Not by design

First Amendment Arts hosts the screen-print poster exhibit This is Not Art

Amber Schadewald

Monet’s “Water Lilies” has traded hands wearing a quarter-billion dollar price tag, while a perfectly crafted sock monkey can sell for a cupronickel quarter at a garage sale. Apart from their supposed worth, the two have a common bond: the loosely defined title of “art.”

Art is the product of human creativity, of imagination, of thought; a word with as many definitions as country crafts in your grandmother’s house.

“This Is Not Art”

WHERE: First Amendment Gallery, 1101 Stinson Blvd. N.E., Minneapolis
WHEN: Now through June 13 (612) 379-4151, www.firstamendmentarts.com

Commonly overlooked, art is everywhere – the label on your favorite brew, the back of the cereal box and the millions of billboards, magazine ads and flyers you stare at every day. Graphic designers are some of the people whose job it is to make the information age easy on the eyes.

In the most basic sense, a graphic designer communicates information in a visually pleasing form. As Billy Baumann of Delicious Design Leauge would say, “it’s blue collar art.”

“Our work may look pretty far out, but the basis is all in elbow grease,” he said.

The Delicious Design League is a Chicago design company made up of Baumann and friend Jason Teegarden-Downs, who together have created screen-printed posters, album covers and magazine layouts for all kinds of cool cats, including Lily Allen, Art Brut, Andrew Bird and Ben Kweller.

The dynamic duo’s work is now on display in the First Amendment Gallery in a show titled This is Not Art.

The show features a large selection of their work, spanning since Baumann’s first solo work in 2003. The guys agree This is Not Art is their “fanciest” show yet, with more space and creative reigns for display.

The walls and even part of the floor are covered in the Delicious work, along with isometric cubes stacked and hung from the ceiling, each wrapped in a dizzy array of test prints.

The name is meant to “fly in the face of pretentious” art forms, bringing front the notion that art with a purpose deserves some credit too.

Teegarden-Downs nicknames the show “This is Work” – a nine-to-five gig that pays the bills and looks good while doing it. The two guys divvy up the work: Baumann takes on the creative design role, while Teegarden-Downs concentrates on production and business responsibilities.

The hours behind the Delicious screenprinted designs are blatantly obvious: Swirling pools of color wrap around the text, inviting you to skinny dip straight into their complexity.

From traceable patterns to hallucinogenic madness, your eyes do a sort of 360 while trying to take it all in. Each piece uniquely incorporates a mix of colors far beyond the Crayola monster pack (the one with the sharpener on the back).

One of Baumann’s personal favorites is a poster he did for the Japanese ambient rock band Acid Mother’s Temple in May 2006. Listening to the band, he tried to emulate their psychedelic sound using thick smoky-whirls of orange, yellow and magenta, all which are being exhaled through the nostril of a legendary Kung Fu actor whose blue face cringes at you amidst the haze.

Wearing their “I read and I’m sexy” square glasses, skinny jeans and fashion-conscious shoes, the Delicious Design guys said they’re pretty picky about the projects they take on and under no circumstances do they plan on doing work for: a) cigarettes, b) petroleum or c) prescription drugs.

The Delicious men also print on T-shirts, socks and fabulously skanky short-shorts, which, indeed, just wouldn’t be as cute if they were decorated with oil barrels and ED ads.