Downtown Art

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February 9, 2004 // UPDATED 2:49 pm - April 24, 2007
By: Anna Pratt
Anna Pratt

Skin, nails and self-loathing

The "African and African American Show" at the Outsiders and Others gallery in Elliot Park promises a curious assortment of work inspired by Jazz, R&B, hip-hop, Southern blues, important personalities, vintage marketing ploys, homelessness, child abuse and even the tactile/shiny qualities of lipstick and shoe polish.

Expect imaginative interpretations of the meanings of "African" and "African American." These artists find their answers in old-fashioned ad collage, rock medicine painting and African clay sculpture. Celebrating Black History Month, this exhibit is also a tribute to black Minnesotan artists.

One artistic testimony comes from local anchorwoman and southwest Minneapolis resident, Robyne Robinson. A one-time gallery owner, (formerly the Flatland Gallery in Southeast Minneapolis), Robinson is used to showing others' work. This is just the second time she's displayed her own.

Robinson's installation contains artifacts. She went antiquing for her collection of old-fashioned ads and beauty products. Her work is about skin, nails and hair.

It's personal. There are household utilities like matted combs and picks, miniature Pandora's Boxes and even a funnel-flag-hair sculpture. Robinson talks about how self-loathing dictates the vintage ads she enlarged. "The psychology is to hate yourself. The whole point of advertising is to tear people down in order to bring them back up," she explains.

Perhaps Robinson's most compelling pieces are her little boxes, including products like "One Minute Skin Lightener," pinky foundation and shoe polish. These and other products wipe away those annoying racial traits that just don't seem to go away. These cosmetics perpetuated the idea that dark complexions should be lightened, and they could always be lighter.

"Hair care products like pressing gel or irons 'straightened' your hair out," she said. "I remember crying the first time my mom did my hair and made me wear Afro puffs. I didn't want to wear Afro puffs," Robinson said.

Other samples from African and African American experience come from artists Frank Brown, Kenneth Caldwell, William Cottman, Janice Essick, Douda Samake, James Scruggs and Adama Sow.

Additionally, Outsiders curator Yuri Arajs is currently showing his own work in "Panorama: Modern Landscapes" at gallery360, 3011 W. 50th St., in southwest Minneapolis. His modern landscapes are dynamic, wrought by abstract, wandering shapes and lines. These lines are cursive billows that overtake atmospheric visions of sky/ground. See both shows.

-'The African and African American Show' Feb. 14-Mar. 13, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday noon-5 p.m. and Thursday noon-7 p.m. Outsiders and Others, 1010 Park Ave. S. Free. 338-3435.

-'Panorama: Modern Landscapes' Jan. 31-Mar. 14, Monday-Wednesday and Friday-Saturday 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Thursday 10 a.m.-8 p.m. and Sunday noon-5 p.m. gallery360, 3011 W. 50th St. Free. 925-2400.

Submit your Outsider artwork

If you would like to be considered for upcoming shows at Outsiders and Others -- there's "The Hard Hat Show," featuring artwork by construction workers, electricians and other trades people; "Artists Living with Mental Illness in the Jewish Community," "The GLBT Show" and "The Art of Rock," displaying art by musicians and others in the music industry -- send your name and contact information, up to 10 photos, slides or copies of artwork and a written statement or resume (explaining your background, training and history making art) to: Outsiders and Others, 1010 Park Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN 55404. Call 338-3435 for deadlines, or log on to for more information.

Anna Pratt can be reached at

Anna's Picks

Walker all-nighter

"Let's spend the night together," the Walker invites seductively, to their all-night bash. Their nocturnal to-do inaugurates construction on an updated Walker that more than doubles the size of the current museum. It's also a Minnesota goodbye (it's going to take all night), to the old space.

The evening's festivities include: a whirlwind of films from Canadian filmmaker Guy Maddin, Forced Entertainment's "And on the Thousandth Night," music from Sideways and turntablism by U.K. sound artist Janek Schaefer, scratch 'n' watch films (in the Art Lab), retrospective Walker show glimpses, a last view of current displays, hors d'oeuvres and a continental breakfast.

"And On the Thousandth Night" is a six-hour performance by emotional kings and queens. You'll be privy to their life stories, but you're free to come and go as you please.

The new Walker opens in a year. If you can't wait that long, you'd better get your pajamas out and help bring down the house!

-Saturday, Feb. 14, 9 p.m.-5 p.m. Walker Art Center, 725 Vineland Pl. $15-$30. 375-7622.

'The Ballroom'

Care to dance? I have a confession: I never went to the prom. Not to mention I've spent countless moments biding my time on the dance floor perfectly rigid, while my embarrassed friends try to persuade me to move a little. Eventually, I do start moving. I turn around or I shift as much as possible (not much, but as much as I can).

Yet I can still relate to the adolescent anxiety connected to corsages and bowties on the dance floor. I've watched elementary school friends get married -- sealing it with a memorable waltz. I've also witnessed the transformation of formal ballrooms to down-home kitchen or gymnasium.

Like those ballrooms, "The Ballroom" props an immigrant couple, 1960s prom-goers and World War II women factory workers in the same room. The Ballroom, then, becomes a whispering gallery that inherits its footsteps. This is a diorama of this setting's history -- its objects and people. Music and conversation orchestrates the swift movement between 30 cast-members in this elegant and dramatic memoir.

-Feb. 7-April 10, various times Theatre de la Jeune Lune, 105 N. 1st St. $10-$30. 333-6200.