Art: Bryant's artful ragbag

  • Article by: MARY ABBE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 18, 2007 - 5:14 PM

In his first solo show, the Minneapolis artist wraps world cultures into his colorful fabric collages.

Minneapolis-born Ernest A. Bryant III, 29, makes a striking debut at Franklin Art Works. While Bryant has participated in several local group shows and co-curated an ambitious "Afrofuturism" exhibit last year at the Soap Factory, this is his first solo exhibit since he graduated from Minneapolis College of Art and Design in 2005.

To prep for his Franklin exhibit, Bryant appears to have plundered his closet and raided Ragstock. Ten of the 11 items are textile collages artfully stitched from parts of T-shirts, sweaters, stockings and even colorful zippers and chunks of upholstery. On these irregular surfaces he's stenciled graffiti and painted figures, including a young black nun, a turbaned Indian youth, the Mona Lisa and heads from Italian Renaissance paintings including a Sistine Chapel fresco fragment.

His internationalist mélange of highbrow imagery and low-income flotsam is very trendy at the moment, a curatorially approved means of signifying cross-cultural sophistication, sociopolitical inclusiveness and a keen eye for recycled chic.

Bryant shows droll, gender-bending wit in a piece that combines a black man's disdainful face with a woman's high-heeled boot. And he gets in a clever riff on hyper-masculinity by stitching together superhero T-shirts, a Maurice Sendak children's monster and a military jacket garnished with endless medals. Strong design and sharp, offbeat colors enhance the collages' visual appeal.

Also at Franklin, three paintings and clever videos by New York artist Ezra Johnson are installed in the lobby and video salon. "What Visions Burn" runs more than 27 minutes and is that rare thing, a smart art video with an engrossing plot.

It involves an art heist, police chases, a possible arson, an art opening and even sunset vistas over an industrial landscape. Johnson paints and repaints his scenes, videoing them and obscuring his earlier canvases as the story evolves. The paintings are crude but appealing, especially a harbor chase in which milky, brush-stroke waves trail in a boat's wake, and the sound effects are so evocative I momentarily glanced outside, thinking there was a chase on Franklin Avenue.

Johnson clearly has no future in pretentious avant-garde circles; his moody videos are just too much fun.

Mary Abbe • 612-673-4431

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  • ERNEST A. BRYANT III: TRICK BABY

    When: Ends Nov. 3.

    Where: Franklin Art Works, 1021 E. Franklin Av., Mpls.

    Review: Bryant's visually arresting fabric collages, ornamented with images borrowed from Old Master paintings and pop culture icons, deploy castoff clothing and multicultural imagery in a free-wheeling reinterpretation of contemporary culture.

    Admission: Free. 612-872-7494 or www.franklinartworks.org

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