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‘Ordinarily Here’ is eccentric but engaging summer show at the Weisman

The Weisman’s summer exhibition, “Ordinarily Here,” is the third and final installment in a year-long series of themed shows exploring aspects of the quotidian. The first show, “To Have It About You,” celebrated the impressive array of contemporary art acquired over a lifetime by middle-class art collectors, Dorothy and Herbert Vogel. Next came “Common Sense: Art and the Quotidian,” which centered on 20th-century artists’ explorations of the pedestrian interests, materials, and labors of “common” people.

“Ordinarily Here” is the museum’s last exhibition before Weisman closes to the public for one year, during the construction of the institution’s long-awaited expansion project.

It’s an eccentric show, maybe even a bit lightweight when compared with the previous two installments in this series, but it’s engaging all the same — a breezy summer afternoon excursion. This exhibition has an enthusiastically local focus. The 10 featured artists are all Minnesotans, and the work itself suggests a preoccupation with this place, and with the determinative impact of context in defining meaning and value.

Beyond those loose connective threads, though, the show is a grab-bag of curiosities, peculiar fascinations and compulsions.

In keeping with the “common” theme of the exhibition series, the stuff of everyday life abounds in this show – cellophane tape, shredded office paper, cardboard boxes, concrete blocks and bricks, email typos, graffiti tags. But the artists have set these utterly ordinary things apart, taken them out of their usual contexts, and given them sustained (often obsessive) attention.

Valerie Jenkins, "Shreds of Wit," graphite on paper, 2010
Courtesy of the Weisman Art Museum
Valerie Jenkins, “Shreds of Wit,” graphite on paper, 2010

A representative sampling: Valerie Jenkins draws clumps of shredded paper — yard upon yard of such drawings — repetitively and impeccably rendered, often on large butcher paper rolls. It’s grand treatment for the stuff of the recycling bin.

Elizabeth Simonson creates painstaking “wall drawings”: Some are elaborate, organic, free-form patterns she made by carefully folding cellophane tape over her fingers; others are painstaking installations of mathematically determined coils of wire, or paper clips.

Jenny Jenkins kept a notebook of graffiti tags she saw in her neighborhood, and then reproduced her favorites in parlor-worthy embroidery pieces on the vintage fabric samples she collects. Vince Leo saved and repurposed the serendipitous typos that ended up in his inbox in large-format graphic prints.

Adam Cailier rearranges the household belongings of friends and family to create sculptural pieces reflective of what those things say to him about their owners; he takes a photo of the resulting creation, then he replaces everything as he found it before the residents return. It’s a little like guerrilla portraiture.

Curator Diane Mullin says: “The artists here are all interested in reframing ordinary things, playing with shifting contexts to reveal something unexpected. If there’s a message here, I think it’s ‘Slow down; pay closer attention to what’s around you, to the things you don’t usually find remarkable. There are amazing things all around if you only think to look.’ “

“Ordinarily Here” will be on view at the Weisman Art Museum through Oct. 10. After that, the museum’s galleries will be closed for a year for construction.

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