The Real Thing

From flesh satellites to cities of styrofoam: The fine art of faking it

Perhaps the most accomplished simulagist in town is David Lefkowitz, whose show "The Surrounding Area" opened Friday in Project Room One of the Soap Factory. Talking about the show before its final installation, he explained his plan as two-pronged. On the walls will hang two large models of forts--architectural structures made entirely of cardboard boxes, illustrated with schematic diagrams of buildings. Lefkowitz describes it as "a child's fort combined with a Frank Lloyd Wright drawing." On the floor the artist will place an imagined city plan made entirely of Styrofoam packing inserts. "I don't do anything except arrange them as if they are a planner's model of a city grid," he says. "It's sort of a utopian model of a perfect city, but I don't disguise the source of it as Styrofoam garbage. So they hover in between what they are and a bigger vision of space....It's all about the ambivalent relationship human beings have with nature."

 

There are a handful of other Minnesota artists who have been faking it, so to speak, in recent seasons, and it's worth watching out for their work in upcoming months. Minneapolis artist Chris Larson's convoluted, Rube Goldberg-like, Midwestern inspired contraptions and video performances are making him a name in New York (of all places). Last year St. Paul artist Bruce Tapola created a library/conference-room/research facility, replete with fake books, magazines, and the like, at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. And in the just-opened exhibition "The Minnesota Biennial: Sculpture and Installation" at the Minnesota Museum of American Art, Mankato artist James Johnson's "Wormhole" showcases a useless and intriguing wheel-like structure made of aluminum and wood.

By the time you've digested all this simulage, you may be hard-pressed to recall what was the big hullabaloo about Nineties identity art. Alas, we can't escape that easily. Witness Alexa Horochowski's "Vaqueras" (currently running at Franklin Art Works), which represents a good counterpoint to the creativity and exuberance of the above artists. Uninspiring and deadpan, the show is an accretion of four large cowgirl images sketched directly on the gallery walls. The women in these larger-than-life images are drafted in the single contour lines of a paintbrush, and flanked by backdrops of repeating colorful motifs--stars, birds, fake wood paneling. These have been printed from linoleum blocks right onto the wall.

The problem with this pretty but flat show is that once you get past a single-sentence description of the imagery--girls sure are uncertain about their (sexual, racial) identity!--you're not left with much to think about. Yeah, okay, so the girls get to hold the guns here, or act coquettish while they rope each other, their panties exposed by some unseen wind-machine effect, Penthouse-style. So what? I may not be the target audience for this show's sententiousness, but what is there to say about art that cuts off its audience, one person at a time?

The truth is, most of us get over what's underneath our pants and skirts (be it a pistol or a rope) and start looking outward by the time we reach adulthood. Or at least we learn to temper our self-fascination in polite company.

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