Gazing into “The Minnesota Eye”

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John Marshall, “Young Woman” 2009

UV set inks on lacquered cherry veneer MDF, Courtesy of John Marshall

Opening tomorrow night is small little show with a big goal. The College of Visual Arts presents “The Minnesota Eye: Contemporary Photography.” The exhibition features the images of 17 different Minnesota professionals, and indeed it’s a lovely grouping.

Sometimes it takes putting a bunch of artists in the same room to make us realize just what our community has to offer. There’s Alec Soth, Paul Shambroom, JoAnn Verburg, Stuart Klipper, and Tom Arndt, just to name a few. These are now national and international names, who gained their particular visual sensibility through their time here at home.

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JoAnn Verburg, “Ledge” 2009

Ink on paper, Courtesy of Pace/MacGill and G. Gibson Gallery

I stopped by the CVA gallery just as the final piece was being hung. I recognized much of what I saw, and was pleasantly surprised to see some relatively new names whose images I really enjoyed (Carrie Elizabeth Thompson and Cory Prahl in particular).

But as I walked around the room, I felt that something was missing. While each image was lovely, as a whole the exhibition felt very calm – almost too calm.

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Carrie Elizabeth Thompson, “Eleanor, Nanty Glo, PA” 2008

Archival pigment print, Courtesy of Carrie Elizabeth Thompson

What this exhibition lacks is a real sense of energy and diversity. If someone were to base their impression of contemporary Minnesota photography on this particular show, they would miss out on a ton of exciting and important work. Where’s Wing Young Huie? How about Xavier Tavera? How about Angela Strassheim?

Instead what this exhibition presents is a staid, more traditional view of Minnesota photographers. The curator, it should be noted, asked to remain anonymous, but it’s not hard to guess who put the show together when you look at who provided the images (six of the photographs were loaned by the same gallery).

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Cory Prahl, “Chelsea Court” 2009

Inkjet print mounted to cintra, Courtesy of Weinstein Gallery

One of the major reasons the CVA is mounting this show is to immerse its students in the work of professional artists in the community. That is a great and noble idea (of course this exhibition only runs until November 14, so it’s more of a quick dip than a meditative soak).

What might serve the students even better is to mount a second exhibition in a few months, this time with a different curator. Because what I think we would find is that the Minnesota photography scene is so rich, another person with an equally trained eye could pick out his or her favorites, and be able to fill the gallery space all over again. And it would be a totally different show.

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