When you think about it, the library is the ideal place for an art gallery. It draws people from all walks of life. There’s an energy and vitality that many a gallery would envy. And the Minneapolis Central Library’s Cesar Pelli-designed building is a work of art in itself. Not surprising, then, that a show like 32x4, with its focus on community and shared history, fits in well.
The name of the exhibit refers to the four photographers—Michael Dvorak, Dusty Hoskovec, Sarah Stacke, and Xavier Tavera—commissioned to photograph thirty-two Twin Cities neighborhoods. Some of the neighborhoods are familiar, others not so much. Yet odds are you’ve driven through many of them at some point, even if they didn’t register as distinct neighborhoods.
That’s one of the pleasant surprises of 32x4. It offers up a nuanced view of people and places in Minneapolis and St. Paul that are easily overlooked. And the mix of old and new—archival postcards, photographs, maps, newspaper clippings—provides a sense of the transient nature of community setting the tone for the show’s exploration of the ways neighborhoods change and stay the same.
Each photographer brings something different to the mix. Hoskovec’s black and white and color images are unembellished slices of life. Almost the opposite of photographer Robert Doisneau’s “decisive moment,” Hoskovec’s photographs instead suggest continuity and familiarity. A worm’s-eye view of people sitting outside Bryant-Lake Bowl, the Nicollet Island Bridge at twilight, Dvorak delivers familiar scenes presented from sometimes odd angles.
Adhering to a more strictly documentary style than the others, Dvorak’s photographs feel like a walk around the block—in more ways than one. Whether it’s a photo of a man sitting legs sprawled and shirtless in front of a rundown house in the Northside industrial neighborhood or a church group spied through a window diner in the Harrison neighborhood, Dvorak offers an unobtrusive view of life as it’s lived.
Tavera and Stacke both work in color and their photographs are particularly evocative. Tavera’s vivid head-on portraits bring to mind the photographs of Alec Soth. His portrait of a young woman in shorts, high heels and a tank top leaning against a bright yellow Taco Taxi, a bright green building in the background, might make you think of Miami instead of Minneapolis for a moment. It’s a nice upending of expectations.
Stacke’s colorful images give the greatest feel for place. A long row of bar stools ending in a lone patron finishing a beer, the outdated modern color blocks of Riverside Plaza, a couple dancing the polka with young men with tank tops and tattoos conspiring in the foreground. Her compositions are strong and compelling.
Whatever the artistic merits, 32x4 brims with the telling details that say “you are here.”
32x4 continues at the Minneapolis Central Library through March 1.