Katelyn Farstad and David Frohlich

The Minneapolis Institute of Arts
2400 Third Avenue South
April 20, 2012–July 1, 2012

View of “Isohyet; Isopleth,” 2012.

Katelyn Farstad and David Frohlich are among the youngest artists to have been selected for the Minnesota Artists Exhibition Program at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (a curatorial department of the museum dedicated to exhibiting artists living and working in Minnesota). The strange, cartographical terms in the title of Farstad and Frohlich’s show, “Isohyet; Isopleth”—which evoke the drawing of lines and the mapping of discrete but equivalent rainfalls respectively—may well be conjugated with a third, for what the exhibition proposes with its design is a structure of relative isolation, governed as it is by the logic of the ward, which is at the same time a properly defensive position.

As visitors approach the gallery, the wall that faces them reads like a standard partition of the museum’s space, directing their movement. But when one turns the corner to encounter the pine studs of the wall’s support, it becomes clear that the artists have fortified their exhibition with a front, so as to transform a museum gallery into a compound that feels somehow independent from its encyclopedic surroundings, which are otherwise beholden to the occasional blockbuster exhibition. It is the spirit inscribed in this will to autonomy that gives the show its commendable charge. The floor is covered with dark gray antifatigue foam, so it is soft like a dojo, and every thirty minutes a sound track fades in of a flock of crows, screeching as they do in the opening credits of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. The space is thus differentiated and felt, and if the formal tactics denote a dialogue between incipient practices—some twenty works are on display—we should take note. Presented as ensembles of drawings and photo-litho plates that parse the delicacy of inscription (Frohlich) and weird conglomerations of three-dimensional objects integrated into the domain of performance-oriented painting (Farstad), the works highlight dualistic formal procedures that eventually intersect in a freestanding sculpture that verges on sci-fi, or a scene of horror, as if a Franz West blob swallowed a doll house bespattered with dog bones, chicken wire, Q-tips, spray paint, and nail polish, before retching the remains of a desecrated frame, which the sculpture in turn wears like a shroud.

— Jonathan Thomas