'Funky Town' at Stevens Square Center for the Arts

Alfonso Fernandez

Alfonso Fernandez

In "Funky Town," the current exhibit showing at Stevens Square Center for the Arts, artist Alfonso Fernandez takes Minneapolis as his subject. Here, he shares his view of the city that he currently calls home in a conglomeration of geometric shapes, earth-toned washes, and tongue-in-cheek symbols, creating a fresh take on the city of lakes.

Fernandez was born in Mexico City, but grew up all over South America and Spain. When he was a kid his family didn't have money to buy art supplies, so he and his brothers would run around the train tracks in search of coal to use as charcoal, which they used to draw on old wrestling posters used as paper.

Fernandez's memories of the past stay with him. The paintings in this exhibition seem to be a reflection on the shapes and colors of Minneapolis, but also carry a distance too, taken from the perspective of someone who is from far away, bringing his own experiences and memories to his observations. 

One of the most interesting pieces on display, titled New York, is made with acrylic, ink, spray paint, and charcoal. According to Ben Hering, who helped organize the exhibit, Fernandez completed the piece while out in the city for a competition where students were working alongside students from other schools (NYU, Columbia, Yale, etc.). The piece represents the University of Minnesota. It's a vivid, interesting work that has elements of graffiti art. At the center of the piece, Fernandez uses thick black shapes to create a sense of the buildings. Above, a dark red-and-black wash creates a kind of sunset, with a fish skeleton hovering in the air. Below, the underbelly of the University seeps in a polluted mess, with an outline of a whale swimming in the murky waters. At the left of the painting, a huge mouth with large teeth looks as if it is about to take a bite of the campus. It's a weird, intensely layered piece that has both a sense of fun and also a cynical aspect. 

The mouth image is something that crops up in more than one of Fernandez's paintings. There's something horrific about it, though it's rather cartoonish. Is it a comment on the society here? Or perhaps the mouth represents the artist himself? Either way, it's a disturbing but powerful image.
Fernandez takes on the University's campus more than once, creating a gorgeous interpretation on the Weismann Art Museum. The painting captures the space's intense energy, giving it color while at the same time embracing its inherent robotic quality. 

In Loring Park, made with natural pigments, acrylic, spray paint, ink, and charcoal, Fernandez depicts the area using a thin wash that blobs up at places, with circles and translucent rectangles floating around the canvas. At the bottom of the painting there is a kind of skyline, made of orange outlines and a bright yellow block, that anchors the more fluid motion of the rest of the piece, with the bright yellow repeated in two other places. 

Not all of Fernadez's paintings showcase the artist's vision of Minneapolis's buildings. He also captures the natural elements of this city, showing his view of the lakes, with their beauty and dirtiness all mixed together. The balance between the abstraction that he uses with elements of real places and things create images that capture a unique perspective of Minneapolis's spaces. 

You can check out "Funky Town" on Saturdays and Sundays from 1 to 5 p.m. through October 30 at Stevens Square Center for the Arts (1905 Third Ave. S., Minneapolis).