Franklin Art Works presents art that's alive (sort of)

Miles Mendenhall's large-scale carbon prints on paper, now on view at Franklin Art Works, are so simple. Still, there is something very intriguing about them. Each are created through carbon printing, a once popular photographic process that Mendenhall has re-appropriated. His show, "God Rocks and Soul Jokes," includes eight pieces in the main room that are really quite remarkable.  

Carbon printing, which was used through the first half of the 20th century, involves applying pigment to paper. Mendenhall studied the process in Santa Fe, and has created his own printing facility to recreate this process, beginning with pixilated black-and-white photographs, digitally altered to create abstract, amorphous shapes.  
Untitled, by Miles Mendenhall
Untitled, by Miles Mendenhall

At first glance, Mendenhall's prints kind of look like indistinguishable blobs. But curious blobs; ones that you can't seem to turn away from. The shapes seem to be alive--they almost move--and on close inspection there's incredible detail and nuance in the shades and texture that Mendenhall is able to create.  

Whether it be amoeba-looking sloth creatures, other-worldly bodily organs, or ominous twin shapes on partially ripped paper, Mendenhall's abstract organism-like dark figures seem to literally breathe on the gray-ish paper. The pieces become more fascinating the longer you spend entranced by them.  

The mesmerizing quality of Mendenhall's show also carries over to the work of the other two artists now showing at Franklin Art Works. Lisha Bai's black-and-white optical illusion painted floor, called re:vision, also sucks the viewer into its movement, and in the case of her piece, the fact that it is right at the entrance to the gallery adds to its curiosity. As people walk into the space, they do a double take, not sure if they are allowed to step on the work of art.  
re:vision by Lisha Bai
re:vision by Lisha Bai

Conrad Ventur's "Love Notes" features two video pieces. If you Knew (Nina Simone) projects a performance of the jazz singer through a rotating crystal pendant prism, as if the artist is trying to reach inside the emotions of Simone's song and show visually the energy that lies in it. Ventur's other piece Screen Tests Revisited, re-stages 13 of Andy Warhol's screen tests using Warhol's original subjects.

Though it's more impressive that he found the people and got them to participate than the actual results, there is a certain eeriness to the piece, and a haunting quality as well, though it takes patience to watch.  

The current exhibitions at Franklin Art Works run through May 28. The gallery is located at 1021 East Franklin Avenue in Minneapolis. Gallery hours are noon to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday.

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