Interpenetration at the Nash

Interpenetration is the Nash Gallery’s exhibition of MFA students graduating this spring from the University of Minnesota. As to be expected, this show is a mix of extremely diverse work. The six artists included in the show have work that varies greatly. Everything from Tonya Balik’s installation of large knit sculptural forms to the animal painted ceramic work of Mel Griffith. The connection here is that all of the artists attend the same school.

Ethan Rowan Pope’s work caught my attention the most. There is something about his photo-realistic drawings that are emotionally compelling. And this says a lot because photo-realism is usually not my thing.

[caption id="attachment_833" align="aligncenter" width="356" caption="Franz Kafka's The Judgment. Ethan Rowan Pope"][/caption]

I don’t understand why an artist would want to mimic a photograph. Why copy something that already exists?  It’s like listening to a Journey tribute band that sounds exactly like Journey. It’s hard not to admire the technique in replication, the singer might sound exactly like Steve Perry... but really what’s the point?

However, Pope’s work goes beyond this. He takes images from dozens of sources and creates new, imagined narratives that are open and ambiguous enough to place ourselves in them. Some of the stories he tells through these drawings are from classic literature, Kafka is a common source, and some are stories Pope has either been told or has written himself.

But the work doesn’t come off as just being illustrations. Pope’s drawings create palpable moods that transcend literal storytelling. There is a strong level of emotionality that pushes Pope’s work into a type of expressionism, not because of the distortion of form but rather because of the choices he makes in putting images together.

[caption id="attachment_834" align="aligncenter" width="426" caption="Franz Kafka's The Trial. Ethan Rowan Pope"][/caption]

For the past three years, Pope has been working with artist and professor David Feinberg on Feinberg’s project called Voice to Vision where artists work with genocide and holocaust survivors creating art. Pope’s rich and eerie drawing entitled Pink Scarves is the visual retelling of a wartime account which came from a genocide survivor from Cambodia. In this piece, the empty fields, the ominous sky and the unearthly glowing of the water create an unmistakable nightmare-like quality. The young woman in the foreground gazes directly at the viewer. The fear in her face heightens the level of anxiety that exudes from the piece. I can only speculate on what the exact story is, but the emotional content comes through loud and clear.

[caption id="attachment_839" align="aligncenter" width="444" caption="Pink Scarves. Ethan Rowan Pope"][/caption]

This show is a good cross section of many types of work that emerging artist are making. As Ethan Rowan Pope and the other five artists leave academia I’m excited to see what kind of impact they will have on the Minneapolis art scene.

There is still a week left, so get down to the Nash and see it!

-John Megas



On View: April 27th- May 20th

Where: Katerine E Nash Gallery, 405 21st Avenue South, Minneapolis

Gallery Hours: Tues-Sat 11:00am-7:00pm

Participating Artists: Tonya Balik, Mel Griffith, Rachel James, Jennifer Nevitt, Ethan Rowan Pope, Robin Schwartzman.

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