Art Review: The Big Gay Onomatopoeia
Rosalux Gallery brings the braininess, retains the joy in annual juried competition
There is a neon welcome sign to Open Door 7, Rosalux’s seventh annual juried exhibition, and it reads like this:
The cursive letters—which emanate a rainbow glow in some kind of big, gay onomatopoeia—are positioned provocatively to face the door. Which means they will, collectively, be the first thing you see should you set foot in the Northeast gallery anytime between now and February 26.
You should know that this is a piece by the local conceptual artist Broc Blegen. (Claim to fame: He ran the anarchic, short-lived 1419 Space, an art-school party—I mean, ”interdisciplinary art”—venue that was shut down by the city last spring.) But you should also know that it’s really a piece by Glen Ligon, a Bronx-born artist known for politically freighted text paintings and installations.
Here’s the thing: Blegen, as a kind of hobby, makes replicas of easy-to-duplicate contemporary art. The work—chosen over hundreds of other submitted work to be included in this show—is a copy.
You can get mad about this. You can view it as sneeringly cynical, a gibe by some art school snot too young to be jaded. (And I will admit, that was actually my first reaction.) Or you can view it as earnestly practical: The guy can’t afford a real Ligon to hang in his living room, so he made his own. Pretty soon, you start to wonder about collecting contemporary art in general—about the market’s indifference to virtuosity, about what it would mean to collect a copy of a collectible. Then there’s the whole addition of the GLBT signifier, which seems apt for a piece associated with an artist interested in race, sexuality, and identity.
At any rate, you will think about all of this stuff, and you will still have only seen the first piece in the show. There are about 20 more to view.
In this way, Open Door 7 is the best kind of art show. There’s some madness here. And you would be well within your rights to hate some of the pieces. But there’s a method to all of it—a mature, intelligent, surprisingly accessible method. Nothing is boring to look at. Even Blegen’s piece, perhaps the show’s most opaque, is easy on the eyes. And you need only to do a quick Google search to get the brainy heft of it. Makes you wonder what other nuggets of insight are lurking just beneath the surface.
The smart seduction comes courtesy of this year’s juror, Steve Dietz. He’s the guy, you’ll remember, behind Northern Spark, last summer’s 24-hour, “nuit blanche,” metro-wide public art bonanza. If you went, you know it was an awesome urban spectacle (in the most literal sense of the word “awesome”), regardless of your art-world chops. Open Door 7 is the same way.
Take the two Evie Woltil Richner portraits, my favorite pieces in the show. The Florida artist takes printed images of deceased relatives and draws delicate, finely detailed shrouds of feathers around each. They are somber, ruminative—and so handsome to stare at they are addictive.
What else is there? A computer-generated sculpture of an audio pattern, mapping a famous line from the 1987 film Wall Street. A shockingly thorough cataloguing, told through wallpaper, of Amazon.com’s global best sellers. And Janet Abrams’s gorgeously violent destruction of secondhand metal kitchen utensils [see right].
There’s other great (and not-so-great) stuff, too. But I don’t want to spoil the surprise. So go. Get your lid flipped.
Open Door 7
Through February 26
Gallery Hours: Saturdays and Sundays from 12–4 p.m.
1400 Van Buren St. NE, Mpls.