Broc Blegen's got some big ideas

Broc Blegen's got some big ideas

Visual artist Bloc Blegen has been busy since the demise of 1419, the interdisciplinary art space he co-founded which was shut down by the city last March. He has since graduated from the U of M with a BFA in art, started a new conceptual painting business called Hopsack Painting Co, and this summer he participated in three different workshops in Europe and helped coordinate the 10,000 Chairs for Ai WeiWei event at the Walker.

This month, Blegen learned that he has been selected to exhibit his work at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts MAEP Galleries next fall.

While MAEP Coordinator Christopher Atkins says Blegen is one of the youngest artists chosen to show work in the space, he is by no means new to the art world. Blegen has been producing projects on his own since 2008 when he created The Bush Monument, a 20-foot-tall inflatable George Bush sculpture that was erected briefly between the Lincoln Memorial and the Memorial Bridge in Washington, DC, just moments after Obama completed his oath of office. The work was then included in the spring/summer edition of the Public Art Review, and was included in a group exhibition in Europe that was curated by the contemporary art blog VVORK.

Broc Blegen's got some big ideas
Photo courtesy Broc Blegen

Blegen's Hopsack Painting Co. began as a project in 2009. "I was interested in the aesthetics of the suburbs," he says. He wanted to explore the cultural divide between suburban (where he grew up) and rural life. He contacted Valspar Paint, and asked them what their highest selling color was. It was a beige color named "Hopsack." Using a paint roller, Blegen made two monochromes on drywall, and then left the idea alone for a year. This winter, he returned to the project. But instead of just making monochrome artworks, he decided that he would create a painting company, blurring the line between painting as an art and painting as a utilitarian activity. "House painters are referred to as painters, but they're completely different," Blegen says. His idea was that his company would use the same format and tools and materials as a regular painting company, but the employees would be artists.

So far the business hasn't exactly been profitable, but it's had several projects, including a live demonstration at a Home Improvement Expo, a showing at the Dressing Room Gallery above the Open Eye Figure Theatre, and, most recently, at Art of This's temporary gallery on Franklin and Nicollet. 

Capitalism Kills (After Claire Fontaine) by Broc Blegen
Capitalism Kills (After Claire Fontaine) by Broc Blegen

At the Art of This show, Blegen also exhibited a piece from his personal collection, a replica of Claire Fontaine's Capitalism Kills made from neon lights. His personal collection includes a number of these replicas, such as Yoko Ono's Play it by Trust and Shannon Ebner's Not Equal. Blegen began making these replicas in part because of his interest in the emerging power of art collectors, and how they often are able to trump museums because they have more money and can act more quickly. "I've been interested in working within those ideas of what it means to be a collector," he says. "My objects aren't worth as much because they are all fakes."

But still he gets the experience of living with them. The pieces that he has created are minimalist, so he hasn't found too much difficulty in recreating them. "I'm careful of choosing pieces I can replicate accurately," he says. Blegen relates making these replicas as just something he does between projects. "Some people knit, I do this," he says.

Blegen is used to learning and creating at the same time, perhaps because he has been producing his own work while in school. Though he plans to always continue the learning process, after completing his degree this spring and taking several workshops in Europe he's ready to be done with school for a while. 

He also thinks that it'll be some time before he embarks on anything like 1419 again, though he's very happy he had the opportunity to do it. "It was an amazing experience," he says. "I learned what it's like to have very close working relationships with other people." Blegen also learned about putting together exhibitions, promoting shows, the administrative work that goes along with running a venue, and how to negotiate time, space, and people's feelings. "There are intangible things working with people that you learn by doing," he says.

While Blegen doesn't have any immediate plans to do anything like 1419 soon, this summer he collaborated on a piece with another 1419 member Billy Mullaney. But he's not going to force any partnerships. "I'm definitely open to it," he says. "If it happens, it happens. I'm not going to force it. I'll let things emerge." 

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