Finding Miles Mendenhall’s new work space, situated inside one of those old brick buildings wedged between University Avenue and I-94 at the far edge of St. Paul, is tricky. The ground floor is a labyrinth of old machinery and dark, dusty walkways cluttered with construction debris and fresh drywall.
Mendenhall, known for his turn in the Bravo reality show Work of Art, is calling the space Faux Poco—an inside joke (and happy bit of accidental irony). The new studio is home to a handful of artists and serves as a resource for others in need of professional construction tools and printing equipment. It’s where Mendenhall created the large-scale works for his solo show this month at Franklin Art Works, which runs concurrently with shows by New York–based artists Lisha Bai and Conrad Ventur.
Before his stint on the small screen, Mendenhall interned at Franklin Art Works. That’s how Tim Peterson, director and curator of the gallery, became familiar with Mendenhall’s work style. When Peterson saw the young artist’s most recent work, he knew his early intuitions about Mendenhall were spot-on. “When I saw the trajectory of his work,” says Peterson, “it seemed vertical to me, so we wanted to jump quickly.”
The show features organic, abstract black-and-white images created by Mendenhall on a computer but printed using a nearly obsolete alternative printing process called carbon printing, which produces an image with exceptional depth and contrast. Mendenhall describes the intense black he achieved using the process as “black that gets into your senses.”
But Mendenhall isn’t just using an obscure analog process; he’s using it on a scale never attempted before, creating images that are up to five by seven feet. “I find intrigue in taking a concrete process that has historically been known to work and bending it,” says Mendenhall. “That’s where the [artistic] frontier is.” April 1–May 28. Franklin Art Works, 1021 Franklin Ave. E., Mpls., 612-872-7494, franklinartworks.org