From the American point of view, Pop Art is all about us. Big, brash, colorful, sexy, it’s about stuff we all know — movies, music, billboards, advertising, celebrities, food. No need to fret about politics or grope for a highbrow footnote when you’re looking at a painting of Marilyn, a beer can sculpture, or a gigantic spoon with a cherry on top. Pop is mostly a celebration of American capitalism in all its gaudy excess.
There’s more to the story, though, as Walker Art Center reveals in “International Pop,” a multinational extravaganza opening with an After Hours preview party Friday. With about 125 paintings, sculptures, drawings, films, videos and ephemera by more than 100 artists, “International Pop” is a kind of kissing cousin to the American version, related but definitely different. Still media-savvy and immersed in fashion, film, music and other youth-culture obsessions, “IP” is typically more political than American Pop and shaped by the ethos of the post-World War II cultures from which it comes.
Featured artists include such American stalwarts as Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, James Rosenquist, Wayne Thiebaud, Ed Ruscha, Tom Wesselmann and Jim Dine. Others come from countries whose Pop scene is unlikely to be familiar to most Americans: Belgium, Italy, Czechoslovakia, Poland and New Zealand among them.
“Pop was a moment that the general public can relate to, and I really wanted to bring that work to the Walker — work that was potent, visually stimulating, relevant and accessible,” said co-curator Darsie Alexander. “I wanted to bring people into the building with an idea they can relate to, and then have their minds blown when they get there.” (After Hours preview party 9 p.m.-midnight Fri., $30. Open 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sat.-Sun., Tue.-Wed.; 11 a.m.-9 p.m. next Thu.; 11 a.m.-5 p.m. next Fri. Ends Aug. 29. $9-$14; free Thursday evenings. Walker Art Center, 1750 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls. 612-375-7600 or www.walkerart.org.) Mary Abbe
True to its MO — see previous page — Soo Visual Arts Center opens its new gallery space with an exhibition by two adventurous unknowns, University of Northern Iowa grads Betsy Hunt and Zach Moser. Self-described “cul-de-sac kids,” Moser and Hunt plunge headlong into the angsty-but-adorable ennui of small-town youth. Via an addled, immersive installation of VHS tapes, photography, live and fake plants, and a kaleidoscopic, op-art wallpaper seemingly pulled from the set of “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari,” the duo tells the tale of the Rowdy Raccoons, a gang of 10 real-life girls bored out of their minds in Iowa. Moser calls it ”gallery space as film.” The whole thing is a fun but amateurish romp through nostalgia and declawed rebellion. Archie comics meets “Kids.” Also showing at the grand opening: new work from Lindsay Smith and Samual Weinberg. (Opening reception 6-10 p.m. Sat. Soo Visual Arts Center, 2909 Bryant Av. S., Suite 101, Mpls. www.soovac.org.) Gregory J. Scott