Downtown Art

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April 4, 2005 // UPDATED 1:53 pm - April 26, 2007
By: Anna Pratt
Anna Pratt

Three strikes and he's out

I can almost taste the salty peanuts and the orange-colored sludge of typical baseball fare hinted at in this play's title, "Take Me Out," as I mentally add "to the ballgame." But the ritualistic anthem is compounded with the unexpected element of innuendo that is "Take Me Outof the closet." While baseball is usually hailed for its American-ness that automatically implies a sense of liberty, this story shows that, in some cases, freedoms aren't free.

Although male locker room attitudes and butt-slapping behaviors have long been jokingly referred to as gay, when a biracial major league baseball star named Darren actually admits to being gay at a press conference, nobody thinks it's funny. Until then, he had a clean record and was regarded as an icon. He'd been praised for his agility, talent, team spirit and role as an all-around nice guy. Now some of his shell-shocked teammates, fans and even the media can't handle the twist. They trade their loyalties for Darren just as easily as a trading card. Truth comes at a high price.

Even Darren's best friend is stunned by the proclamation. Afterward, Darren's teammates are leery of sharing a locker room with him. While the gay community applauds his outing, some of Darren's teammates criticize his confession and utter pent-up racial slurs; especially one embittered pitcher who'd spent a lifetime cultivating and appreciating a macho image. Yet through all of the flak he gets, Darren remains confident about himself, which only causes the mercury to rise for some.

- W-Su Apr. 6-May 8; W-F 7:30 p.m., Sa 7 p.m., Su 2 p.m. & 7 p.m.
Mixed Blood Theatre, 1501 S 4th St.
$25. 338-6131. www.mixedblood.com.

Misty mountain pop

This is what happens when you cross a graphic designer with a penchant for vintage merchandise with a series of yard sales. No, he can't resist the romanticized yet cheesy 1960s landscapes you probably remember seeing hanging up at Grandma's house (with misty mountains and evergreens).

That's the graphic part - his eye for not-so-obvious gems at reasonable rates. But the designer side soon comes out too, and he's not afraid to take the landscape and turn it into his own creation. He paints over certain spots with big blotches that have eyes and staunch poses. Although the blotchy creatures are simple, they delineate a curious tribe. Did they land from outer space? Do they search for something? Do they come in peace or with evil intent? Is there a message they want to send?

The creatures have a toy-like quality. Pop art designer Kii Arens admits that he likes to draw from his childhood memories. There's a psychedelic aspect to the cartoonish creatures that take over the painted settings of idyllic valleys and streams. They also resemble exploded paint spots. Arens betrays a love of bright colors in his attention-grabbing works. Here you can see the influence of music in his work. Some of his paintings appear to spin (on the Web, they do). He's illustrated countless CD covers, which makes sense since the St. Paul resident grew up with a soft spot for album covers, band logos and font styles. Leave it to Arens to transform an antiquated image into a fashionable one that allows the kitschy painting to hang on the wall once again.

- Tu-Sa Apr. 8-28, Tu-F 4-8 p.m., Sa 1-5 p.m.
Ox-Op Gallery, 1111 Washington Ave. S.
Free. 259-0085. www.ox-op.com.

Jonathan Nelson and Amy Rice

Jonathan Nelson and Amy Rice aren't an obvious couple. Nelson creates sound boxes adorned with lights and other fixtures. Rice paints kitschy-stenciled teapots, pears and sheep with titles such as "Someday Even Your Underwear Matches - 35 Views." Only after deep thought does something click as to what these two might share.

Rice's fuzzy stencils form a collage of Playskool People, sunflowers and butterflies in captivity with faux finishes. Some of her work seems simply decorative, but a lot of it is truly puzzling. Like what exactly is the point of "Red Mitten; 42 Views" which shows a young girl hiding behind a tree trunk while a hypnotic procession of old-fashioned toys pass by? Are the black outlines blurry for aesthetic reasons or is there a larger purpose? Subjects do seem random but, collectively, they flaunt sentimental views and artifacts. The lack of sharpness in the works seems to air out childhood laundry that either faded in the sunlight or was washed with bleach.

Nelson's work, too, is enigmatic and touches on the nostalgic. His sound collages combine objects that seem to have no logical relation to each other. What relevance do warm glowing light bulbs have to old suitcases? Does it matter? Yes and no.

Nelson, who has a background in fine art, radio, cultural studies and comparative literature, uses "source materials" in his 3-D collages, with objects from both natural and media environments. His selections are deliberate, but there's no one explanation for the surreal installations. So what brings Rice and Nelson together for this exhibit, when their works are so different? Both of them ponder memory and allow room for daydreams, free association and stream of consciousness to make an impression.

- Reception: F Apr. 15, 7-11 p.m. Gallery: Tu-Su thru Apr. 29,
Tu-Th noon-8 p.m., F-Su noon-5 p.m.
Rosalux Gallery, 1011 Washington Ave. S.
Free. 747-3942. www.rosaluxgallery.com.

Anna Pratt can be reached at annapratt@artlover.com.