The last McKnight Visual Artist Fellowship Exhibition delights

<i>Friendly Fridley</i> by Amy Toscani

Friendly Fridley by Amy Toscani

The McKnight Visual Artist Fellowship Exhibition program goes out with a bang at MCAD in what is to be the last time McKnight fellows will be featured in a public exhibition. The McKnight Foundation is scrapping the visual artist group show and catalog in favor of connecting future fellows with visiting artists in a discussion series. (Read more about the changes here.) It's a questionable decision, to be sure, especially given how great this most recent show is.

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When visitors walk into the gallery, they are immediately greeted with a series of sculptures by Amy Toscani. These works are as bizarre as they are lively. In Friendly Fridley, Toscani has mounted the heads of numerous Hollywood stars on a mobile of sorts. The images are attached to a black-and-white structure with three mounds, and the heads sprout out like plants. Another sculpture stacks 11 images of Wonder Woman on top of each other, almost reaching the ceiling. Another piece, called Brute, is just a bunch of plastic stuck together, and there's an untitled piece that is also like a mobile made up of random objects.

Like much of Toscani's work, it's best not to think too much about what she is trying to say. Rather, the best approach is to simply marvel at just how strange her imagination is. These pieces in particular are great because as Toscani mines issues of nostalgia, pop culture, and the American dream, she's also creating these showy eye-catching works that draw your attention and make you smile. 

Dyani White Hawk also has a good showing in the exhibition, with an enormous variety of pieces. Employing painting, drawing, and printmaking, as well as Native influences such as beadwork, porcupine quills, and antique ledger paper, White Hawk has a contemporary voice with a clear Native influence. Working with recurring patterns and shapes that cross the different mediums she's working with, White Hawk's work feels cohesive even in its large span and breadth. 

While White Hawk clearly has skill as a painter, some of the more interesting pieces she presents are her mixed-media work. Bountiful II, for instance, is a really stunning piece that incorporates acrylic and charcoal on handmade paper as well as porcupine quills and German silver sequins. The resulting textures are exquisite. Another piece, titled Worth, uses antique ledger paper, with an image of a buffalo juxtaposed with the ledger paper's writing beneath it. The buffalo is enclosed -- almost entrapped by red, white and blue shapes -- a statement about the U.S.'s problematic history with Native people. 

The exhibition is rounded out with Joe Sinness and Catherine Meier, who also show interesting work. Meier's large-scale graphite drawings are rich in detail and capture beautifully the grasslands of the Great Plains, even capturing the sense of the wind moving the grass. Joe Sinness, meanwhile, also produces some fascinating work that you would never know were made with colored pencils unless you looked at the labels. 


"2013/14 McKnight Visual Artists Fellowship Exhibition"

Through February 23

MCAD Gallery