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Art and chips in the Uptown of Northeast Minneapolis

There is a part of Northeast Minneapolis, around the former Grain Belt brewery, hugging the Mississippi, that has signs that helpfully let you know that it’s the “Uptown of Northeast.” That’s nice to know, especially coming from my home in El

There is a part of Northeast Minneapolis, around the former Grain Belt brewery, hugging the Mississippi, that has signs that helpfully let you know that it’s the “Uptown of Northeast.” That’s nice to know, especially coming from my home in Elliot Park, which is the Cedar-Riverside of downtown. It’s easy to bus there — you just catch a 17 or 11 bus on Nicollet Mall, which is, of course, the Santa Rosa Transit Mall of Minneapolis. But don’t accidentally take the 17 going south — you’ll wind up on Lake and Hennepin, which is, of course, the Northeast of Uptown.

Whatever this little neighborhood of Northeast chooses to call itself, it’s ground zero for the local arts gallery scene. If you’re mad for wine and cheese, just about any Friday will give you the opportunity to nibble and sip while looking at a new show opening, although, at some of the galleries, you have to content yourself with Pabst Blue Ribbon. This was the case at the Tarnish & Gold Gallery last week when they hosted a show called “Teenage Elixir,” produced by an outfit that calls itself Bloodtime, which rather sounds like a Danish hard rock band instead of a fine arts organization.

The show featured a deejay in the corner named Malcolm Alchemy, who apparently has been part of a group called Methadont, which scores points for sounding like the sort of thing that the Bill Hader’s club kid character Stefon would recommend. The show featured the work of nine artists, or, 10, properly — Bloodtime themselves are Jesse Draxler and Justin James, who make appealing collages, and some of their work was on display. I am not sure how they selected the other artists — I could see no overarching theme to the show, or unifying aesthetic among the artists. I suspect they all just know each other, and that’s good enough. It made for an eclectic evening of art, and it’s nice to be exposed to so many distinct artists at once.

The most instantly memorable artist, in large part because of his name, was one Mark Vomit, whose name would not have seemed out of place on a Finnish punk rocker from 1983. He specializes in very bold, very appealing graphics that often look as though they were painted over newspaper. One is titled “Pain,” and of course it is, and features the word “Pain” painted in a font that would seem appropriate on a soda can (followed by a cheerful exclamation point). Each was priced at a very reasonable $50, which points to another nice feature of these sorts of group art shows — there are some real steals for the art collector.

Four images from "Monster Mash" by Joshua Norton
MinnPost photo by Max Sparber
Four images from “Monster Mash” by Joshua Norton

I said there seemed to be no unifying aesthetic, but I’m going to backtrack on that a bit, as a few of the artists seemed to borrow images from pop culture — not in as direct a way as, say, Andy Warhol or Roy Lichtenstein, so don’t make the mistake of thinking I’m talking about some new generation of pop artists. No, instead they seem to be inspired by cartoon graphics and late-night television. Artist Chris Park, as an example, has a piece that showed a robot, and another of a young boy in coveralls with a hugely oversized cartoon wolf head.

Similarly, an artist named Joshua Norton had a whole marvelous series called “Monster Mash,” consisting of various movie monster heads painted in two colors, looking quite a bit like the bold graphics one might see in an old newspaper advertising a Halloween event, or on the box of one of those novelty dragster model kits that look like coffins on wheels. These were each $40, and I was tempted to buy one on the spot, but stopped myself. It wouldn’t do to have just one — a collector would need to buy the entire set. One monster is just a portrait, but a half-dozen is a party. I wasn’t ready to make that sort of financial commitment just then, but I may, over time.

The Gallery is very near The Anchor Fish and Chips, which I have been eager to go to since it opened, for two reasons. The first is because, as an Irishman, I am saddled with an irresistible urge to go to any Irish-themed restaurant or bar I can find — which is tolerable in a place like Minneapolis, which is, after all, the Helskini of the Midwest, but a bit of a pain in a place like Boston, which is the Dublin of the East Coast.

Chips and curry at The Anchor
MinnPost photo by Max Sparber
Chips and curry at The Anchor

There’s not much I can eat at The Anchor, as I have a rock star’s intolerance for normal food — I don’t eat meat or fish and cannot digest gluten. But they do have something I can eat, and that’s the second reason I went: They offer chips and curry. I don’t want to minimize the blood-soaked centuries of British imperialism that scarred both Ireland and India, but it somehow brought together french fries and curry, which are as very nearly a perfect match as anything on this imperfect world. There aren’t many places that offer this combo in the Twin Cities — Kieran’s used to, but stopped, which is a bit disappointing, but, then, their curry was a bit disappointing, too. Brits has the combo, and their curry, a masala, is terrific, but their fries are a bit average.

And so, after the art, I sat down at the counter at The Anchor and tried the chips and curry. The place itself is lovely — cozy, and painted a comforting red that is the same color that actual Irish people will often paint their houses. The chips and curry? The chips are superb — big, fresh cuts with almost no grease. The curry is subtle — a bit too subtle for me, as there is so much potato on hand that it really overwhelms the curry flavor. But if you really pile the curry on, it’s quite good. I’ll probably make it a regular stop after art shows in Northeast, although, thanks to the street signs, there is a real risk of me getting confused. If you are ever in Uptown and see a lonely figure wandering through the night, crying out, “Curry! Curry!” it’s me and I have taken the 17 the wrong direction. Shield your eyes as I pass and say a prayer for me, for I will be among the damned, doomed by my own blunderings to haunt the earth forever, seeking Indo-Irish foods and one final monster head painting to complete my collection.