Cutting-edge American art

The MIA’s “State of the Art” exhibition features under-the-radar artists of today.

A piece by Vanessa German advocating for protecting children endangered by their circumstances sits at the

Sam Harper

A piece by Vanessa German advocating for protecting children endangered by their circumstances sits at the “State of the Art: Discovering American Art Now” exhibit in the Minneapolis Institute of Art Wednesday. The exhibit, which is described a snapshot of contemporary America, opens Thursday Feb 18 and will feature live artist activations and live music.

Danylo Loutchko

The curators of a new exhibition have attempted to create a complete experience about American art as it exists today.
“State of the Art,” an upcoming exhibition at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, features under-recognized contemporary American artists from diverse backgrounds all across the country. The exhibit opens Thursday with free events and talks by some of the artists.
“It was really surprising to me how many talented artists are in the show that I wasn’t aware of,” said Dennis Michael Jon, associate curator at MIA. “And that’s the point of the show, to feature artists that were unheralded. And just the wide, wide variety among the media — there are videos in the show, there’s photography, printmaking, painting, sculpture, some installations and interactive video.”
“State of the Art” at MIA is a 10,000-square-foot exhibition that features 134 works by 52 artists. Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Arkansas originally organized the exhibition. The original curators traveled more than 100,000 miles across the United States and made more than 1,000 visits to the different regional artists’ studios.
Only 102 ended up in the final show, and about half of those are featured at MIA’s iteration of “State of the Art.”
Minnesota multimedia artists Chris Larson, Andy Ducett and Cameron Gainer all have work traveling with “State of the Art.”
“[The curators] had in mind specific ideas about how they might organize the exhibition,” Jon said. “One of the premises was that art is a form of communication — the maker and the viewer are two halves of a conversation. They felt that contemporary art should be a form of communication to inspire, to teach and to evoke emotion.” 
Additionally, the aim was to create an exhibition that was an equal representation of the wide variety of contemporary American art, something not often collected and displayed in one place.
Consequently, the exhibition is equally balanced in terms of region and medium, in addition to the age, gender, race and religion of the artists. The ages of the artists range from 24-87. Twenty-seven of the artists represented in the MIA exhibit are women, and 25 are men. 
The exactitude of the variety in “State of the Art” was very deliberate. The organizers decided on the art with three criteria: engagement, virtuosity and appeal.
“Engagement is the artists being active within their own community,” Jon said. “And these artists, in most cases, had local and regional reputations. The second, virtuosity, is simply mastery of material techniques and concepts.
The third category, appeal, he said, was more subjective and involves how the work challenges its viewers.
These standards, along with the sheer breadth and volume of artists interviewed, led to a cohesive and powerful exhibition of high-quality art. 
“Out of all the things that stood out was how accessible the art and the artists were,” Jon said. “Some observers critique contemporary art as being inaccessible, a private language, impossible to decipher. But this show is going to be accessible to the average viewer, and I think people are going to come away feeling very positive about the show and not scratching their heads.”
“State of the Art” exhibition
Where Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 2400 S. Third Ave.
When Opening night events 6-9 p.m. Thursday, exhibition runs through 
May 29
Cost Free opening night, other days $20