"Admire" at Form + Content highlights the art of letter writing

Categories: Art
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Amanda Hamilton, Beautiful Terrible
"Admire" at Form + Content Gallery features the work of 11 artists chosen by gallery members, and is curated by Jenny Wheatley. Accompanying each piece are two letters: one written by the F+C member to their chosen artist and another written as a response. Some of the letters are nurturing and supportive, others are probing, and some are mysterious. While there are a few less interesting letters (mainly because they focus on the bio of the chosen artist), for the most part they offer an interesting glimpse into these particular relationships. 

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Carapese # 7, #3, Carapese Three Dimensional Drawings #8, #12, #4, and #3 by Kathryn Nobbe.
"Admire" started as an invitational exhibit, says F+C member Kenneth Steinbach, but then the group realized that it was a bit formless. Ultimately, they engaged Jenny Wheatley, coordinator of galleries and exhibits at Augsburg College, who came up with the premise. 

The letters, Steinbach says, emphasize that the gallery isn't just isolated, but strong in interacting with the community. The letters also give a glimpse into the personal and professional relationships between the letter writers. In some cases, F+C artists chose students, in other cases colleagues, and others chose people they have been friends with for years. 

Steinbach selected Amanda Hamilton as his artist. She teaches at Bethel University, where Steinbach is a professor. Hamilton is a painter, but also does time-based pieces, and often works in miniature. Included in "Admire" is Hamilton's Beautiful Terrible, a projected video of a model she created about the sudden disappearance of White Lake in Bolotnikovo, Russia, in 2005. At first look, you might not even know that the projected video is not of a real place, but is a manufactured world created by Hamilton. There's one fascinating moment where we see what looks like cold lake water floating beneath the broken ice, but in reality it's plexiglass.
 
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Hubbs Center for Lifelong Learning, University Avenue Project, by Wing Young Huie 
In lieu of a letter of admiration to Hamilton, Steinbach instead sent Hamilton a page from a Jorge Luis Borges short story about an imposter who dives into his role with such aplomb that everybody believes him, even though he looks nothing like the person he is supposed to be. Like Borges's imposter, Hamilton's models stand in for real places and events. Steinbach says he chose not to write an actual letter because he says he "didn't want language that explained things too much." 

Another fun exchange is between F+C member Vesna Kittelson and Wing Young Huie. At the end of the letter, Kittelson asks Huie what his favorite word is, and he responds with "ambiguous." The photo displayed with these two letters is one that Huie took at Hibbs Center for Life Long Learning in St. Paul as part of the University Avenue Project. In the photograph, a group of immigrants hold up different signs. "I don't want to die," reads one sign. "I want to go back home to Thailand," reads another. "I want to cashier," reads a third. The piece works wonderfully with the letter exchange because while the artists' discussion is about a favorite word, we see the people in the photograph struggling to learn the language and survive in a country where they can't fully communicate. Huie's answer has a particular meaning given that context, as sometimes words don't translate well or fit with what someone who speaks another language is trying to say. The meaning does indeed become ambiguous. 

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END/lessly by Pritika Chowdrhy
There are some other really nice pieces in the show, including John Vogt's You've Got Me Spellbound, a mirror that displays the title to give the viewer a little personal affirmation every time they look into it; or Pritika Chowdhry's END/lessly, which is the title of the piece mounted on the gallery of the wall, but attached in such a way that it looks as if it's emerging from the surface as a part of it. Chowdhry's letter conversation with Camille Gage is a remarkable exchange of two thinkers hashing out ideas about dreams and imagination, where Gage talks about her admiration for Chowdrhy even if she doesn't "like" all of her pieces.

Kathryn Nobbe shows multiple works in the show as well. In Carapase #7, Nobbe uses ink, charcoal, and pastel on paper to create a kind of two-dimensional counterpart to Carapese Three Dimensional Drawings #8, #12, #4, and #3, which use plastic, glue, and yarn to create spiderweb-like objects. There's a sense of playfulness to these pieces, as well as to the Carapese #7 drawing. Especially as they are placed next to Carapese #3, a looming figure that would be scary if it weren't made of brightly colored fluff balls. 

IF YOU GO:

"Admire"
Through February 16
Form + Content
Whitney Square Building, 210 N. Second St., Minneapolis
Gallery hours: Noon to 6 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, and by appointment (emil formandcontent@gmail.com)

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Form + Content Gallery

210 N. 2nd St., Minneapolis, MN

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