by Jeffrey Kalstrom   December 3, 2002

Group Show at Speedboat Gallery, Oct. 26 - Dec. 6. 566 Snelling Ave. N., St. Paul. 651-641-0538
One surprise of the fall gallery season is the revival of Speedboat Gallery. The old Speedboat, a St. Paul coffeeshop/gallery, was a center for experimental work in the late '80s and early 90's. Now back in St. Paul on Snelling Avenue, and anchored financially by the Speedboat Bookstore, the gallery is a neat-'n-cozy 20' x 16' basement room. I took my U of M students on a tour and they were dying to come back for an opening, just to hang out in the hip tiny den/lounge next to the gallery.

The artists in this inaugural show are some of the most interesting in town, whose success (several Jerome and McKnight winners!) has not induced them to desert us for the coasts. First up is the always interesting Stuart Mead, with a beautifully etched intaglio print of a nude prepubertal anime cutie w/ a crown. As is often the case with Mr. Mead's work, this print is at once delightful and tiresome. I have had enough of the "is it art or is it pedophilic porn" discussion. I am personally sick to death of the doe-eyed young girl on the edge of womanhood exploration/exploitation racket. For art's sake, Mr. Mead, continue to refine your wonderful pervy vision, but give us age-appropriate eye candy! (If these issues cause you no qualms, the print is a bargain at $150.)

Bruce Tapola's good-almost-great work "Bionic Woman" is painting: complex and clichéd all in one. A pop pastiche, it pushes at and dances with realism and pattern and teeters on the edge of control. Does the figure of the girl on the swing pull the composition apart or open it up spatially? Go see it and let me know what you think.

Mary Esch shows two pencil drawings on grey paper. They are elegant and spatially complex with dense and diverse imagery. The work with its wolves, maidens, and penises, is a return to form for Ms. Esch. A number of people have said to me in recent years, "What is she up to with those torn paper collages? And I really admire her portraits but I was more excited by her sexy fairy tale stuff." She does have a firm grasp of the more adult side of the mythic tale. These are lovely elegant works that make my wallet throb. At $450 dollars a pop, they are certainly a wise investment.

Sean Smuda's photo "The Scrape" is tastefully installed over the john in Speedboat's toilet annex. A complex tableau has been staged of seminaked figures with body cones and a list of instructions for their potential actions. I like it, and I wonder if it's part of a series--I'd like to see more of the same.

Alexa Horochowski's silkscreen prints explore (again) the sexual identity of the preadolescent. These prints are sharp, funny, and stylish. In one a repeated image of a '40s style pinup girl forms the ground behind an 11-year-old boy with a black eye and boxing gloves, ready for action. The series does have possibly the worst title in the history of titles, though: the works are all labeled "Untitled (Freudian Anatomy Series)." This hurts.

This is just the tip of the prop at Speedboat's inaugural show. Go see it, buy some art (there's drawings in the bookstore that are only $20!) Buy some books--support our artists now before they all move to LA! Participating artists: Mildred Beltre, Kristen Copham, Scott Dolan, Mary Esch, Jess Reitland, Alexa Horochowski, Shane Huston, Daniel Kaniess, Anna Liljeblad, Stuart Mead, Doug Padilla, Rene Schendel, Sean Smuda, Bruce Tapola, Ellen Thomson, Rob Winters, Bill Wormley.