2013 Artists of the Year

From dancers hijacking creative spaces to a comedian making a career comeback

This summer, Gaiman had devotees across the nation scrambling to attend his last-ever signing tour as he promoted his first novel for adults in eight years, The Ocean at the End of the Lane. Later, The Sandman returned to the shelves with the highly anticipated prequel to Gaiman's seminal graphic novel series that began 25 years ago. Then Bard College announced that the writer will join the faculty next year as a professor. Gaiman also released a couple of children's books, brought back the Cybermen on Dr. Who for this spring's "Nightmare in Silver" episode, performed several live shows with his wife, Amanda Palmer, revealed he's been developing a video game, and through it all, maintained constant contact with his fans.

Like groupies to a rock star, his nearly two million followers constantly flock to Twitter to catch a glimpse of Gaiman's life outside the stacks, and he delivers. Devoted to his supporters, the author answers questions and provides updates at all hours of the day, which makes us wonder when — if ever — he sleeps.

ALI JAAFAR

By Reed Fischer

Ecstattic Studio — literally an attic in south Minneapolis — is owned and operated by Ali Jaafar. In 2013, countless bands lugged their gear all the way up the stairs and put their trust in a guy who professes on the studio's Facebook page to be "interested in natural sounds made by humans in real places."

"As opposed to charging a lot, I just record a lot," Jaafar tells City Pages during a tour of the space earlier this year.

Some of the best punk and garage rock coming out of the Twin Cities right now was hatched with help from Jaafar. In 2013, we saw the release of memorable new Ecstattic projects from Kitten Forever, Crimes, Diver Dress, and France Camp. According to France Camp's Jay Simonson, Jaafar kicked them out mid-session because they were too drunk. Recording continued once the guys sobered up, and the results are skinned-knee brilliance.

In addition to his recording, mixing, and mastering credits, Jaafar writes prolifically for himself. The best album emerging from Ecstattic this year comes from his own shoegazey pop trio, Hollow Boys. With distorted guitars ringing up to the rafters, and bitterness dripping down to the cellar, It's True shows this Sade fan had plenty of inspiration left over after aiding others.

ADAM HAMILTON

By Sheila Regan

Adam Hamilton came out of nowhere this year with a brilliant exhibition at SooVAC called "Fluctuating Capacity" that promised great things to come. The show, strung together with a narrative structure about time travel, family relationships, and fate, featured a large contraption made of books, magnifying glasses, wires, bottles, and other curiosities as a sculptural manifestation of a time-traveling machine.

Currently a student in the MFA program at MCAD, Hamilton received his BFA in Communication Design at Metropolitan State College in Denver. He exhibited in a number of galleries around the Denver area and also received several awards before moving to Minneapolis. "Fluctuating Capacity" was his first solo show in the Twin Cities. This fall, he was part of a team of MCAD students that put together a pop-up exhibition called "Larval". Recently, Hamilton's work flew off the shelves at the MCAD Art Sale, and he made a strong showing at the MFA Open Studio night.

DAVE CHAPPELLE

By Patrick Stephenson

One magical week this November, Dave Chappelle bombarded the Twin Cities with jokes. In his eight shows at First Avenue and four at Pantages, Chappelle brought powerful, on-point standup that hit on everything from Uptown's proliferation of mustaches, to Paula Deen's unsurprising acquaintance with the N-word, to Lil Wayne's growly rapping.

The comedian's skills haven't waned since he departed Chappelle's Show and his bajillion-dollar contract with Comedy Central in 2006. He's become a bit of a J.D. Salinger since, returning to the scene now and then with a four-hour set here, a half-hour pop-in there, and has become renowned for reacting with little tolerance to rude audiences.

Minus a drunken heckler or two, his Minneapolis audiences were pitch-perfect. On the whole, that week of comedy, when it seemed Dave Chappelle had moved into the Twin Cities, and when he even joked about shacking up with a big-bootied jogger near Lake Calhoun, seemed once-in-a-lifetime. A "how are we so lucky to have this in our city?" sort of occurrence. Credit the "Purple Rain" allure of First Avenue. On Chappelle's penultimate night, he tempted his audience to go on a treasure hunt to his post-show hangout. On his final night, he staged a 2 a.m. charity basketball game that included a pancake dinner, and that Prince himself attended.

Chappelle is a comedian who has an uncommon rapport with his audience. He's not only hilarious, he is trusted as a personality and as a Voice of His Generation. In short, anybody who shouts "I'm Rick James, bitch!" at him will continue to deserve a punch in the face.

KARL UNNASCH

By Camille LeFevre

Look. Look again. Karl Unnasch's sculptures — whether as large as farm machinery or small as a cowpie — beg for closer viewing. Anthropomorphic figures of black cast-metal have their provenance in cow poop. His "vignettes" merge a Zen-like, bonsai-inflected quality with an intractable whimsy due, in part, to Unnasch's use of animal carcasses found on his rural Minnesota property. In "The Ruminant (The Grand Masticator)," a corn combine was repurposed as a place of worship, complete with stained-glass windows, for the Farm D-tour in Wisconsin in October. With that piece, Unnasch's farm-to-public art upcycling of a rural icon reached a kind of apotheosis.

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