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A friend cautioned me not to "give away the story" as I left the Elevator Repair Service's "Fondly, Collette Richland" on Thursday night. Jolly joker. The work, written by Sibyl Kempson and shaped by ERS, is intentionally a diffuse dreamscape that throws out images and ideas with little narrative structure.
The performances this weekend at the Walker are previews, giving Kempson and ERS artistic director John Collins a first chance to see how this experimental work looks on its feet, in front of an audience. As such, it is not being reviewed by critics.
So, in that spirit, here are a few observations from one audience member. The piece is about two hours and 15 minutes without intermission, likely intended to serve the piece's unity as a stretch of fantasy. There are two distinct settings -- a modest kitchen in a small northeastern U.S. town and a resort hotel in the Alps. Characters mundane and bizarre inhabit these worlds, each with his or her own agenda. Kempson has written types and details rather than a story.
It's not wrong to be baffled by the work. It's also not wrong to appreciate the inventive staging and the dense rush of ideas and physical juxtapositions. Kempson borrowed a quote from Russian formalist Victor Shkolvsky in her program notes. It says in part: "Browse through our works, look for a point of view, and if you can find it, then there is your unity. I was unable to find it."
I would love to be a fly on the wall as Collins, Kempson and the rest of the ERS crew do their post mortem on the Walker performances. Those should be interesting conversations. Collins has said they'll let "Collette" rest for some time -- gestate -- as they move on to other projects. But Collins said the plan is to get a New York opening.
"Fondly, Collette Richland" continues Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. at the Walker.
Walker Art Center's design and "New Media Initiatives" departments have produced a new website for the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden along with a free mobile app. The web app enables visitors to tour the garden using GPS location technology, to view audio and video information about the sculptures, check up on the Garden's history, and hear short interviews with artists and local luminaries including Minneapolis Mayor R. T. Rybak. The MSG, which opened 25 years ago, is a joint project of the city of Minneapolis, which owns the land, and Walker, which owns the sculpture displayed there.
Hundreds partied at the American Swedish Institute this spring. Star Tribune photo by Jeff Wheeler.
Everyone loves a party, especially arty types eager to celebrate in style. Three of Minneapolis' leading arts organizations are staging galas this summer either as fund-raisers or to celebrate their heritage.
The Minneapolis Institute of Arts leads off June 1 with a simple "summer party" theme to raise money. It promises "sunset cocktails" followed by a "celebration of the Minneapolis music scene" with Doomtree and Morris Day and the Time. Pick your price range: General tickets: $85 per person for nibbles, 1 drink, 2 tickets to the special exhibition "More Real? Art in the Age of Truthiness." VIP tickets: $175 per person including all of the above plus valet parking and more drinks. Gala tickets: $750 and up for 6 p.m. dinner, etc. (8:30 p.m. to midnight, June 1. Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 2400 3rd Av. S., Mpls. 612-870-6323 or www.artsmia.org)
Next up on June 15 is the American Swedish Institute with a traditional, day-long Swedish Midsommar Festival. The family-friendly event includes singing, dancing, fiddling, "flower head-wreath making," glass-blowing, a flea market and a mini-golf course. Yep, just when Walker Art Center seemed to have a lock on mini-golf with its artist-designed course, the Swedes try to muscle in. The glass blowers will be giving demos in conjunction with the opening of ASI's new "Kingdom of Crystal," exhibition of Swedish glass art. Be advised that the festival food will include pickled herring as well as the usual hot dogs, ice cream and lemonade. (10 a.m. to 5 p.m., June 15, $7 adults. American Swedish Institute, 2600 Park Av. S., Mpls. www.ASImn.org)
Walker Art Center will round out the season September 21 with its annual fund raising gala in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. Dubbed "Avant Garden," the event promises music, art, gourmet food, specialty cocktails, an auction and dancing. How long you can stay depends on what you pay: Silver Key, 8:30 to 11 p.m., $100. Gold Key, 6 p.m. to 11 p.m., $500. (6 p.m. or 8:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. Walker Art Center, 175 Hennepin Av., Mpls. 612-375-7600 or www.walkerart.org)
Former Walker Art Center director Martin Friedman was never shy in talking about art with museum visitors, on the radio, during interviews, in the board room or anywhere else. Always well informed, witty and self-deprecating, Friedman was a champion promoter of the new and the avant garde throughout his 30 year tenure at the helm of the Walker. His voice was never silent.
So it's no surprise that the institution is honoring him in June with a new sculpture on the 25th anniversary of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, whose design and construction he oversaw.
But why a silent, voiceless bell? The sculpture, by Belgian artist Kris Martin, consists of a large clapper-less bronze bell suspended from a 16 ft. tall steel saw horse. Originally cast for the tower of a German church, the bell in the sculpture will be "swinging continuously without emitting a sound," according to a Walker statement.
It's name "For Whom" alludes to English poet John Donne's famous celebration of human fellowship and mourning: "any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."
In the Walker's interpretation a tolling bell "alludes to the preciousness of life and its endless cycles from birth to death," but because the bell-sculpture is silent, "all of these associations come to life in the viewer's imagination."
So maybe they just wanted to keep peace in the neighborhood and avoid antagonizing nearby residents with a potentially noisy sculpture that teenagers and other art enthusiasts could ring at all hours?
"For Whom," will be the second bell sculpture in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, joining Barry Flanagan's 1983 "Hare on Bell," which consists of a lanky bronze hare leaping over a big bronze bell.
The only thing they forgot was to ask the last name of the visitor, "Lauren," who had stopped by to check out the museum's popular Art In Bloom exhibit which pairs artful flower arrangements with paintings and sculpture from the museum's collection. Her boyfriend's grandmother, a veteran AIB flower arranger, was in the show for the 10th year.
Museum officials attribute the record setting attendance to novel programming including such things as a midwinter "pop-up park" in the lobby, rallies that have thrown the doors open to bike riders, and the popularity of the year's brand-name exhibitions: "China's Terracotta Warriors," which drew 146,507 visitors, and "Rembrandt in America," which pulled 107,090 people. Together those two shows attracted 78,000 visitors beyond the number they were projected to draw.
The 600,000 tops the previous record set in fiscal 2002-2003 when a trifecta of Egyptian, Picasso and American landscape art shows attracted 599,834 visitors. The museum sometimes claimed more than 600,000 visitors in the 1990s, but those numbers sometimes included attendance at off-site programs too. For the past 15 years its counts have been based on more accurate means of measuring. This year's attendance is expected to continue growing until the fiscal year ends June 30.
And the full name of the 600,000th visitor to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts this fiscal year is (ta da!): Lauren Stryker. Her flower-arranging grandmother, La Verne Stryker, called to identify her and note, proudly, that Lauren is married to La Verne’s grandson Nicholas Stryker. The Stryker family are longtime members of the Minneapolis museum where La Verne even worked one summer in the 1980s in the office of then director Sam Sachs.
For this year’s Art in Bloom program, La Verne took as inspiration John Singer Sargent’s popular 1887 painting “The Birthday” whose bold palette of crimson, white and black she translated into a lush bouquet of red carnations, large white “football” and “spider” mums, and dark green leaves to simulate the painting's dusky shadows.
The 600,000th visitor to the MIA this fiscal year, being serenaded Sunday at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.