McKnight shows, part 2: MCAD

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Aldo Moroni’s “Fragilearth”

As I mentioned earlier today, it seems practically every arts outlet these days is hosting an exhibition or performance with the word “McKnight” somewhere in it.

The Minneapolis College of Art and Design partners with the McKnight Foundation to administer its visual arts fellowships, which is bestowed annually on mid-career artists living in Minnesota. The fellowship year culminates in a show at the MCAD gallery.

This year’s show features the work of Aldo Moroni, Piotr Szyhalski, Michael Karaken and Carolyn Swiszcz. MCAD Director of Gallery and Exhibition Programs Kerry Morgan says each of the artists took the opportunity to push themselves in new directions:

Each of them created new work, and tried new methods. We provided the technical support, which in some cases was a real challenge. All of them have put so much thought into these works – so much labor and so many hours. I was amazed – each of them was incredibly focused.

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Detail of Aldo Moroni’s “Fragilearth”

For Aldo Moroni, the fellowship gave him the opportunity to “think big.” His sculptural installation, “Fragilearth,” stands at approximately 14 feet high, and dominates the front of the gallery. It references the large mountains found in traditional Chinese landscape painting (and in the MIA’s “Jade Mountain“), while offering a visual metaphor for man’s relative impotence compared to his natural environment.

Video cameras have been set up in the gallery so viewers can watch the sculpture as it changes over time. Moroni plans to work on the piece throughout the exhibition, reflecting the effects of time on the landscape.

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Piotr Szyhalski’s “Twins, Mirrors, Echoes: side A: Loyalty Dance”

Piotr Szyhalski’s multimedia installation continues his exploration of history and propaganda. A series of records hanging on the wall are adorned with labels richly layered in meaning. In the above label, the numbers refer to the times when planes hit the north and south towers of the World Trade Center in 2001. Meanwhile on a table, planes fly in irregular patterns and occasionally crash, making lights flash above.

Szyhalski grew up in Poland. Curator Kerry Morgan says his work asks viewers to think about how history is presented. Who’s doing the talking? What history do they want you to believe?

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Michael Karaken’s “Green Bottles”

Michael Karaken is known for his paintings depicting trash, and he does not vary from that vein with this latest body of work. However he did take the opportunity to create a large triptych of paintings. The shifting perspective in the different panels leave the viewer unsettled. In other pieces, his attention to detail increases as he approaches the center of the canvas, drawing the viewer even more sharply into the piles of car batteries, plastic bottles, and other refuse.

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Detail of a still from Carolyn Swiszcz’ “Offering”

Perhaps most delightful to explore is Carolyn Swiszcz work. She used the fellowship to branch out from her paintings and create videos. In both, Swiszcz explores the melancholy nature of boring architecture and large, empty parking lots.

In her video “Offering” Swiszcz creates a replica of a K-mart out of twinkies and other junk food, and then offers it up to the seagulls in the parking lot. Both humorous and sad, the video reminds us that so much that was once real has been replaced with artifice.

The 2009-2010 McKnight visual artists will display their work at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design through August 13. In what feels like a bit “musical chairs” later this month MCAD MFA students will show their work at Burnett Gallery in downtown Minneapolis.

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