“Some Assembly Required” at the Nash Gallery features work by six artists: Nooshin Hakim Javadi, Michael Johnson, Joe Krasean, Alex Petersen, Bianca Pettis and Xavier Tavera, all know MFA-minted artists in their own right. While some of the artists in the show went the more-is-more route, which I find typical of MFA shows. This exhibition is strong and worth checking out soon -- it runs through April 22, so stop by this week before the closing on Saturday. 

The most striking and largescale piece in the show is Nooshin’s single hanging airplane wing from an airplane she bought at the Crystal Airport, about 20 minutes outside of the city. It hangs front and center in the exhibition, greeting viewers who enter. 

Originally, Javadi tells me, she bought two wings, both from crushed airplanes.“In the beginning, I was working on a geometrical mirror pattern beneath the wing,” she says. “The mirror pattern is originally from my country, Iran. Mirror mosaics were installed in a way that reflects the environment, space and viewers in fragmented and tidy pieces and blend the reflection of people together.”

After President Trump announced his "travel ban" on seven majority-Muslim countries aka #MuslimBan, including Iran, Javadi changed the focus of her mirroring, instead shredding the other wing and letting go of the patterning. This also imbued the work with a sense of performativity, a response.

Bianca Janine Pettis’ colorful series reminded me of an adulting version of schoolyard chalkboard drawings, with an adult sense of sincerity rather than a childhood innocence. Like a mature version of love, but with the visual wonderment of a “Where’s Waldo?” book that you just have to buy.

Bianca Janine Pettis, "From the bottom of my heart" (2016). Acrylic on canvas drop cloth. Photo by the author.

Joe Krasean’s installation “This Was My Thesis” displays the inner contents of his studio, as if the studio itself barfed them up. It’s a clusterf&^k, a sort of nod to the idea that the journey is equally as important as the destination, and that the process can also be the project. Airline ticket stubs, ceramic pieces in-progress, candle holders, random knick knacks, all are fair game. The objects will all be given away at the closing of the MFA show on Saturday, April 22 from 11am-3pm at the Nash Gallery. Donations accepted. This piece made me think about Martha Rosler’s Meta-Monumental Garage Sale at MoMA, which operated as a vehicle for discussing commodity fetishism and the intrinsically bizarre idea of assigning values to objects.  

Ironically, the installation on the other side of the wall by Michael Johnson is incredibly organized, minimalistic, systematic and orderly, comparatively speaking. The artist shot various views of a lake in Hennepin County, exposing nature, and used those images and the color palette to create single-color photograms. He showed exposed the original images on the opposite wall.  

 
Alex Petersen’s whimsical drawings of a guy and his dog, insert curious human/animal connections, ultimately reminding us of our animalistic instincts. In the series on view at the MFA show, I couldn't help thinking about Petersen's decision to focus on the dog. This pooch is not heroic, however, for it seems to have a mind and life of its own rather than the dog-as-hero of Lassie, where the dog is consistent, obedient, and always a hero to its family.
 

Xavier Tavera’s work wields a political intensity that nicely rounds out this broad-reaching MFA exhibition. His work looks at the politicization of the US-American border. For this body of work, Tavera traveled to the border to further investigate the ways it has been visually portrayed. In doing so, he is considering documentation of the border by colonizers who took ownership of it, by people who call it home, and by those who consider it but a destination. In thinking about the politicization of the border, I was reminded of a quote from labor organizer/activist Dolores Huerta, co-founder of United Farmworkers Association, who famoulsy said: "We did not cross the border. The border crossed us." 

In Tavera's project, he seeks a sort of idealisitc alternative to the current situation at the border which were heightened by Trump's intention to build a wall even though one already exists. Tavera's project envisions an alternative vision of the politicized border space. "In my work, imaginary alternatives to a wall are suggested overlapping sketches, drawings and diagrams over landscape images," says Tavera in a statement about his work.

Soft focus photographs of subjects from a proud man in a sombrero atop a white horse, a bounty of ballons tied behind him, gazes at the camera. But we never see his expression, truly – his face is darkened by the shadow of his sombrero. The horse stands at attention. Elsewhere, viewers notice documentation of a dead eagle, its eye whitened and hollow. 

"The intended site projects forecast a completely different outcome to a divisive wall," he writes. "Tables, shelters, and tunnels are part of a new syntax in the lexicon of usual border concerns. What would happen if people from different backgrounds and cultures encounter a long table instead of a wall?"

“Some Assembly Required” continues through April 22 at the Nash Gallery, University of Minnesota. 

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