The Free Press, Mankato, MN

April 18, 2013

Judging inaugural Carnegie juried exhibit an unenviable task

By Tanner Kent
The Free Press

MANKATO — I don’t envy Richard Barlow’s job.

As the juror for the Carnegie Art Center’s inaugural juried art show, Barlow was charged with culling a field of 209 submissions down to the final 100 that will appear in the exhibit that opens Thursday.

“It’s tough because obviously you’re making judgments about what stays and what goes,” said Barlow, himself an artist as well as art instructor at Gustavus Adolphus College and the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. “But I didn’t see any pieces without value. That made the judging very difficult.”

Barlow said he approached his jurying responsibilities cerebrally, balancing the technique and execution of each piece against more intangible values, such as ambition, innovation and fidelity to the artist’s vision.

He said he also tried to_maintain a broader perspective of the exhibition, choosing pieces that integrated themselves into a “dialogue” with other selected works.

“I hope individual works are elevated by the context,” Barlow said. “I hope the show itself is, on some level, greater than the sum of its parts.”

The result of Barlow’s efforts is a diverse exhibit that includes a wide variety of techniques and styles.

In photography, visitors will find Jill McKeown’s “What Was Left,” in which a concentrated beam of sunlight forms an arresting contrast with the soiled couch and shredded floorboards it illuminates, as well as Charles Eggert’s barefoot boy surmounting an uncertain corridor with a full arsenal of toy weapons.

In painting, there’s Essie Mostaghimi’s politically and socially motivated commentaries dressed in the high-gloss finish that typifies his style, and there’s Craig Groe’s abstract melanges of line, form and color that in “Yellow Marque” lend a sense of voyeurism and evasiveness. 

In sculpture, there’s David Hyduke’s twisting, pulsing, undulating steel sculpture “Emergence” as well as Dennis Mellner’s exquisitely detailed wood carving of Santa Claus.

Though five juror-selected Awards of Excellence will be distributed during Saturday’s opening reception, I’ve compiled a few more of the pieces that caught my eyes (in no particular order):

-- “No Child,” by Jon Knecht: Behind a wall of flecking and imperfect inorganic glass, a desolate image of blowing snow is interposed by the curious addition of an empty desk and chair, leading the viewer to wonder what has become of the student.

-- “Long Prairie Saturday Night” by Gwen Ruff: In this watercolor by the Gibbon author and painter (one of three Ruff paintings selected for the exhibit), Ruff achieves an extraordinarily dark color palette that highlights both the warmth and isolation of a deserted main street in her hometown: “It’s a little bittersweet,” she said.

-- “Laundry Baskets,” by Rachel Compart: In a pair of abstract works, the Minnesota State University master’s student grounds the struggle between chaos and control in routine, domestic existence: “Everyday life is what moves me emotionally and makes me think and do things and keep going.”