Dakota, blends American Indian imagery and a graffiti-inflected visual style to create some of the exhibition’s most searing imagery. Case in point: A cartoon Indian, drawn in the cruelest style of caricature, rockets from a champagne bottle like a popped cork in one of several Wilson pieces that confront the scourge of alcoholism.

Wilson’s “Waci Wicasta” adds cubism to his visual repertoire. A fractured image of a man in jeans and a baseball cap is painted on the head of an elk- and bison-skin hand drum in an elegant melding of new and old traditions.

Cynthia Holmes, whose blended heritage includes Ojibwe ancestors, also works with a traditional American Indian object — in this case a dreamcatcher, which, before it became a ubiquitous, New Age-y gewgaw was, actually, hung in the sleeping areas of Ojibwe children. The wooden hoop strung with a net was a kind of talisman, intended to capture bad dreams in its spider’s web.

In Holmes’ mixed-media piece, “Broken Dreams,” the dreamcatcher’s net is torn and plastic cowboy and Indian figures are tangled in its weave. Colonialism reshapes identities, and for the colonized, it can be a nightmare.

Go see it
“Dimensions of Indigenous” runs through Jan. 14 at Intermedia Arts, 2822 Lyndale Ave. S. 871-4444.


10 years, 20 shows

THE WEDGE — In its first decade, Highpoint Center for Printmaking built a reputation on high-profile collaborations with major artists from the U.S. and abroad, including Julie Mehretu, Chloe Piene and Carlos Amorales.

It’s that aspect of the center’s mission that’s highlighted in a retrospective currently on view at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, which shouldn’t be missed. As an arts education center and home to a printmaking studio, though, Highpoint also helped to grow the local printmaking community, and that’s a good reason to stop by the center’s gallery to check out its 20th semi-annual cooperative exhibition.

That’s two shows a year since Highpoint opened in 2001 and, as usual, there’s some great local talent on the walls.

Zac Adams-Bliss’ series of four black-on-black screen prints appear to show a wisp of cloud forming and disappearing in the night sky. It’s a subtle and well-observed piece.

Miriam Rudolph’s map-like prints are undeniably charming, particularly a zoo scene with an A-to-Z menagerie. Rudolph combines a clear-line illustration style and a limited but expressive palette, even, in one wintry scene, using embossment to illustrate ski tracks through fresh snow.

The meaning behind Graham Judd’s allegorical relief prints may be obscure, but they have an impressive visual intensity. In one print, two figures are in water up to their necks while a lion floats by on a raft. Judd’s cuts are graceful and calligraphic, and the overlapping waves have a woozy-making, op-art effect — they may leave you feeling for your sea legs.

Go see it
“Twenty: The 20th Cooperative Exhibition” runs through Feb. 4 at Highpoint Center for Printmaking, 912 W. Lake St. 871-1326.