Sunday, September 11, 2016

Herd Mentality: Letting Art Speak

It's hard to know what to do in a world where it seems you/I/we can have no effect and the political overwhelm never stops. Printmaker Ruthann Godollei has channeled all of that into a new show that just opened at the Soo Visual Arts Center in South Minneapolis called Herd Mentality.

Somehow, Godollei came upon the idea of connecting our current situation with research at the Circus World Museum in Baraboo, Wisconsin, and the results are just what I needed to see.

Most of the work is all or primarily black and white, including this monoprint (reproduced digitally to archival paper) called Amok (Elephant with Howdah):

Other pieces combine black ink monoprints with small amounts of color from screen printing:

This piece, titled High Striker, was perhaps my favorite. (Click the photo to enlarge it.) The accompanying text reads,

Since the nineteenth century the High Striker has been a mainstay of circuses and carnivals. Barkers lured arrogant contestants with cries of “Test your skill! Test your strength! Try to ring the bell! See if you measure up.” Candidates take the mallet and slam down as hard as they can. Onlookers wonder who will be able to ring the bell and claim bragging rights. Will they only make it barely move and have to walk away in shame?
The calibration marks along the way to the MAKE AMERICA goal at the top are labeled, starting at the bottom: Great, Huge, Cave Man, He-man, Equal, Equitable, One.

Other pieces related to national or international politics are Jumbo in His Palace Car, commemorating the P.T. Barnum parade when the largest elephant in the world was brought to the U.S. as a commentary on Donald Trump; a monoprint called Guantanamo Circus Wagon; a bottle of Snake Oil; Brexit (through the gift shop) as a brightly colored silk screen print; and Crank Smarmy, a patent medicine poster updated for our current situation.

In two pieces, Godollei printed onto yellow plastic to comment on the local killing of Philando Castile and the protests afterward:

This piece, called Bunting (Welcome to Our Town), includes phrases like:

Welcome to our town
Mind the gap
A militarized police zone
Protest permit application - see other side
We ask questions later

In the gallery, the bunting is just around the corner from this piece, called Caution Tape:

The back of the yellow tape, just visible in this picture, carries the usual words, CRIME SCENE DO NOT ENTER.

The Herd Mentality show is up through October 22, and the gallery hours are Wednesday 11:00–5:00, Thursday and Friday 11:00–7:00, and weekends 11:00–4:00.

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