Design 1-8-2009

2008 YEAR IN REVIEW: The Lists

Local art luminaries Frank Gaard, Emma Berg, and Ruben Nusz offer a grab-bag of their picks for the high (and low) points and the love-'em/hate-'em memorable moments from the year just passed


We in the media love to mock them, but year-end lists—top tens and best-ofs, love it/hate it sorts of things—are perennial reader favorites for good reason: they’re entertaining, of course, but also surprisingly effective tools for capturing zeitgeist snapshots. Read below for some listy reflections on 2008 from a few luminaries of Minnesota arts.


FRANK GAARD, painter:

1.    Walker changes: the loss of Kathy Halbreich and Philippe Vergne leaves a big hole in the TC scene and in our connection with a bigger worldview.

2.   Paranoia following Stewart Turnquist’s resignation (oi, can I get a witness!): I’m glad Stew is out of that scene and living his life without all the deadlines and meetings. God, meetings will kill us all.

3.   Elizabeth Armstrong at Minneapolis Institute of Arts and the promise of some real contemporary programming at the museum: Liz is a real fine exhibition maker and it only follows that she’ll do some very cool stuff at MIA, which has desperately needed a Department of Contemporary Art for decades.

4.   One of the best shows of the year, Body Politics: Figurative Prints and Drawings from Schiele to De Kooning, was put together by Joan Rothfuss at the Walker, in what used to be called Gallery 7. The Henry Darger painting was out and some really sexy Paul Cadmus things. It made the Walker look like a museum.

5.   The demise of various institutions and galleries: sorry to see Doug Flanders go (he was one of the few cats here who would show my art). The truth is the market barely exists here and the big institutions do nothing to help develop one.

6.   The imminent demise of newspapers (at least as we knew them) has had a bad impact on criticism. So much happens, and so little is published about it; and when there is something published, many of the critical voices have nothing much to say. The ARP! project is hopeful, though, and it would be a blessing if it got some support from the powerful foundations and patrons of the arts.

7.   Alec Soth is quite a bright star these days, and the first in sometime in this neighborhood. (And this is coming from a painter with little sympathy for photo art.)

8.   The new Minneapolis library is still a gas, and a beautiful public building, too.

9.   The potential of online arts seems to be thriving and faltering at the same time. More funds need to go to online projects and perhaps grants for artists to develop better web presence.

10.   Something to think about for the future: Since so much of the Walker’s permanent collection is stored, for years at a time, out of public view, what potential is there for a kunsthalle-type structure which would allow more work to be seen? I’m talking about a barn behind the new building which would be devoted to contemporary exhibitions and shows drawn from the permanent collection, like a Walker 2—a sort of temporary building for contemporary art, not unlike the Temporary Contemporary in Los Angeles. Kinda like, lower the overhead and bring on the shows.

—Respectfully submitted by Frankie Gaard. Frank Gaard is a painter living in SW Minneapolis.


     LAURA ZABEL, Springboard for the Arts:

This year my daughter turned two, which we decided meant she was old enough to be an arts patron. It has been a great journey finding the wonderful shows and events we can enjoy as a family. Some highlights: James Sewell First Chance Dance, Music in the Park family series, Kid’s Fringe and Wishes for the Sky.
        Other, less two-year-old friendly highlights: the Brave New Workshop 50th Anniversary; The Current’s Fakebook with Chuck D, Brother Ali and Atmosphere; and the Provention concert during the RNC. To me, these (along with many other great shows and events from the year) showcase the breadth and depth of the arts community here—which is truly exemplary.


     EMMA BERG, creator and Fox Tax Gallery curator:

1.   Burlesque Design‘s postering of Obama artist prints throughout the Twin Cities: artist designs included the now famous Shepard Fairey print that landed on the cover of Time Magazine as well as work by David Choe, Ron English, Burlesque Design and so many more artists. It was inspiring to see the face of Obama around every corner.

2.   Cancellation of the Ryan McGinness exhibit at Franklin Art Works in September: It was planned and then, poof, it was gone—with no notification or reason for the cancellation ever sent.

3.   Andréa Stanislav‘s River to Infinity—The Vanishing Points exhibition and artist talk led by Chris Atkins of VACUM at the MAEP in early 2008: The completeness of the exhibit in execution, thought, and purpose was astonishing and refreshing.



Aviette‘s The Way We Met, Haley Bonar‘s Big Star, Roman Signer and Chris Larson at the Rochester Art Center, Bruce Tapola at Occasional Art, miniStories readings at the Ritz, Chuck Olsen and The Uptakes‘s election coverage, my growing addiction to Facebook,, Robot Love and being back in Minneapolis


     WILL LAGER, Community Liaison,

My personal favorites from 2008: Picturing Power, by Paul Shambroom at the Weisman Art Museum, Toys on Roids by Sean Tubridy at the Soo Visual Arts Center, and Unconventional Wisdom by Mike Elko & Ruthann Godollei at the MAEP.


     RUBEN NUSZ, artist:

1.   Roman Signer’s Bar at the Rochester Art Center: This piece blew my mind. Imagine a set of whiskey bottles hanging from monofilament swirling in a slight breeze generated by a series of fans mounted on the floor. Never before has a single work of art made me feel so drunk.

2.   Tino Sehgal at the Walker Art Center: Whether one categorizes his installations as performance, dance, institutional critique or straight poetry, Sehgal confronts you with ideas in ways that are so innovative you can’t help but recall and ponder his work weeks after seeing it.

3.   Tectonic Industries at Franklin Art Works/Soap Factory: What’s amazing about T.I. is their ability to construct conceptually complex work that is totally accessible. They do this by extrapolating weighty inner truths from the pop culture mythologies ingrained in our collective memories.

4.   Matthew Bakkom, MCAD/Jerome Emerging Grant Exhibition, MCAD: Bakkom doesn’t spoon-feed you anything. But if you spend time with his engaging imagery it will haunt you (like a friendly conceptual ghost). I’ll never forget his cryptic folder full of everything I ever wanted to know about life but will never know.

5.   Dan Perjovschi at the Walker Art Center: It’s funny, my favorite moment at the Walker Art Center this year occurred in the hallway where Perjovschi’s simplistic, yet profound wall drawings were relegated. I like how he creates political commentary without devolving into trite heavy handedness (most of the time).

6.   Merce Cunningham Dance Company, Ocean (at the Rainbow Quarry): Okay, so this piece was surely a triumph; I can’t tell you how much I wanted to see it. Two problems: One, I’m always broke. Two, tickets sold out in seconds. Couldn’t they set up some folding chairs on the top of the quarry or something? I guess I could have tried to sneak some peaks all covert and whatnot, but I’m way too lazy for that.

7.   Eric William Carroll at Umber Studios/Augsberg College/Soap Factory: Eric Carroll’s meditations on love, photography, death and light always surprise and challenge me. His letter to the long dead William Fox Talbot was the most moving and beautiful art séance I’ve ever encountered. And I’ve been to alot of séances. Seriously, lots of them.

8.   Andy Ducett’s studio: imagine if you purchased all the cool trinkets at the Salvation Army over the last 30 years and then spent three months installing them in a “white cube” garage. This is nostalgia at its finest. Mix in some quality vinyl and paint fumes and you’ve got yourself a blissful afternoon.

9.   Jennifer Danos at Art of This, Franklin Art Works, Rosalux Gallery, Rochester Art Center: Once you see some of Jen’s work, your subsequent art-viewing experiences will never be the same. And if you haven’t seen her work yet, you haven’t been looking hard enough.

10.   Hardland/Heartland at Minneapolis Institute of Arts: Here are the elements I recall the most from this somewhat compelling show: meth wish, framed old jerseys, a keyboard with a few keys taped down, and the genius 3m/we postcard. The postcard epitomizes the neo-commie, post-ironic, novel gamesmanship at which H/H excels.

11.    ARP! Magazine and Art of This Gallery: This might be the best one-two art punch in Minneapolis. Great arts writing printed on a paper you can read in your car, and earnest, smart programming that takes risks without taking prisoners.

Originally from South Dakota, Minnesota artist Ruben Nusz was raised by cowboys. He directed a feature-length documentary that toured the festival circuit, and has exhibited mixed media works locally at the Minnesota Museum of American Art, Rosalux Gallery, Gallery 360 and Umber Studios. His work is currently showing at the Rochester Art Center and he’ll be a part of an upcoming Critics Show opening January 15 at the Hopkins Center for the Arts.


>>CLICK HERE to continue reading 2008 YEAR IN REVIEW: The Big Picture for Minnesota Arts – Minnesota artists weigh in on the peaks and valleys of 2008, from Vote Yes! to the troubles facing arts orgs and media, to the rise of spoken word and DIY craft. Look for more year-end picks – in performance, film and literature – over the next two weeks.