Lunchtime Tourist

Share this:
August 20, 2002 // UPDATED 1:29 pm - April 30, 2007
By: Linda S. Koutsky
Linda S. Koutsky

Tony Berlant metal collage, Dain Rauscher Plaza, 60 S. 6th St.

Don't throw anything away. Somewhere, there's an artist looking for that very item to incorporate into a sculpture or collage. For instance, I know an artist who can't cross a street without picking up some kind of debris to use in her sculptures that sell in galleries throughout the area. The only thing is, you just might have to look awhile before you find a recipient.

Tony Berlant is a nationally known sculptor with an MA in painting and an MFA in sculpture from UCLA. He's known as a "painter's sculptor" for his decorative surfaces and bold use of color. In the 1960s, near his Venice, California studio, Berlant stumbled upon the material that would become his predominant medium -- old metal advertising signs. He sorted the pieces into various colors and used them for collage. Of his work he says, "There's a delight that you can go out and pick up discredited materials and make something precious out of them."

Berlant's work grew to mural-sized proportions as he began to incorporate more items such as TV trays, cookie tins and wastebaskets. Several large-scale commissions reside at the San Francisco airport, in a Los Angeles subway and at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

"Shooting on Through" was created in 1989. It's composed of blue and red pieces of tin nailed to a plywood platform like a patchwork quilt. The heads of thousands of steel brads dimple the surface and create an overall texture. Abstract imagery appears as boats, water, trees, maybe a propeller and possibly a seaplane. This is Minnesota after all.

While the guard at the front desk isn't a big fan, he said, "There's no middle ground on this piece: people either like it right away or they don't notice it at all."

What do you think?

LUNCH TIP: Splurge this week with crabcakes at Morton's on the lower level of Gaviidae Common.

Send your comments to