ART AND MARTINIS

           I WAS CAUGHT a little off guard when curator Dick Brewer walked up to me in his "Insufficient Dada" shirt and offered to buy me a drink. That never happens when I review gallery shows, but here it made sense: Brewer's show hangs spitting distance from the bar at The Lounge, a '70s retro club teeming with low-riding sofas.

           Putting art on the walls of restaurants and cafes is nothing new. Brewer, however, is hanging work in a trendy club because, in a time when fewer and fewer people are going to galleries, it's a strategy for, as he told me, "bringing art to the people." Well, to the glamorous people, at least.

           Currently on view is Meat or Meatlezz, an assemblage of work from four local artists that's not the most cogent show I've ever seen, but is definitely worth a look. In the main room you'll see Sara Woster's massive, thickly painted canvases hovering above the frilly cream-colored couches. They reminded me of elaborately wrought illustrations in children's literature. One melancholic work, "Bound Lamb," depicts the meek and mild creature trapped in a tangle of red stripes; another, a cheerful landscape, shows rather abstract birds taking flight from the slopes of a mountain.

           The other large canvases in this room belong to JAO, who makes primitivistic, skull-crowded works with a straight-from-the-tube look, and to Sonja Peterson, some of whose paintings look like large-scale versions of the notebook scrawlings of a disturbed adolescent. In "Tooth Fairy's Industrial Revolution," Peterson exposes the dainty nighttime dental philanthropist as a tendril-stretching nightmare in the vein of Mad Max. More successful--and more in keeping with the show's theme--are her disquieting still lifes of body organs, which are queasily reminiscent of food, hanging as they are in an eating establishment.

           The most interesting work in the show, however, belongs to Ann Lynam. With sculptural installations like "Intemperance," a drooping, silver cooling duct which vents into a scrotal-looking vacuum bag, it is hard to say whether Lynam is sexualizing industry or industrializing sex. In either case, the works could pass unnoticed: The vent, for example, is hung high on the wall where a vent should be, and a fur-trimmed, spinning surveillance mirror blends in with the restaurant's courtesy phone and dimmer switches. It is easy to imagine these works sneaking up on the perception of unsuspecting Loungers. Lynam's other works include backlit transparencies of glistening meat dinners (hence the name of the show) which grace the walls near the dance floor and give the room a steakhouse flavor.

           One problem with this show is that if you want to get a close look at the art, you may have to stand near a stranger's couch and perhaps interfere in a tête a tête. I did. But then if art can make a gathering place more of a meeting place, why should anyone complain? (Tom Cobb) CP

           Meat or Meatlezz is on view through September 11 at the Lounge, 411 Second Ave. N., Mpls.; 333-8800.

 
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