|Revival Blue by Keith Lemley|
The Soap Factory is one of the spookiest, dankest, ill-smelling places you can visit in Minneapolis. The air inside the building is hard to breathe, and you can't walk far before noticing how thick it is. The floors are dusty, and the walls seem to be alive with some kind of presence (mold? ghosts? the residue of animals slaughtered for soap from when the space belonged to Purity Soap Factory?). Its dungeon quality makes it the perfect location for the annual Haunted Basement, but it serves as an integral backdrop for whatever art is shown there as well -- whether intentionally or not.
|Kicking up Dust by Merideth Foster |
For its current show, "Hedge Magic
," a group of artists were chosen to exhibit through the gallery's annual submissions program. Lillian Egner, the Soap Factory's program manager, says that while the artists were chosen separately, there was some intermingling as the artists installed their pieces.
You can see this especially in the first couple of rooms of the exhibit. While each artist clearly has their own style and point of view, there's a synchronicity happening between the works of art, and also with the space, both within the Soap Factory walls and in its surrounding environment.
|By Peter Goché|
For one thing, there's a strong river theme with several of the artists. Peter Goché has created a sculpture made of red cedar that looks like a river. It's propped up on metal sticks, which are held in place by wire stays that fly up to the ceiling. The presentation offers antithetical gestures of stagnation and flow.
In the same room is Meridith Foster's Kicking up Dust and Topography Maps. In the former, ziplock bags filled with autumn oil ash, charcoal, and water are assembled in a cross-like pattern on the floor. They look like specimens gathered from a local pond, preserved in a specific and yet enigmatic shape. Topography Maps, also recall the natural world. Foster creates three-dimensional landscapes with autumn oil ash and charcoal, playing with light and dark in what look like zen sand drawings.
|From Topography Maps by Merideth Foster|
While Goché and Foster have very different approaches to their work, their pieces converse with each other well, especially in their connection with the natural world.
The next room brings us to Amy Reckley's Façade (Soap and Sausage) and Keith Lemley's Super Blue. According to Egner, Lemley came to install his work only with the blue fluorescent light materials, intending to allow the installation to react to the space and to the other artists. Like Goché and Foster, his work also contains a sense of the river in the way the lights are assembled. It's really quite beautiful.
|Façade (Soap and Sausage) by Amy Reckley|
Reckley's work contains two elements: spirals of wood blooming up like bubbles and a jigsaw puzzle of cow-like shapes. The piece was apparently created from the inspiration of the Soap Factory's origins (with the swirly bit being like the soap, and the cow shapes being like the animals that were slaughtered to make it). Reckley's work is a tad simplistic, yet the bubbles are so beautiful and interact so wonderfully with Lemley's neon river that it is a satisfying installation.
A little further on in is Chris Lawrence's Heliogeist Compass. At first look, it seems to be some weird science experiment lit by bright lights inside of glass boxes. On closer inspection, you realize the pods are actually huge dried sunflowers. It's a quintessential Soap Factory piece: dirty, earthy, with a bit of technology thrown in. Is he working on creating sunflower mutations? Who knows, but it looks cool.
|Heliogeist Compass by Chris Lawrence |
The last room features Jess Hirsch and David Hamlow. For Revival Vial, Hersch has assembled used furniture acquired from Craigslist into a ritual-type setting, complete with printouts from the Craigslist ads that have been blurred out. The piece rings of decay and of manufactured goods being slowly broken down until they once again become part of the earth. In many ways it makes an interesting dénouement to the exhibit.
Finally, Jess Hirsch (with the help of many Northern Spark participants) has created a wall full of bricks assembled from recycled materials. It's an enthusiastic end to the exhibit, in some ways leading back to the beginning, so that the whole trajectory becomes a kind of circle. It's possible that this wasn't intentional, but regardless, it becomes a demonstration of life cycles.
IF YOU GO:
Through August 5
The Soap Factory
514 Second Ave SE, Minneapolis
The gallery is open Thursdays and Fridays from 2 to 8 p.m., and Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m.
514 2nd St. SE, Minneapolis, MN