By Cora Cull:
A snapshot of the last month of 2020—a tall task to accomplish, as the year has already brought so much tumult and upheaval to people around the globe. Miraculously, HAIR + NAILS manages to do just that. Their December group show of twenty-two local and national artists, RIGHT NOW, serves as a synthesis of a year filled with growth, pain, isolation, and hope.
The focal point of the first of three rooms serves to showcase three massive mixed media canvases by Gregory Rick. The works are unrepentant in their political and social justice message, with Bury My Heart at 38th and Chicago in particular serving as a poignant and vivid memorializing of the MPD’s murder of George Floyd. Rick’s background as a graffiti artist is evident in his bold use of space and color, but his works are hardly limited to or indebted to one genre. The canvases speak to a deep understanding of protest art, with the inclusion of photographs and other mixed media incorporated into the compositions. Reminiscent at times of early 20th century political photomontages in their dynamic figures and fusion of mediums, Rick’s work manages to pull from genres and histories without making the individual statement of each piece overwhelming. Instead, the complexity of each work shows a dedication to its social message, and Rick’s thoroughness to which he has considered each subject he tackles. Rick’s works are a worthy, and in fact, vital addition to a show in a city where repeated racial injustice has been the focal point for so much of the year.
Looming above the same room of the exhibition is a small television, displaying Tsohil Bhatia’s “Simple Hour Count (1-3600)”. The work, completed in 2018, is a quiet close-up of the artist’s hands, counting each passing second in an hour with the raising of a finger. The film in its entirety is 4,684 seconds, just under an hour and thirty minutes, a testament to the grueling monotony and physical strain of timing the finger raisings exactly. In its original inception, the work offers a perspective on the human perception of time, but in the era of the COVID-19 pandemic, “Simple Hour Count” takes on a new poignancy. The passage of time, when many are bound to the confines of their homes, slips by both with unstable speed as well as physical exhaustion. The inadvertent slowing pace of Bhatia’s hands becomes a physical manifestation of the weight of time during this prolonged period of isolation.
While 2020 has been particularly noteworthy in terms of its trials, RIGHT NOW’s strength as a show, and indeed HAIR + NAILS’ strength as a gallery, lies in the dedication to serving genuine emerging artists. RIGHT NOW is not only a snapshot of the global and national stage, but an invitation to artists to showcase their current work, and their own personal journeys throughout the year. Lauren Roche’s paintings in the second room are enchanting in their heavy blue palettes and curved classical forms. Sophia Chai’s “Shaft Composition #5 and #6” in the third room offer delightfully disorienting experiences of space, and an acute understanding of the possibilities of visual deconstruction. Particularly eye catching is Lee Noble’s collection of “Doxxed Art Dealers” canvases, boldly displaying the names and (entirely real) phone numbers of some of the most powerful art dealers in the country, including David Zwirner and Larry Gagosian. Noble’s canvases serve as an appropriate and cheeky testament to the power of the “emerging artist,” a term that has been corrupted by Blue Chip galleries across the country as a marketing ploy.
RIGHT NOW rightfully dedicates a significant portion of its space to works that explore the pain of this year, and the necessity for reflection upon it. But even in the pieces that display outrage over the injustices committed in 2020, the passion with which they are conveyed promise growth. The artists’ varying messages and experience don’t combat each other, but rather uplift each message with the strength of their own convictions, making RIGHT NOW not only an accurate survey of time, but a truly enjoyable experience.
Cora Cull is a freelance writer and Art Historical researcher living in the Twin Cities, with a Masters in early 20th century art from the University of Glasgow.
by Nina Raemont:
Art conflicts. It takes contrasting elements and merges them together: light and dark visuals; contrasting ideas; a sentiment of time passing while it simultaneously stands still. In HAIR+NAILs’ recent exhibition, Right Now, we examine the pasts, present and futures of the 22 artists on display and meditate upon their dreams that lead us and leave us in this current moment, right now.
Gregory Rick: Bury My Heart at 38th and Chicago
Upon entrance into the gallery, Gregory Rick’s work catches my eye. Rick’s work reclaims history. The color palettes with their intoxicating hues, the subjects that seem to stare directly at you, the words and dates that retell a blurred and white-washed history. It is an all-consuming experience that leaves the viewer recontextualizing images and ideas presented before them.
In the left half of the painting, seven subjects surrounded by helicopters seem to be running towards the right half where we see Derek Chauvin kneeling on George Floyd’s neck and Floyd’s lifeless eyes. A fire engulfs his body and nearly touches Rick’s American flag. The 3rd Precinct burns with Floyd’s body. There is a sense of urgency in the scene of Bury My Heart at 38th and Chicago. I want to know where the subjects of the painting are running from and what they are running towards. Is it a sense of hope or is it an effort of protection and a tardy warning? Rick layers historical iconography with his own interpretations, tracing a timeline of natural evolution with pictures of birds and fish that steers us to our current socio-political environment where the chronology of certain events are messy and loud. In all its chaos and calamity, Bury My Heart at 38th and Chicago wants to be seen.
Lee Noble: Doxxed Art Dealers
Downstairs, Lee Noble’s Doxxed Art Dealers is an audacious display of information access, a trail of cellular breadcrumbs that leads the viewer to the most notable art dealers of the twenty-first century. The piece, five Post-It note colored canvases with the names and numbers of prominent art dealers across the world, is a stroke of simplistic ingenuity. Noble’s piece effortlessly questions confidentiality and the high-brow art industry that brims with coterie. It begs the question: Who has authority over what information?
Kieran Myles-Andrés Tverbakk: Me Encontrarás Donde Mi Luz y Mi Oscuridad Chocan (Where My Light and My Darkness Collide, You Find Me)
There’s a sense of agency in painting your own picture, choosing what you desire to include and remove about yourself. In Myles-Andrés Tverbakk’s Me Encontrarás Donde Mi Luz y Mi Oscuridad Chocan (Where My Light and My Darkness Collide, You Find Me), the artist erases their own history through painting themselves out of their old photography, removing themselves from their self-portrait. The collection of photos is etched into the basement wall of the gallery, and in the middle of the collection, a single silhouette of a person appears on canvas.
Manal Kara: Cow’s Lungwart Bullock’s Lungwart Clown’s Lungwart
“First mandate: return to what you know” catches my eye in Manal Kara’s creation, Cow’s Lungwart Bullock’s Lungwart Clown’s Lungwart. Kara would take these photos on their quarantine walks. The words reminded me of those first few weeks when the entire world stayed home, made bread, got out their knittings and embroideries and returned to a pastoral way of life, if not for only a few weeks. The world around us encouraged mollification, and soon we were left with ourselves and the activities that kept our ancestors busy and the flowers that continued to annually bloom in the April sun. We returned to what we knew.
The centerpiece photography is so easily ascertainable, while the words around the photos require more meditation. The piece demands patience and deliberation, but with time, something clicks. What I adore about Kara’s work is the time the art requires: the muddied frames that hide the messages within them, the various and verdant pieces of natural photography, the beautiful and unique plants captured. The ceramic frames that were made with care and time are juxtaposed with the instantaneous pictures Kara took during quarantine.
Tsohia Bhatia: Simple Hour Count (1-3600)
Bhatia’s video hangs above the gallery and appears as HAIR+NAILS’ own clock. The premise is simple: use your fingers to count your way through an hour. The digital video of a pair of hands struggling to accurately do so, however, proves otherwise. The pair of cramping hands and their uneven cadence displays the fallibility of human monotony and the subjectivity of time. Immediately, the age-old idiom “time is money” comes to mind. How an hour becomes a cost of labor and how we task ourselves with fulfilling responsibilities within that time, how that time and that work is directly related to our personal value, how draining the task becomes after the hour ends, how monotony kills a soul. Humans are not mechanical. They are not made to be clocks and tell time in perfect rhythm; they are entropic and spastic, as they should be.
Nina Raemont is a third-year journalism major at the University of Minnesota and an associate arts reporter for The Minnesota Daily. She writes about art, food and culture.
Some Thoughts on Perception, Illusion, and Knots
by Brooks Turner:
Twenty-four clear vinyl tubes stuffed with yarn are woven to a canvas with strips of a green, patterned fabric. This work by Rachel Collier titled Pulse Lock, offers a beautiful repetition of color and form. The tubes are mostly straight, vertical, at the center of the work, but as they move towards the edges of the canvas, their ends curve inward like parentheses. This subtle progression of curvature suggests a bulging outward, as if each tube is the sliver of a globe. But the illusion of a ball forming in the patterning of rectangle and color is no more than that—an illusion, and one that is easier to see in photograph than in person.
The yarn inside the vinyl tubes is most clear at the edges; pockets of air give clarity to individual fraying strands. Towards the center of each tube, the yarn becomes so compressed, it appears like flat color against the clear vinyl surface. Splatters of vibrant acrylic paint on the tubes draw my eye in for a closer look. Just as the yarn merges into a flatness of color, so too does the acrylic on vinyl through the closeness of chemical materiality between these two plastics. I am lost in this visual melding, in the turbulence of flatness and depth, of inside and outside. At times, I struggle to discern whether a patch of color is compressed yarn behind a vinyl screen or acrylic paint becoming one with the tube. Pulse Lock is illusory and yet physical; it is psychedelic like atomic energy, fission and fusion; it is psychedelic not like a bomb but like a warp drive. The curvature of my vision is the curvature of the tubes, reality warping and flattening around me. I willingly give myself to the illusion, to the visual and material hallucinations.
The external world—that we think of as stable—arrives at the surface of the eye as a two-dimensional image. Laws of the brain and of physics interpret the image as it travels to the back of the skull, constructing an artificial world for our mind to inhabit. While this happens nearly instantaneously, that space from start to finish is open to errors, distortions, and misrepresentations. Optical illusions exploit it, revealing how we are prone to bias, to manipulation. We construct the world from expectation; stability is the exploiter.
Ryan Fontaine’s sculpture Repo Man exploits the exploiter. The illusion begins at the center: painted and stretched canvas balloons upward with the pressure of some unseen force. A sharp white light floods from underneath the canvas, a visualization of an unknown otherworldliness. A four-sided plywood box surrounds the bulging canvas. Without a bottom, light seeps from the line where the 12-inch-tall plywood wall meets the floor. Its width, nearly seven feet, implies a body, while its depth, three feet, doubles it—a coffin for two. The light at the end of the tunnel has abandoned the center and instead lurks in the object’s edges, pulling the walls in. As my vision dances in and out of that brilliant light, I am convinced that the warping I see, the way the walls curve towards that central stretched canvas, is an illusion, a trick of the light, and that if I had a straight edge I could measure its precision. I was informed, however, that the illusion I thought I saw was an illusion—the plywood walls were in fact curved and the straightness I didn’t see but thought I knew was in fact a lie.
Through vision we are exploited. But becoming aware of the way in which objects and light and structures can trick our vision leaves us open to a reversed exploitation, the illusion of an optical illusion. Spacetime ties a Gordian knot around us and through us, eddying in the corners of our eye. What does truth matter next to experience?
Arriving at Sophia Chai’s work after these two feels like a moment of calm. Chai exploits a camera’s perspective to create lines that appear vertical when photographed. It is an illusion, and yet it feels more stable than Pulse Lock or Repo Man. Perhaps it is that I am aware of, confident in, the illusion. Chai leaves us clues throughout: a subtle tonal shift revealing the edge of a pillar or the turn of a corner, thicknesses of her painted red lines shift as they move from one wall to another.
But, as my eyes flit back and forth between the two photographs, it occurs to me that I am looking at the same painted lines photographed from two vantage points. The spatial distortions that cause the idiosyncrasies in one print are explained by those in another. For example, along the right side of Shaft Composition #5, the final five vertical red lines appear to get narrower and closer together causing the progression of the slope (formed by the top and bottom ends of each red line) to change angles ever so slightly. And in Shaft Composition #6, the five red lines on the right side of the composition grow thicker and further apart, while the angle of the slopes stay consistent. If the five lines in #5 are painted on a vertical plane parallel to my line of sight and the remaining lines are painted on a vertical plane intersecting the camera lens perpendicularly, then moving towards the perpendicular plane, away from the parallel plane, and turning my head such that the parallel plane becomes perpendicular and the perpendicular plan becomes parallel, I would expect the slope of the endpoints to flatten and the five red lines on the right to widen—just as occurs in #6.
Chai’s photographs show us how our eyes are tricked—these worlds are fictions and truths, truths of the fallibility of our vision, fictions of images; abstract truths and spatial fictions.
This thought leads me upstairs to the work of Kristen Sanders. Potential Human depicts a glowing green figure in what appears to be a cave. The figure’s head shimmers in ambiguity, appearing simultaneously as a stylization and as a hovering mask. The edge of an eyehole bisects a disembodied eye, which stares down, as if in boredom, at a finger tracing a squiggle in the sand. An early hominid—the potential human—is illuminated by the discovery of abstraction. This deep history evades any possibility of archaeological record—becoming a true fiction, an unreal and illusory space that embeds itself in our collective unconscious, a memory outside of time. Every mark in RIGHT NOW emanates from this moment. The squiggle in the dirt is the zero-point of art and mind, it is the unseen end of that Gordian knot.
Brooks Turner is an artist, writer, and educator. His recent work engages the history of fascism in Minnesota, and has appeared at the Weisman Art Museum, St. Cloud State University, MnArtists, and as an Exhibition-in-Print in the StarTribune. He has taught at the University of California, Los Angeles, St. Cloud State University, Ridgewater College, and is currently Chair of Visual Art at St. Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists. In 2017, he wrote A Guide to Charles Ray Sleeping Mime, published with Paperleaf Press, and continues to write essays for Hair and Nails Gallery and Temp/reviews.
H+N: RIGHT NOW
by Cameron Downey:
The wonderland of a group show that is Hair and Nails’ RIGHT NOW reads first like a ministry of verdant tropics, floors stemming with pedestals. Our first meet being with the trifecta of Kristin Van Loon’s aptly titled Burn Books. The work sits as judgement, 12-inch nails portending at the feet of words. TEXAS SENATOR / HOUSE OF / WYOMING. We move left and an anthology of everything lay empty in its most succinct form. Opaque Operation. Passive Past. Works wholly full of itself and somehow another. The artist wakes within all, her name nowhere to be found. Manuals, memory, and mandate. We watch from the hill.
The next suggests a rest, or rather ecosystem. And Rachel Youn begs the question of whether or not the two are synonymous. Waiting requests of us just that. Ivies bow and stretch methodically from the alabaster lid of another thing, but grow the makings of a forest obsessed with pleasure. My kind, at least.
Youn’s promise is made boon at the feet of Ginny Sims, the next logical step into the life of RIGHT NOW. Two of the same— faces drawn simply and efficiently, but without hesitation— stand in tangle. It feels like an artifact made real by symmetry and opacity. We wonder if it’s just us, or are their postos truly the same. It’s cause for the day, the mood and the time. None of which move. All of which trouble.
Moises Salazaar continues the quest, in frank curatorial manner, of the balling of fists. This time though, we know other truths. Truth as praise, pride and compassion [patience] rumble out of glitter and into existence.
RIGHT NOW experiences a constant rise, and by laws of thermodynamics its cause either laying in heat, speed, or a reaction of the two. This time, announced and shepherded in by its front room, RIGHT NOW wakes up again in the greens and faces accelerating across its room. More patience, more pride and still no time. Matthew Zefeldt and Kristen Sanders look through us in limes— their tracks and their caves. So here perhaps, there actually is time, just one not yet accounted for.
Downloading the scope of first entry, the group show descends— only literally— into a gleaming affirmation on all fronts. The face, the diagrams of love turnpike into their counterparts, a love of face.
In what might be thought of as the darkest (Literally, again) segment of work, Erick Medel lives. Gesture of adornment meets reality of ornament in the floating shelves of hats any person might kill to own in their 3-dimensional form. Design embroiders epic, myth and the kind of desire only made possible with the careful combination of the two.
Jonathan Herrara Soto acts of the same accord, managing somehow, in much less color. Gesture meshes with whimsical specificity in a chart of drawings. Their freedom making its title sit, a warm haze— love indeed. Poems De Amor wears without question, love in all its marks. Unequivocally, love.
Emma Beatrez, with their work PPE, resides in joy and fervor between Soto and Medel. PPE of course, the logical and playful bridge. Shining atop polyurethane, metal links wander liminally between want, armor and need. Its representation building a rapport at the feet of desire and tactile misgivings. Austere luxury, if ever there was such a thing.
And thus, in touch’s antonym, Erin Smith’s Untitled Form Study resides. Life, of the natural world more so than others, ties and unties itselves with the exactness of spheres, cubes and the like. A miracle of reactions, as I want to see it in its rightful place: on a near planet and at the foot of a shallow sea. That world, for this work, might be better.
Cameron Downey is an undergrad at Columbia University pursuing studies of Environmental Science and Visual Art. Born and raised in Minneapolis, MN, she oscillates between the midwest and Harlem, NY. Among artmaking, she spends time as a writer, advocate, curator and dreamer.
Downey’s art has previously been exhibited by HAIR+NAILS in: HAIR+NAILS at 9 Herkimer (Brooklyn) in 2019 and FUTURE FUTURE (HAIR+NAILS MPLS) (Jan/Feb 2020) and in her solo show “Three Things Last Forever” (Aug/Sep 2020). Downey guest curated HOLDING SPACE, an exhibition of video, image, light and sound, in the H+N frontyard (summer 2020).
We (Kristin Van Loon and Arwen Wilder) are making a dance together, as we have been for 30 years. But this time, we are making it together and apart, creating apart but sharing prompts. This last week we each spent time alone in the H+N gallery, each with 3 works of art to consider. For each piece we went through a ritual of looking, dancing, imagining and writing in timed cycles. By the end of each cycle, we each had one phrase of movement and one sentence or paragraph of writing. What we share here is by no ways a review of the art. It is evidence that it has been generative and inspiring. Our dancing made these words, these words made our dance moves….back and forth….til it’s hard to tell what came from what.
KRISTIN VAN LOON with “Arania (baruch) spinoza” by MANAL KARA:
Oblivious to the goat behind pimply branches, green nail gal’s floral fingers seek stitches or trampoline or corset. Four bumpers foreground beefy tire. Craggy trampoline bouncing halo’d “Yes”, halo’d “No”.
KRISTIN VAN LOON with “Untitled” by LAUREN ROCHE:
Trapezoid atop column is gooey brushstroked yet flesh is still blocked and sacrum teased out of outline. Arch inside. Arches stabilizing in pairs.
KRISTIN VAN LOON with “Wrong Flowers (shadow 2)” & “Wrong Flowers (arrangement 3)” by LEXI HERMAN + WYATT LASKY:
The translation already made between faux succulent and seeping meniscus, I indulge in color. Splatter behind streak, meniscus across burnt orange, bloom down, lime looks down below squashed leaf. Cartilage absorbs lavender puddles deeper than toe tip scratched before downward bloom. Leaf is squashed.
ARWEN WILDER with “Iphegenia II” by MANAL KARA:
A brown butterfly, wings broken, preserved in resin, like amber, to stay forever with a loop of twine that could never have caught it, the resin in the shape of a high heel so tall that to dance in it would make you feel like a butterfly, or not, the strap decorated with spiked horseshoe nose rings, so many stacked symbols of freedom and entrapment and only one shoe, Cinderella.
ARWEN WILDER with “Sandman and Queen of The Forest” by AMTK:
Ohhh, the industrial mushroom hellscape, the forest of ghost trees, past present future standing under an umbrella and her arms are snakes, little pods of: butterfly children, pigpolice, ladies, beggars, old balding men and their shadows studiously examining the snake and the pink and blue dapper skeletons mugging for the camera.
ARWEN WILDER with “For The Intention of Catch and Release” by LEXI HERMAN + WYATT LASKY:
This piece makes me want to discover every object as though I am an alien and guess naively from its svelte design what its purpose could be, and its decorative potential.
HIJACK is the choreographic collaboration of Kristin Van Loon & Arwen Wilder. Walker Art Center celebrated the 20th anniversary of the artistic duo by commissioning “redundant, ready, reading, radish, Red Eye” for the McGuire Stage and “Eye Sockets/Hip Sockets — a slideshow lecture about visual art as inspiration and compositional strategy for choreography” as a companion event. At HAIR+NAILS, with Ryan Fontaine and Heidi Eckwall, they created and performed “JEALOUSY in summer 2019.