Arts and Culture

Arts Briefs: Art for the birds

A graphic with the state of minnesota and pieces of art
The MPR News arts and culture team's arts briefs offer a weekly guide to the ever-evolving art scene in Minnesota.
Sam Stroozas | MPR News

The Rochester Art Center is seeking an artist to partner with them in creating exterior window treatments that will prevent birds from colliding with the building's windows.

The selected artist will receive a $10,000 stipend. The submission deadline is July 1. 

Proposals for the window treatments is part of the 4Ground Land Art Biennial in the summer of 2024. Details and application processes are located on the Biennial’s website.

Gaelic grooves

Minnesota Irish Music Weekend officially kicked off on Thursday in St. Paul and will continue through the weekend. 

The event is presented by the Center for Irish Music and will feature performances and workshops at the Celtic Junction Arts Center. 

Friday’s performance will be a Master Artists Concert, featuring performers from Ireland and throughout the United States. Included among the Master Artists is Minnesota guitarist Brian Miller.

Lumberjack songs
Brian Miller performs Irish music from north woods lumber camps at MPR in St. Paul
Jennifer Simonson | MPR 2013

Sound democracy

A new recording studio has opened in Northeast Minneapolis, and it uses an unusual model of operation.

Soft Cult Studio is a democratic studio, meaning that decisions are made collectively and profits are invested back into the studio and into the larger music community.

Anyone can book recording time there, and the founders plan to offer internships, classes, workshops and technical audio engineering classes.

Warhol, Johns and Daytons

The Walker Art Center opens a new exhibit Saturday that showcases the donations of one of the museum's largest benefactors.

Titled  “Among Friends: The Generosity of Judy and Ken Dayton,” the exhibit displays 25 works donated by the Daytons. These include artwork by iconic 20th-century artists Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, Ellsworth Kelly and Agnes Martin.

Ken Dayton was the CEO of Dayton Hudson, while Judy Dayton was a trustee for the Walker for 55 years. According to the museum, the Daytons' donations were second only to the museum's founder, T.B. Walker.

Abstract red art
Cy Twombly, Untitled, 1984. On display as part of the "Among Friends: The Generosity of Judy and Ken Dayton" exhibit.
Photo by Pierre Ware, courtesy of the Walker Art Center

Other Briefs

  • The McKnight Foundation and Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD) have announced the six recipients of the 2023 McKnight Fellowships for Visual Artists. The recipients of the fellowship are Tia-Simone Gardner, Kaamil A. Haider, Keren Kroul, Sieng Lee, Mark Ostapchuk and Lindsay Rhyner.

  • Also, the Chicago-based 2023 Joyce Awards winners have been announced, with $375,000 in grants supporting new works by artists of color in the Great Lakes region. The winning artists include Marlena Myles of Shafer, Minn.

  • Treasure Island Resort & Casino in Welch, Minn., has announced a slate of summer arts planning. Their new amphitheater stage will include performances by  Matchbox Twenty, Carrie Underwood, Jason Aldean, STAIND, Trampled by Turtles and CAAMP.

  • The YouBetcha Stick Sculpture at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum in Chaska, Minn., is going away. Patrick Dougherty’s popular sculpture, created from sustainably-harvested willow branches, will be removed from Arboretum grounds June 20.

Absolute Bleeding Edge

The MPR News arts team offers suggestions for the best in avant-garde, experimental and off-the-beaten-path arts and culture.

How do we talk about Art Monsters? 

Last week, the Brooklyn Museum opened the exhibition “It’s Pablo-matic: Picasso According to Hannah Gadsby.” This is part of a global series remembering (with most celebrating) Picasso 50 years after his death. The exhibition calls out Picasso, in Gadsby’s words, for being a “monumentally misogynistic and abusive domestic authoritarian dictator.” 

The backlash to the exhibition has been swift, by critics who seem unable to grapple with the artist off his pedestal. And that backlash not only seems to be rooted in anti-feminism but ableism and anti-trans sentiment as well.

First, some background: Gadsby, who uses they/them pronouns, is a Tasmanian comedian who became famous in the U.S. after their 2018 Netflix special “Nanette.” There, Gadsby skewered the fanboy-ism surrounding Picasso, who, in addition to being the Big Daddy of Modernism, was a documented abusive misogynist.  

The exhibition was put together by Gadsby and a few Brooklyn Museum curators. Museum director Anne Pasternak called the exhibition “an experiment.”

It pairs about 50 pieces by Picasso — and Gadsby says they deliberately included many of his “underwhelming” pieces to demonstrate that he more mortal than god — with 50 feminist works of art by women including Renee Cox, Cindy Sherman, Faith Ringgold and the Guerrilla Girls, to name a few. 

Many critics, perhaps most famously the New York Times’s Jason Farago and ArtsNews’ Alex Greenberger, panned the show, calling it “disastrous,” “immature” and “embarrassing.” Maybe they’re right, maybe they’re wrong.

The MPR News Arts and Culture team has not seen the show (Brooklyn is not part of our beat), and so we cannot provide any sort of informed opinion of its presentation, except to say the selection of women artists represented in the show is excellent. 

However, there seems to be something essential missing in the critiques of the major critics that, fortunately, is highlighted in a recent podcast episode of Vox’s “Today, Explained,” which features an interview with Gadsby.

Host Noel King frames it as a conversation about “art monsters,” referencing the 2023 book “Monsters: A Fan’s Dilemma” by the episode’s second guest, Claire Dederer. 

“We can’t let go of this idea that in order to be good at art, you have to be a terrible person,” Gadsby says. “We are obsessed with artists as gods.” 

Gadsby continues: 

“Picasso is incredibly relevant because we don’t know how to talk about monsters. We don’t know how to deal with them. We don’t know how to have an adult conversation around abusive geniuses, so to speak,” they say. “This is a conversation we seem incapable of having and incapable of seeing women as humans and as people with potential and people with relevant humanity.” 

We don’t know how to talk about monsters. That is the important conversation this exhibition provokes just by existing: How do we have mature, nuanced conversations about artists, “geniuses,” that are pretty objectively bad folk. How do we do this without bad-faith claims or strawman arguments of revisionism, canceling and weaponizing wokeness. 

This is the conversation that many critics seem to be refusing to participate in. In the reviews by Greenberg and Farago, they clock Picasso’s misogyny with a sort of exasperated shrug, rather than as part of the deep context of the artist’s life, work and depiction and treatment of women. 

Farago likens the exhibition’s take as: “He was something of a jerk around women,” while calling into question Gadsby’s “art historical bona fides.” Meanwhile, Greenberg offers “Many of the women in this exhibition are responding to centuries of misogyny, not just Picasso’s.” 

What’s missing is this artist wasn’t just a “jerk,” he was a documented serial abuser of women. He infamously called women “goddesses or doormats,” and acted accordingly. As artist Françoise Gilot has recounted, he put out a lit cigarette on her cheek when they were lovers.

Art historian Victoria Combalía, who authored a biography on photographer Dora Maar, who was a muse of Picasso, says there is evidence that Picasso punched Maar in the face, likely several times. 

In the podcast, Gadsby also offers that, yes, they believe Picasso is a “good” artist. And that’s what many critics fall over themselves to defend. Fine. But that conversation is irrelevant here. Good art does not require bad behavior. 

Whether “Pablo-matic” is a good art exhibition or not is beyond our purview, but the conversation it’s asking to have is important, and unheard over the cries of genius defamed. 

This activity is made possible in part by the Minnesota Legacy Amendment's Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund.
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