By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
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HAVING BUILT ITS reputation on shows that commercial galleries typically neglect, No Name Exhibitions is celebrating its 10th anniversary with a typically atypical affair. Instead of compiling a collection of their first decade's greatest hits, No Name asked artists that they've worked with to recommend their favorite artists for this show. The result is Ten, an artist-juried exhibition featuring 16 emerging artists, whose wide-ranging work is emblematic of the dozens of artists that No Name has displayed in recent years. As Christi Atkinson, No Name's curator puts it, "No Name provides emerging artists with the space to come in and do what they want, to experiment in the space, to take chances. We don't want to dictate to artists in the way that commercial galleries are often required to do."
True to that principle, the opening of Ten featured a quirky performance piece by Jason Lee and Chris Wildrick. Dressed in flight suits and seated in lifeguard's chairs, the two busily folded paper airplanes and threw them across the room at each other. Like performance art, conceptual pieces don't often find an audience at local venues. In this show, Thomas Bleigh fills a room with uncompleted art proposals, and Cynthia Greig offers a postmodern piece documenting the oeuvre of an invented artist. Both conceptually and visually rich are Carol Padberg's "Field Studies." Made of collage materials, doodles, and computer graphic manipulations, these colorful works inventively straddle media.
Stevie Rexroth and Michael Garr offer particularly strong work. Rexroth's new series of photographs pushes at the boundaries of representation. Blurred faces peer out at the viewer, seemingly caught in the act of melting or materializing. Michael Garr's naturalist oil paintings offer a biting caricature of masculinity in modern suburbia. Garr depicts men in camouflage, wielding a range of power tools that have run amok. In "Night Blower," a homeowner is lead by his power tool as if by a guide dog. In "Head Blower," a tool turns and attacks its owner.
Michael Hoyt's installation pulls the viewer into a maze of painted panels linked together by small islands of human hair and rice. Working with both sides of each panel, Hoyt creates a web of images lifted from American and Asian popular culture. Luke Skywalker stands against a backdrop of paratroopers, and women in kimonos appear through the silhouettes of pop bottles. The play of images here suggests the seepage of one culture into another in the service of commercialism and entertainment.
Ten includes the work of several artists working with more purely minimal forms. The first piece to greet the viewer is Neil Thelen's "Span," a hanging metal and glass structure mimicking the movement of wings or rowing oars. Two walls of the show are devoted to the large-format nonrepresentational paintings of James Holmberg. And John Saurer's large hanging basket-form creates a curvilinear contrast to the rough rectilinear shapes of the Soap Factory's interior.
Not included in Ten, but currently on view at the Soap Factory, is Wells Emerson's large installation piece Potential Space. This ambitious work comprises three sections, each a kind of multisensory environmental experience. The viewer is surrounded by shimmering plastic tubing, shoots of tall grasses, or gusts of air blowing in and out of oversized inflatable plastic bags, all accompanied by minimalist music composed especially for the piece, and the gentle vibration of the floor.
Save for the Walker, local exhibitions of this scale are probably only possible in the 48,000 square feet of the Soap Factory, No Name's third gallery space in 10 years. Originally founded by artists Laurie Muir and Jim Tittle, No Name initially ran a single-room gallery in the warehouse district called the Skunk House. After six years, downtown development projects forced a move to another small space in the Grain Belt Brewery complex. Four years ago the organization took on the mammoth task of renovating their current location, the Soap Factory, an enormous, derelict industrial building donated by Pillsbury.
The new space has enabled No Name to dramatically increase the number of artists it showcases. "In the past, at the Skunk House or in the Grain Belt building, we only exhibited about six to 10 artists in a year," says Atkinson, who started in 1992. "In the first six or seven years of our existence, we were lucky if we served, say, 50 artists. Now we serve 50 artists in a season. There is even the potential to have 50 artists in a single show."
Originally in poor condition, the Soap Factory has demanded substantial renovation. And because the building has no heat, No Name's exhibition schedule is now seasonal with shows mounted only in the temperate months. With the help of operating funds from the McKnight Foundation, the Soap Factory recently installed a new roof; a security system is in the works. And a Jerome Foundation grant of some $34,000 should help to pay for programming operations.
With the onset of winter, Ten is the Soap Factory's last exhibition of the year. They'll soon close their doors, then reopen for No Name's 11th season next April.
Ten runs Thursdays through Sundays through October 25 at the Soap Factory (located at the corner of Second St. S.E. and Fifth Ave. S.E.); 623-9176