Downtown Art

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May 2, 2005 // UPDATED 1:54 pm - April 26, 2007
By: Anna Pratt
Anna Pratt

'Bobrauschenbergamerica'

'Bobrauschenbergamerica' might sound like it'll be a biographical play about the renowned American painter, Bob Rauschenberg, but director Anne Bogart assured over the phone from Manhattan that it's not. Although the production from the Manhattan-based SITI Company plays with the idea of the painter as a screenwriter instead of an artist, you wouldn't have to know who Rauschenberg is at all (despite the fact that he's an icon) to enjoy the performance. However imbued this play is with his aesthetic and spirit of fun, he didn't actually have any input into the process.

This production vividly takes to task the camaraderie between art forms. Playwright Charles Mee said in a statement about the performance, "[Rauschenberg] makes art by picking stuff off the street - rejected stuff, junk - and puts those things into paintings and sculpturesSo I imagined a piece inspired by the same spirit - an assemblage of disparate stuff that feels like living in America"

Like Rauschenberg's collages, the show is a mlange of characters and culture. I love the anonymous and humorous cast that emerges from a capsule of recognizable eras (from the 1950s to today, a timeline that reflects Rauschenberg's prominence) with a trucker, the so-called everyman "Bob's Mom," a woman named Bikini, a scientist, a dancer, a bum and a woman who's always in or out of love. The time periods don't pass chronologically but are blended together in song and dance.

Studded with stars and stripes - the flag-painted set is seasoned with poetry from Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, Walt Whitman and others.

Director Anne Bogart praised Rauschenberg as the first artist to incorporate detritus into his artwork. Naturally the performance uses a lot of objects just as irreverently.

"The show is just a lot of fun. It's critical of America but also celebrates who we are, given all of our faults," she said.

Rauschenberg really explored the meaning of freedom and proved that it's not just dogma, Bogart added.

So how did the master himself react when he saw the show? Bogart said that the now wheelchair-bound artist just smiled beatifically during throughout the performance.

- Tu-Sa May 3-7; Tu-Sa 8 p.m.
William and Nadine McGuire Theater, 1750 Hennepin Ave. S.
$25-$30. 375-7600,
www.walkerart.org.

Imperfectionists

Kathleen Waterloo and Barbara Kreft know the value of imperfection. That is, their paintings are characterized by varying thin and thick strokes that don't mean to be perfect. Although Kreft's paintings in particular might seem pixelated, her playful works aren't sharp-edged like digital images are - nor are they mean to be.

Both display their disdain for computer-generated images; they do everything freehand. Lines are fuzzy and somewhat irregular so that we can recognize their personal gesture in the work, and they don't shy away from drips.

Waterloo and Kreft apply the paint in a similar fashion as well, building up lots of layers so that some of the older ones peer through the surface.

Yet Waterloo and Kreft imagine very different things. Ribbons of pasty paint bond color together in Waterloo's encaustic paintings that are made by applying heat to the surface to fuse the colors with wax. Her Chicago-looking grids are kind of Mondrian, reminiscent of his famous "Broadway Boogie Woogie" that simplifies buildings and streets down to abstract lines and blocks. Her palette, too, is reminiscent of a time of bowler hats and bobbed hair.

Kreft's brush is much lighter than Waterloo's. She paints translucent layers over Persian rug designs that she copies without any guides. Kreft just casually looks at pages in a book.

After brushing layers over her intricate designs, she dabs pearls of paint and square blocks so that they overlap the deliberately faded rug patterns. In one piece, she even shows what might be described as rug burn. This push-pull pattern creates watery and vast-seeming oases.

- Tu-Sa thru June 3; Tu-F 10 a.m.-4 p.m.,
Sa 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
Circa Gallery, 1637 Hennepin Ave. S.
Free.
332-2386, www.circagallery.org.