Art picks: True grit

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April 11, 2011
By: Dylan Thomas
Dylan Thomas

// Rockers and bloodied boxers at Stevens Square Center for the Arts //

 STEVENS SQUARE — Erik Farseth said he had a certain vibe in mind — something like what’s heard on the boozy, rollicking “Nighthawks at the Diner,” Tom Waits’ live-recorded 1975 album — when he put out a call for artists for the latest exhibition at Stevens Square Center for the Arts.

But that show, “Sweat Stains, Beer and Cigarettes,” veers off in another direction, stumbling right past the seedy jazz joint evoked in “Nighthawks” and into a gritty, basement rock venue. That tinkling you hear isn’t ice in a lowball glass, it’s broken beer bottles on the cement floor.

Mother Jones magazine photo editor Mark Murrmann’s concert photos capture rock ’n’ roll mayhem up close. A black-and-white shot from a 2009 reunion performance by San Francisco garage rockers The Mummies shows the singer and guitarist teetering in opposite directions mid-riff. And Murrmann’s 2006 photograph of Austin, Texas, punks Scratch Acid freezes vocalist David Yow in the middle of a soaring leg kick.

Forget Waits’ whisky-voiced bonhomie. Grab the earplugs.

And if you’re local cartoonist Tom Kaczynski, don’t forget your sketchbook, either.

Kaczynski’s live-from-the-venue sketches are in a looser, inkier style than most of his published work, which appears regularly in the Fantagraphics Books anthology “Mome.” It’s a style particularly suited to capturing the ear drum-blowing intensity of Lightning Bolt performing amid a chaotic scrum of fist-pumping fans, drawn here during the band’s summer 2010 visit to The Triple Rock Social Club. (That’s fellow cartoonist Brian Chippendale on the drums.)

St. Paul’s Bill Hauser does his cartooning in the service of punk and metal bands, filling his album art and gig posters with a putrid stew of zombies, skulls, ogres, fangs, blades, blood and buxom women. For the devotees of certain musical genres, this imagery is almost inseparable from the sound, and Hauser executes it with panache.

There are some other fine examples of the gig poster included in “Sweat Stains, Beer and Cigarettes” — including a nice set from David Moreira, aka skatradioh, of Duluth —  but there’s more to the show than rock ’n’ roll.

There’s also Rock & Roll, one half of the Minneapolis hip-hop duo Just.Live, appearing here in a playful portrait by photographer Janelle Olson. Rock & Roll, who wears his hair in a distinctive afro-hawk, brushes his teeth in front of the bathroom mirror, spilling foam from his mouth like a rabid dog.

But the Olson photo that most invites lingering over is an apparently candid shot of a young woman lying in what appears to be the ample back seat of some big American car. She’s dressed for a night out at the clubs, but going nowhere.

Go see it
“Sweat Stains, Beer and Cigarettes” runs through April 17 at Stevens Square Center for the Arts, 1905 3rd Ave. S.  879-0200.