DOWNTOWN WEST —“New Works by So-and-So” is Instinct Gallery Director John Schuerman’s cheeky take on your typical group exhibition.
Instinct Gallery’s shows usually revolve around a theme — a second hook, after the art itself, to snag pedestrians passing his Nicollet Mall storefront, Schuerman said. But for the lazy, hazy days of late summer, he decided to go the standard route and spotlight recent work by seven “so-and-sos,” all local artists who have an established relationship with downtown gallery.
Among them is painter Nancy Robinson, who filters her personal life through a mischievously funny brand of surrealism. Robinson’s depiction of suave male suitor as a half-peeled ripe banana is a laugh-out-loud visual pun.
The artists Schuerman works with at Instinct often take inspiration from the natural world, including Judy Onofrio, represented in this show by elegiac sculptures constructed of scavenged animal bones, and Lynn Speaker, who uses gunpowder to burn sepia-toned drawings into paper, a technique that — in one gorgeous, scroll-like image of lily pads — evokes light refracting in pond water. A video by filmmaker Ben Moren layers several shots of unpeopled woods in concentric rectangles, making for a patchwork portrait of a forest.
Natural forms inspire David Aschenbrener’s abstract bronzes, but one particular piece in this show has more to do with the angst and pent-up aggression of middle-aged men. In one whiskey-fueled late-night session on Aschenbrener’s Wisconsin property, he and some buddies took out their frustrations on an old stainless-steel freezer door using whatever hand tools were laying around — and, from the looks of it, a shotgun. Hang it on a gallery wall and somehow that dented, scuffed, blasted-to-heck piece of metal manages a Pollock-esque fervor.
The selkie, a mythic creature from Celtic folklore, inspires a suite of small mixed media assemblages by Elizabeth Garvey. Taking the form of a seal in water and an attractive human on land, the selkie is, like a mermaid, often a metaphor for thwarted or fleeting romance — elegantly expressed here by sheet of kelp Garvey has molded into a single slipper. A tiny house she has sculpted out of salt would dissolve in water.
A light sculpture by Jantje Visscher was inspired by the Kuiper Belt encircling the edge of our solar system, home to Pluto and other mysterious, far-off objects. Visscher’s childlike drawings are etched into silvery Mylar sheets that bounce light from an overhead fixture onto the wall. The piece is uncomplicated but inspired, a magic lantern that spits out abstract patterns of light and shadow.
New Works by So-and-So
When: Through Sept. 12
Where: Instinct Gallery, 940 Nicollet Mall
Info: 208-0696, instinctmpls.com
Cartoonists at play
WHITTIER — The jam comic is a tradition that dates back at least to the medium’s late-’60s underground period, when cartoonists Robert Crumb, S. Clay Wilson and the rest of the “Zap Comix” collective went panel for panel in raucous group drawing sessions.
The Pierre Feuille Ciseaux (French for “rock paper scissors”) attempts to channel the anarchic spirit of the comics jam into a framework of semi-academic formalism. Inspired just as much by OuLiPo, a mid-century experimental movement in francophone literature, as those Zap jams, the PFC seeks to expand comics’ unique verbal-visual language through collaboration, improvisation and the generative tension of creating art within a set of formal constraints.
The Minneapolis College of Art and Design recently hosted the fifth and latest edition of PFC, which included 20 cartoonists from Europe and North America, many of them in town for the Autoptic festival of independent art held in early August. The results will remain on display through the start of the fall semester at the school, one of just a handful of institutions in the country that awards degrees in comic art.
The PFC cartoonists participated in a series of collaborative exercises, each governed by its own set of rules, like a game. For example, three cartoonists might work together to complete one nine-panel page, each drawing three non-sequential panels at a time.
There’s a collective-stream-of-consciousness quality to the work, to the point where it appears some cartoonists are just drawing whatever was top of mind at the time. (If you can recognize the line of Swiss cartoonist Helge Reumann, you’ll also notice his trademark stickman and woodsman characters repeatedly wish for a cigarette.) There’s also a delightful sense of play; you see artists riffing on each other’s gags or mischievously inserting non sequitur panels that threaten to derail the narrative.
The work is raw, closer to sketchbook quality than a finished comic. (The humor can be raw, too, which explains the “adult content” warning greeting visitors.) But for anyone with an interest in the medium, the chance to see some of the best cartoonists around having so much fun is too good to pass up.
Pierre Feuille Ciseaux
When: Through Sept. 11
Where: Minneapolis College of Art and Design, 2501 Stevens Ave.
Info: 874-3700, mcad.org