America's Next Top Artist: Who will be the next Alec Soth?

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After the 2004 Whitney Biennial, New York art dealers went crazy for local photographer Alec Soth. (Check out Soth's stunning and most recent project, Niagara.) At every Biennial, art dealers and collectors stumble over their Bruno Maglis in a desperate search for the next big thing, and in the last few years, they're willing to prove they found it by forking over more than the average Minnesotan's one-year salary. This year, another Minneapolis photographer, Angela Strassheim, is quickly garnering the attention of critics and collectors.


The 2006 Whitney Biennial, which runs at New York's Whitney Museum through May 28, includes three up-and-coming Minneapolis-based artists: Thirty-year-old multi-media artist Jay Heikes, 39-year-old painter Todd Norsten, and 36-year-old Strassheim are among the Biennial's 100 or so select artists. And the show has another connection to the Twin Cities art scene: Philippe Vergne, the Walker Art Center's chief curator and deputy director, was the exhibit's co-curator.

New York Times art critic Michael Kimmelman says the fashion-tied show lacks beauty, among other things, and dismisses some of the pieces as "ad-hoc," "cantankerous," and "insular." But Kimmelman found the images by Strassheim to be "painstaking, surreal, and strangely loving." The Village Voice also said Strassheim's photographs stood out, calling her images of people living more in the next life than this one "penetrating;" and the New York Sun also was taken with the works by the Minneapolis artist.

Strassheim received her BFA from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design in 1995, and her MFA from Yale in 2003. She spent time as a forensic photographer, which resulted in her first exhibited piece, an image of a naked suicide victim strewn across a bed. While hardly morbid, her current images instead have an oddly beautiful and magical quality, like perfectly lit movie stills of dysfunction and detachment showcased in hyper-rich color, where every piece in the curious scene has been meticulously groomed and arranged by the hands of a keen director. Strassheim's photographs, including the eerie and provocative image of the father and son mentioned in the NYT piece, can be viewed here.

Curators Chrissie Iles and Philippe Vergne will discuss the Biennial at the Walker Art Center's Cinema on Monday, April 3. The event begins at 7:00 pm; $5


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