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One Man's Junk...

The Spectacular of Vernacular exhibit explores an increasingly global commercial culture

What does it mean for artists to draw on the particular and local in a world where cultural reference points are increasingly collective and global?

That’s the question at the heart of The Spectacular of Vernacular, a new exhibition at the Walker Art Center that brings together nearly 40 works that are as eclectic and homespun as Aunt Bessie’s living room.

Involving the work of more than two dozen artists from the 1930s until now, The Spectacular of Vernacular explores the intersection of art with “the amateur creative expressions that we produce, the things we collect, the landmarks that distinguish our lived landscape,” says curator Darsie Alexander.

Unlike so much rarified, internationally acclaimed art, this show is more down to earth, she says, in that it explores personal history and lay culture as well as regional customs and behaviors. Much of the work navigates the space between the commonplace— roadside kitsch, homespun craft, the rustic and folkloric—and the impulse toward art in a materially oriented culture of continuous commerce.

In the hands of artist Marc Swanson, for example, the ultimate declaration of hunting prowess—a mounted deer head—turns shiny and oddly introspective. Lari Pittman creates a blaring, circus-like satire of consumerism, and Mike Kelley fuses bits and pieces of handmade crafts into canvases that capture the impulse behind folk art. “We live in this culture surrounded by stuff,” says Alexander. “Artifacts that seem to have no significance accrue meaning over time, moving from junk to something more meaningful by sheer dint of their survival.” Opens Jan. 29. Walker Art Center, 612-375-7600