A Goldilocks show at Bockley Gallery: Not too big, not too small


a goldilocks show at bockley gallery-denomie 1.jpgSince opening his first gallery in the

Minneapolis warehouse district’s Wyman Building in September 1984,

dealer Todd Bockley has carved out an idiosyncratic and activist

vision for art in the Twin Cities, one that is recognized not only by

the local cultural complex, but also far beyond. His unique and

personal purview on what art needs to see the light of day includes

that by a dozen Native American artists, both living and dead, whose

work finds consort with that of an equal number of other artists, a

broad-based cache of work that is largely defined by a distinctive

narrative stance or tinged with an untrained artist sensibility.

Consequently, Bockley Gallery’s

summer offering “Artists Singular: A Group Show” in his modest

storefront space on the west side of Lake of the Isles, is more

anticipated than unexpected. With eight works (really nine) by eight

artists, “Singular” follows the art world tradition of summer

shows being group shows that adhere to the Goldilocks principle —

not too big, not too small, but just right. As such, “Singular”

is a spirited mix of mostly untitled work both stylistically

figurative and abstract, by Bruce Anderson, Frank Big Bear, Jim

Denomie, George Morrison, Norval Morrisseau, Dietrich Sieling,

Elizabeth Simonson and John Snyder.

Sieling’s work just keeps getting

better in his provocative synthesis of figurative form and abstract

space. Working with marker on board, the artist has concocted an

oblique narrative that is rooted in a personal karaoke experience,

one that is riveting to observe. Multicolored abstract shapes,

suggesting a disco ball’s reflected patterns of light, hover above,

on and through mysterious figures in a spatially flat composition

that is remarkable in its complexity.

Jim Denomie’s untitled ink on paper

drawing is a departure from his typically color-laden work. Combining

Indian symbols and traditions with those of contemporary American

culture as he typically does, Denomie’s bawdy narrative references

the Wizard of Oz acted out by a rough-around-the-edges Kabala of

creatures and characters. Unexpectedly there is a visual clarity to

the work – which is not to suggest the narrative is easily

understood – in its straightforward graphic presentation, a quality

that not always defines his more vividly hued works.

Frank Big Bear’s “Black Collage”

is even more of a visual rout of the tensions between Indian and Pop

American cultures. Comprising a grid of 16 panels of a goldilocks show at bockley gallery-big bear1.jpgmuseum board

that have been collaged with all manner of images culled from

magazines and elsewhere, “Black Collage” is a visually exhausting

and, ultimately, unfocused work. Images of Indians, animals, planets,

religious icons, the night sky and totem poles, to identify only a

few out of dozens, mingle with passages of abstract form and color,

much of which is overlaid with triangular photo corners. While there

are arresting narrative passages and clever references to

contemporary art and culture, the preponderance of images of naked

women, largely of the pinup variety, becomes a tiresome refrain to an

otherwise potentially compelling song that ultimately deflates Black

Collage’s overall impact.

The late Anishinaabe artist, Norval

Morrisseau (1932-2007) is well represented by the painting “Flower

Arrangement.” Reflecting the Canadian artist’s signature style of

painting abstracted but representational forms in saturated colors

and outlined by thick black lines, the work depicts a potted spray of

flowers inhabited by birds and butterflies, that seemingly float

against an uninflected flat green ground. In its direct simplicity of

form and fearless color it is a fine example of the “Woodlands

School” or “Anishinaabe School” of Native art, which Morrisseau


John Snyder’s untitled sumi ink on

paper drawing is a gem and virtually dances in its pictographic

candor. Created in the limited palette of orange and black, a

quasi-figurative form moves through a field of symbols and abstract

forms in perfect compositional harmony.

Representing the stylistically abstract

camp are works by Bruce Anderson, George Morrison and Elizabeth

Simonson. Seeing Anderson’s 1986 untitled color pencil on paper

drawing was like bumping into an old friend. Widely exhibited at the

time of its making, it is a sophisticated amalgam of undisciplined

abstract form, Pollock-esque dribbles of black and silver enamel, all

illuminated by a screaming yellow ground. (The biggest surprise is

that this work is not part of someone’s collection after all these

years.) An untitled Abstract Expressionist painting from 1963

represents the late George Morrison (1919-2000). Its explosive

palette reminds us that Morrison was a true colorist. Much more

restrained are the two modestly scaled gouaches on paper drawings by

Elizabeth Simonson. Elegant in their monochromatic simplicity, the

works depict swirling circular forms, one red and one black, that

suggest subatomic particles in their movement and transparency.

“Artist Singular: A Group Show”

warrants a visit for anyone seeking a shot of art in the dog days of


Artist Singular: A Group Show

Through August 15, 2015

Bockley Gallery

2123 West 21st Street

Minneapolis, MN 55405




PHOTOS: Jim Denomie, untitled, 2015, 32 x 40

inches, ink on paper (Courtesy photo.) (Top)

Frank Big Bear, Black Collage, 2015, 64 x 80 inches, collage on

museum board (Courtesy photo.) (Above)