The Minnesota Museum of American Art (MMAA), founded as the St. Paul School of Fine Arts in 1894, had many names including Saint Paul School of Art (1926), the Saint Paul Gallery and School of Art and later the Saint Paul Art Center (1950’s), the Minnesota Museum of Art (1969) and finally Minnesota Museum of American Art (1992). The museum has been housed in the Jemne Building, Landmark Center, and through January 2009, the West Publishing Company. As of October 2012, the MMAA opened a new gallery, the MMAA Project Space, MMAA’s only gallery for exhibitions and events while the museum builds a permanent facility in the Pioneer Endicott building.
Currently on display, American Art: It’s Complicated, an exhibition that considers the complex question of, “what is American art?” as related to nationality, identity, and geography. My favorites, a piece on loan from the Minnesota Historical Society by sculptor Maurice Carlton who was known for sifting through the trashcans and dumpsters of the mostly-forgotten Rondo neighborhood, and a music video from Thomas X, an Ojibwe rapper from the Red Lake Nation, and many others create an invitation for audiences to engage in discussions about distinct communities and collective experiences. It helps to understand what is currently happening in Minnesota, socially and politically as well. While the curators know that it’s not possible to represent every facet of the American experience or the artistic expressions that result from these experiences, each speaks to some the complexities we encounter. The exhibit is on display through January 3rd and I urge you to see it.