Now Showing

The Windows on Cedar Project

The focus of the Windows on Cedar Project has been on up and coming local Minneapolis artists. Currently, artists represented by Susan Hensel Gallery on Artsy are given preference for window exhibits. But since not all the artists are local, there are occasional window exhibition slots to be filled.Experienced and emerging artists are invited to design an exhibition for the large shop windows of the Susan Hensel Gallery building.  The windows are lit 24-7 and are at a well lit bus stop in South Minneapolis.  It is ideal space for experimentation or for early forays into designing a solo exhibition.  Since the gallery opened in 2004, over 80 shows have been mounted, many with separate Windows on Cedar exhibitions. The scheduling is generally 6 shows per year, made loose and flexible by the Covid 19 pandemic.  Stay tuned for updates.

The Regrettable Truth of the Cliché

Susan Hensel Gallery is proud to present for the first time artist Christopher Rowley with his show The Regrettable Truth of the Cliché on Artsy and in the Windows.

Running from May 15th to July 15th, 2022, The Regrettable Truth of the Cliché continues the major threads of Rowley’s work, while plunging even deeper into the abstracted forms of machines. Whereas previous series like Slippery Parables used piping to draw shapes, here we have a step beyond into complexity and, ultimately, into abstraction. 5/15/22 – 7/15/22

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At Play in the Fields of Color Perception

Sculptural textile work, transforming personal experience, private and public spaces, with experiences of beauty.

A lot of the paper pieces that are part of the Neotectonic Period exhibit on artsy are in the windows along with a few never-before-seen pieces, so new that they do not have their formal photographs yet. See if you can spot them in these vertiginous photos taken lying in the windows! Or being reflected back wildly in the cold, bright sun today! 3/15 – 5/15/22

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Talk To Me

Ingrid Restemayer returns to Susan Hensel Gallery with a new fiber art series titled Talk to Me.

These pieces continue the strong compositions and driving aesthetic focus of the artist’s oeuvre, developing the threads she has woven so far while introducing a new set of idioms. Using hand made paper, printmaking and embroidery, Restemayer gives us a quiet, contemplative view of the ways humanity communicates with itself. 1/15 – 3/15/22

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The Regrettable Truth of the Cliché

May 15, 2022 – July 15, 2022

Christopher Rowley

Christopher Rowley creates systems. His work shows self-contained moments that seem to emerge from algorithms that produce procedurally generated units. But he does this using traditional rug-making and embroidery techniques — a tension at the heart of the work.

His new exhibit The Regrettable Truth of the Cliché arrives at Susan Hensel Gallery (May 15) running through (July 15). The pieces here continue the major threads of Rowley’s work, while plunging even deeper into the abstracted forms of machines. Whereas previous series like Slippery Parables used piping to draw shapes, here we have a step beyond into complexity and, ultimately, into abstraction.

The forms appear almost as schematics. Piping, circuits, the components of a mysterious machine — these are only some of the places the mind reaches to find footing among the work. But the softness of the corners and the human touch lying underneath the abstraction can equally feel like Maya glyphs. There is something communicative, as if from a language we are not yet familiar with, one that would require entry to a new world and lifeway to render scrutable.

These are often candy-colored — bright and saturated and delicious. Lines trace out shapes that overlap and interact. If you squint, you can find depth, movement. You can begin to see a machine that chugs and pumps and sends products along tracks to the next processing station. This is some device made in a dream, the idea of industrial production that might vaguely dance in our heads as we briefly consider the origins of the commodities that fill our world.

The work is able to match this dream-like style by restraint in detail. While the colors are full throttle plays for attention, the linework traces only the simplest idea of shapes. It’s almost like a blueprint reduced to Platonic ideal forms — two worlds that rarely coexist, but here they do so seamlessly. That seamlessness, belied by the friendly, hand-made quality of the pieces, further reinforces that sense of something going on, some purpose.

But alas, it never fully arrives. We are only left with the idea that sense can be made of it, but what sense there is forever eludes us. In this way, it touches the most material form of abstraction today — the endless complexity of the systems and machines that create our world.

That so many playful touches can coexist with such mystery is a feat of its own. It is a balancing act between the lightness of joy and the darkness of unknowing.

The materials themselves are always integrated as necessary elements of communication. In “A Bitten Knuckle and an Elevator Ride,” Rowley uses acrylic paint on paper and canvas to create one of his diagrams. But the exposed stapling and color field framing present the work as utilitarian, unadorned, necessary to understand as clearly as a blueprint (it’s even on blue).

And the yarn of a piece like “I’m sorry I appear disinterested,” gives us the other side. The gregarious color and a hint at perspective present a cartoon-like reality, a smiling version of the same content. And as with most of his fiber work in the exhibit, the entire structure is skewed outside of the rectilinear presentation we are accustomed to, with curved corners that drift away from 90-degrees. That further emphasizes the softness of the material, distancing itself even more from the mechanical forms and logic depicted.

There are times where these two distinct sides of Rowley’s exhibit interact, as in “Thus and So.” This presents us with the non-rectilinear embroidered image set in utilitarian framing. It is an uneasy pairing, hinting at something irreconcilable between the imaginary of machinery and its reality.

Regardless of the material, the end result always returns us to that same world: the imaginary space of our post-industrial society. From circuitry to switchboards to engines, our world is dominated by systems that non-experts have no access to. It is, for most of us, simply the work of sorcerers. What we are left with is the persistent dream of what these systems do and how they do it, the reality as it is felt by us as a culture rather than their actual physical incarnations.

In the artist’s own words, these are the “absurd complexities that govern personal experience.” And that they are returned to us in the comparatively ancient forms of acrylic paint and embroidery make them easier to see. It makes their strangeness and non-organic logic all the more strange and alien to us flesh-and-blood beings.

Rowley’s new exhibit moves his practice forward, continuing to develop his visual language to communicate these ideas with striking confidence, elan, and a heavy dose of charm.

Born and raised in the Twin Cities, he first sought an education in graphic design — a background that is immediately apparent in his economy of line and color. After leaving school to start a family, he returned to education, this time in a fine art setting. He received a BFA in Studio Art with a 2D media concentration from St. Cloud State University. He went on to receive an MA and MFA in Painting and Drawing at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

Today, he lives in South Minneapolis where he also runs his studio. He is an adjunct professor of art at St. Cloud State University.

In The Regrettable Truth of the Cliché, Rowley continues wielding his tool set of painting and fiber. In this exhibit, they live side by side as ways to delve into the object of his captivation — the structure of systems and the psychological realms they create within us. And with this practice, he reveals to us the abstract constructs that drive our material world.

Jonathan M. Clarke, independent critic