On Wednesday, Jan. 6, white supremacists were among those who attacked the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. By the following Monday, 148 letterpress posters were displayed in the windows of Minnesota Center for Book Arts on Washington Ave. S. in Minneapolis, facing out into the street.
Black print on white paper, the posters have a theme: white supremacy. “White Supremacy Is All the Rage,” they say. And “White Supremacy Is Asinine,” “White Supremacy Is Calculated,” “White Supremacy Is Devastating,” “Exhausting,” “Idiotic,” “Insidious,” “Intentional,” and ultimately “White Supremacy Is Wack.” There’s a poster printed with “White Supremacy Is,” the rest left blank for observers to complete.
The timing, so close to the insurrection, was a coincidence. The posters are an installation by Ben Blount. An artist, designer and letterpress printer born in Detroit, now based in Evanston, Ill., Blount was part of a 2007 show at MCBA called “We, Too, are Book Artists,” which featured work by Black artists using book arts to communicate humanistic responsibility, social justice, cultural consciousness and spirituality. His artists’ books and prints are in collections including the Newberry Library and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
“Ben was on our radar,” said Torey Erin, MCBA’s director of exhibitions and artist programs, speaking by phone on Thursday afternoon. “He was scheduled for a live letterpress demo in December, and after we saw ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ on his website, and after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, we felt it was necessary to show Ben’s work and amplify his voice as a printer. We first talked about October, then that moved to January to align with the inauguration and Martin Luther King Day.”
In an earlier version in Evanston, Blount’s “White Supremacy” posters filled the walls of a 10′ x 10′ room. An exterior window was covered over with black paper, but people could peer through a horizontal opening into the room. Once inside, they were surrounded.
MCBA originally planned a similar approach for its small, street-facing Outlook Gallery, but “things started to unfold,” Erin said. “There was a lot of anticipation during the election. We changed the exhibition so it was directly on the Outlook Gallery windows, then expanded it onto our paper studio windows and shop windows.”
Extending halfway up 18 street-level windows on the Open Book building, “Eyes Wide Shut” makes a powerful pandemic-era statement. We can’t go inside Open Book, but we can’t miss the message when we walk past or drive by.
“As we were installing the exhibition, people were taking photos, giving us a thumbs-up, pulling over in their cars and stepping out to see it,” Erin said. “We had no idea that it would be quite so timely. But we’re all reeling from what happened [on Jan. 6], and it’s been heartening to see the positive response.”
V is for virtual, L is for live and in person.
V Tonight (Friday, Jan. 22), 7 p.m.: Twin Cities Film Fest Short Film Showcase. A one-time streaming of six short films with Minnesota connections, plus a virtual Q&A with some of the filmmakers. The program includes the Twin Cities premiere of “Ruth,” a film by Alex Rollins Berg that reunites former Guthrie actors Lynn Cohen and Barbara Tirrell, who played mother and daughter in Chekhov’s “The Seagull” at the Guthrie in 1983. They’re mother and daughter in “Ruth” as well. This was one of Cohen’s final performances; she died in February 2020. FMI and tickets ($9; free to TCFF members).
V Starts tonight (Friday, Jan. 22): The U’s Lifelong Learning and Park Square Theatre: Jeffrey Hatcher: “Riddle Puzzle Plot.” When COVID kept Park Square from presenting its summer 2020 play, a Sherlock Holmes mystery by Jeffrey Hatcher, the theater did something still new at the time. It presented a four-part play, also by Hatcher, performed on Zoom. Back to distract us from winter, “Riddle Puzzle Plot” is a witty, engaging tale of a theater company stuck on an island during a pandemic. One by one, the members turn up dead. But who’s the killer? Directed by Warren C. Bowles, the cast is brilliant: Shanan Custer, Rudolfo Nieto, Aimee K. Bryant, Sun Mee Chomet, E.J. Subkoviak, Pearce Bunting and Alesandra Bongiardina. And Hatcher delights in language. Each recorded episode closes with conversations with theater people and mystery experts; during the fifth episode, Hatcher and others discuss the production. The episodes will be released on Fridays through Feb. 19. FMI and registration ($20 for the series).
V Streaming now: American Masters: Five arts-and-culture documentary films. “How It Feels to Be Free” spotlights six African American women entertainers – Lena Horne, Abbey Lincoln, Nina Simone, Diahann Carroll, Cicely Tyson and Pam Grier – who challenged an entertainment industry that perpetuated racist stereotypes. “Laura Ingalls Wilder: Prairie to Page,” produced by TPT and WNET, is an updated and unvarnished look at the “Little House” author. “Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise” profiles the fierce and prolific poet, memoirist and civil rights activist (who, incidentally, wrote the poem for Bill Clinton’s 1993 inauguration). “Garry Winogrand: All Things Are Photographable” explores the life and work of the street photographer who influenced so many others, including Wing Young Huie. “Celebrating Bird: The Triumph of Charlie Parker” tells the story of the jazz saxophonist and composer who changed the course of music. Find them all here. Free.
V Saturday, Jan. 23, 11 a.m.: Lyra Baroque: Jacques Ogg from Home: Cellebroederskapel in Maastricht, The Netherlands. Lyra’s artistic director gives a livestreamed solo performance on harpsichord from a 16th-century chapel where he practiced the organ in his youth. With music by Peter Philips, Frescobaldi, Froberger and Muffat. FMI and tickets ($15 adults/seniors, $5 students). The concert will be available to watch until June 30.
V Saturday, Jan. 23, 7 p.m.: Lakes Area Music Festival: “Beauty in Chaos, Hope in Order.” “Wild, fantastical music” from the 17th century, performed on period instruments. Baroque violinist and historical performance specialist Chloe Fedor curated the concert, a performance with Kieran Campbell (cello), Adam Cockerham (theorbo and baroque guitar) and Elliot Figg (harpsichord). With selections by Biber, Kapsberger, Mealli, Fiore, Matteis, Corelli and Orlando Gibbons. Prerecorded and free on Facebook. FMI including program, a link to a lecture on historical performance, and a link to a coffee Q&A with Fedor at 10 a.m. that day.
V Tuesday, Jan. 26, 5:30 p.m.: Rain Taxi: Translator Damion Searls discusses Rilke’s “Letters to a Young Poet.” Beloved by poets and creatives from all disciplines, Rainer Maria Rilke’s “Letters to a Young Poet” was first published in 1929 and remains one of his most popular works. Searls’ latest book is a new translation that also includes the letters the young poet, Franz Xaver Kappus, wrote to Rilke. Searls will be in conversation with Eric Lorberer, editor of Rain Taxi Review of Books. Free, with registration required.