Basking in that West Bank Funk

In Minnesota, the word “funk” rarely basks in its positive connotation. Here, it does not refer to the aesthetically pungent. It does not refer to strange flavor. (Let alone strange flava.) It is not George Clinton. What it is, usually, is the stench on your hockey pads. Or worse, the brooding, misanthropic mood that settles in as the radiators clank on during a 4:30 p.m. sunset.

But that hasn’t stopped the Regis Center—a startlingly modern oasis on the University of Minnesota’s concrete-drenched West Bank, home to the school’s art department—from flying the F-word in all its freakish glory. This week, in an official kick-off for the building’s year-long 10th-anniversary celebration (it was built in 2003), Regis opens  “Minnesota Funk,” a group exhibition that aims to sample the “groovy, funky side of Minnesota culture.”

“Land of the Nihilists (detail),” jenny Schmid
Courtesy Davidson Galleries

These are not art-history terms. Nor, really, are they the first words to come to mind when surveying the list of exhibitors—which is pretty much a varsity line-up of iconic contemporary artists working in our state. But the clumsy/ironic gag title may serve as a more subtle indicator of the show: most of these artists approach their talents with a nerd-like humility that is, I guess, very Minnesotan.

Who’s showing? We get the great Jenny Schmid, whose riot-grrl engravings bristle with the tough-but-cute aesthetic of a Gen-X kids book. We get Jim Dryden, who treats paint like stained glass, documenting gay life in joyous, jewel-like tableaux. We get Chris Larson—whom we seem to always be writing about, and who just got hired at the U as an assistant professor of sculpture. Professor Larson will in fact unveil a gallery installation that includes his 2011 video Heavy Rotation and a series of surprising conceptual sculptures. Which sounds pretty awesome.

Other names you’ll recognize are Frank Gaard and Mary Esch. The exhibition includes, too, Kent Aldrich, Kate Casanova, Perci Chester, Kelly Connole, Tom Garrett, Faye Passow, Lamar Peterson, Sandy Resig, and Bobby Dues Wilson.

Sounds like a pretty sophisticated turn-out for a 10th birthday.

Minnesota Funk
Opening reception: Thursday, December 6, 6–8 p.m.
Runs through January 12, 2013
Katherine E. Nash Gallery
Regis Center for Art, 405 21st Ave. S., Mpls.