Over the weekend I stopped by the Minneapolis Institute of Arts to check out Foot in the Door 4, the MIA's once-a-decade invitation to display the work of any Minnesota artist, as long as the objet d'art can fit into a 12"x 12" box.
The last time the MIA opened its doors like this, in 2000, 1,700 artists responded. This year, almost 5,000 Minnesotans answered the call, filling four galleries floor-to-ceiling with a magnificent profusion of artworks of every conceivable kind. Paintings, sculptures, figurines, masks, sketches, chapbooks, jewelry, woodcarvings, portraits, seed art, photography, kids' drawings—you name it and it's there, displayed so densely and with such randomness that standing in the middle of it is like being trapped inside a giant art blender. And that's not counting the dozens of video entries that can be viewed at a computer workstation. Complete sensory overload occurs in about forty-five seconds, and only after you get past this initial assault on your neurons is it possible to begin appreciating the work itself.
The first thing I noticed was the remarkably high quality of much of the art, particularly the paintings. Clearly, MCAD (Minneapolis College of Art and Design) is doing something right, because there appear to be hundreds of Minnesota artists whose technique and execution would not look out of place in the MIA's other galleries.
The fun of the exhibit, however, is in the work of those teeming thousands of aspiring artists whose efforts will likely end up in the dustbin of history, if not an actual dustbin. None of the artworks is labeled or named (though there is a master catalogue), but I snapped photos of some of my favorites (below) and have taken the liberty of naming them, as well as explaining why I think these works deserve more serious consideration in the annals of Minnesota's artistic history:
1) Breakfast, Anyone?
Artistic significance: Though it was clearly dropped by an MIA curator and reassembled to avoid embarrassment, this piece says something definitive about a few things: the utility of owning more than one chicken, the lengths to which MIA curators will go to cover up their mistakes, and the scarcity of art materials on farms in upstate Minnesota. Alas, an accompanying exhibit, "216-egg Omelette," was too large to display, and has since been devoured by a pack of starving artists. The Easter Island head in the foreground guards the sculpture against any would-be destroyers of the fragile lattice—i.e., the next person who touches it.
2) Blue Man Goop
Artistic Significance: The severed, distended head of a member of the famed tube-banging noise ensemble The Blue Man Group makes for a bold artistic statement. That statement, of course, is that the Blue Man Group has been performing to sellout crowds for far too long, in way too many cities, and must be stopped. Word on the exhibit floor was that the artist was hard at work trying to procure heads from performers in Cirque de Soleil , Sesame Street Live , Phantom of the Opera , and Cats .
3) Bake Baby, Bake
Artistic Significance: Every parent's dirty little secret is that putting their wailing bundle of joy into the oven to shut it up has occurred to them as a plausible option at one time or another. However, most parents bake their babies at a very low temperature, just until they're sleepy, so you don't hear about the practice much. That said, whoever created this masterpiece may have spent a bit more time in the oven as an infant than is technically advisable. (Note that the dial in the lower left is set to "broil.") Lots of things go through your head when you're trapped in an oven, and all of them have been crammed into this splendid 3D installation, including bullets and Mardi Gras beads. It's a shame people have to suffer for their art, but when the result is this compelling, you realize the pain is worth it. `
There are 4,900+ other pieces to check out at Foot in the Door 4 , and I wholeheartedly recommend that you do, especially you grad students. No one has bothered to explain which pieces in FITD4 are worth people's time and attention, and which ones are pure crap. I've done what I can here, but there is much more work to be done.
Foot in the Door 4 continues at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts through June 13.