Best Of :: Arts & Entertainment
We in the Twin Cities are pretty spoiled for choices when it comes to quality music venues. Even so, the Varsity Theater is one spot that shouldn't be taken for granted. Simply put, it's gorgeous. The lush decor, the result of a comprehensive remodeling a few years ago, is heavy on style and color and unique for how well it encompasses the venue's nearly 100-year history, from the red velvet curtains that line the walls to the swank, lounge-like bathrooms to the disco balls that hang overhead. When you consider that the sight lines and and the sound (always the ultimate test of a concert space) are just about faultless, there's no better place to get pampered than the Varsity.
Thanks to services like Hulu.com, Tivo, and Netflix, the way that we watch television is changing. Rather than wading through hundreds of channels in search of palatable programming, we're either turning on our Wiis or laptops and hitting "play" or pirating our favorite shows minutes after they air. That said, the old days of channel surfing still hold a certain retro charm. And that is the simple strength of 45 and its sister stations, now inexplicably found in the 5 range. Here you'll find craptacular network programming that encapsulates everything you would have found on cable 10 years ago. For the folks who loved Nick at Nite, there are shows like the original Star Trek, Get Smart, and The Twilight Zone. For folks who love celebrity gossip, there are old episodes of E! True Hollywood Story. Most evenings feature oddly enthralling movies that time forgot, such as Overboard, Baby Boom, and The Thomas Crown Affair. No, we're not talking about appointment television here, but if you're drunk at 1 a.m. or home sick with the flu and looking for something to watch, you're going to be surprisingly entertained.
The Weisman's extravagantly fanciful stainless steel facade, designed by Frank Gehry, has always been an artwork unto itself, but there are now more reasons than ever to see the art inside the museum. WAM completed a major expansion last October — also designed by Gehry — that added more than 8,000 square feet of exhibition space to the main floor. Several new galleries give the museum twice as much room to show off the 17,000 works of mostly modern American art from its permanent collection. And while that collection is a bit of a hodgepodge, it does present a great chance to see representative works from modern icons such as Robert Motherwell and Georgia O'Keeffe and lesser known but worthy American modernists like Alfred Maurer and Marsden Hartley. Two temporary exhibits are also worth seeing: "Merge," by Sharon Louden, a room-filling installation of aluminum-flashing strips screwed and glued into a flowing, undulating mass (through May 20); and "Kathe Kollwitz: Making Human," a small but moving exhibit of powerful prints of the human form from the German artist that are still shocking and heartbreaking 100 years later (through July 1).
The Walker Art Center offered "Exposed: Voyeurism, Surveillance, and the Camera" from May to September last year, giving visitors a raw look at the world we live in, where we are constantly exposed to being spied on. The photos in the exhibit were pictures taken without their subjects' knowledge, including Brassai's lovers in Paris, photos taken by private investigators that were commissioned by the subject of the surveillance, and the infamous image of a Viet Cong execution from the 1960s. Added up, the exhibit served as a reminder — or warning — of the tenuous border between public and private.
This northeast Minneapolis gallery is always up to something interesting. Last year the space packed an impressive eight exhibitions into its schedule. Unique shows included work from French graffiti artists 123 Klan, and Scion Installation's video installation featuring work from emerging artists. Though the gallery has brought in national and international artists and cooperatives, allowing Minnesotans a glimpse into art worlds they might not otherwise have access to, the group has also curated a slew of great shows featuring local creatives. For example, its most recent show, "Working Title," featured mashups from various Minnesota painters and designers. Each week the space held a reception where guests could check out pieces as they shape-shifted from collaboration between talents. Spring of 2011 saw the opening of an exhibition featuring beloved comic artist Frank Gaard, who now has a retrospective show at the Walker Art Center. The gallery has even dabbled outside of the traditional art world, hosting a holiday craft fair and MNfashion's Emerging Designers Showcase.
Nestled on the very east end of Lake Street, in a garage-type space that only from the outside looks unassuming, sits Leviticus Tattoo, a longtime dream realized and executed by owner/tattooist/art collector Kurt Melancon. It should be disclosed that Melancon illustrated the cover of this very issue and some of the drawings inside after we spent about a year admiring his work on the flesh of friends, co-workers, and readers. The strength of Leviticus lies not only in its impeccable new digs, cleanliness, and overall decor, but in its careful artists and their artistic visions. They'll transfer an image brought from home exactly as-is or, preferably and probably for better results, expand on it to make it unique. Whether you're a first timer or an ink aficionado, you'll find that the tattoo artists here know how to deliver the best experience, and that's what makes the inevitable pain a bit more of a pleasure.