The Man with the Scribble Jam

We didn’t know Daniel Kaniess. Not personally. But ever since the well-decorated local artist (two McKnight Fellowships, two Bush Fellowships, a Minnesota State Arts Board Grant, etc.) passed away from cancer last April, the odes, the amazements, and the “Damn-man-you-really-should-have-seen-it” headshakes have become an art-scene standard as ubiquitous and intoxicating as opening-reception boxed wine. Who was this guy? Apparently, a man with strange, peripatetic talents—ones that wandered as far afield as poetry performance, experimental music, and instrument construction, but that just as often came home to dwell in drawings and watercolors.

Daniel Kaniess, “Vent,” 2004, mixed media on LP jacket

Fortunately, Kaniess’s family has amassed a good deal of his output from over the decades. This weekend, they’re treating us to a posthumous retrospective, entitled “Smiles and Rage,” at the Northrup King Building. The artist’s full range of experimentation will be on display: sculptures, drawings, oils-on-canvas, and, yes, maybe even an instrument or two.

Personally, we’re most stoked about the drawings. Kaniess had a thing for wild, frenetic scrawls; storms of curlicues that tangled and strangled like hair in the bathtub drain. The markings—aggressively gestural, often brambling over found pages to create backgrounds for mysterious figures—create an associative stew of childhood anarchy, ancient language, and psychological malevolence. On preview, it’s some intense stuff.

Friends and co-conspirators—we’re anticipating a family reunion of sorts for the Minneapolis creative scene—will gather to pay respects this Saturday night. Should be a real treat.

Smiles and Rage: A Retrospective of the Work of Daniel Kaniess
Saturday, November 17
6–10 p.m.
Northrup King Building, Gallery #332
1500 Jackson St. NE, Mpls.