Shoot art, not people

The Soap Factory displays avante-garde art you can help destroy.

by Katrina Wilber

Finding an “angel” in the art world can be a hell of a problem. Thank heavens for The Soap Factory.

No Name Exhibitions @ The Soap Factory is providing 26 up-and-coming artists with a place to show more than 100 pieces of artwork through April 25.

Billed as “an adventurous exhibition of many of the Soap Factory volunteers,” “Hot House ’04” displays an eclectic melange of different styles, including everything from birdhouses and an old fashioned photo booth, to a colorful BB gun shooting range and a wall full of discarded cardboard signs.

Kris Cottom’s “A modern St. Sebastian (for Jim, 1970-2003)” is an acrylic work dedicated to her brother, who died of a heroin overdose. Cottom used a medieval painting of St. Sebastian, who was tied to a tree and shot with arrows, as inspiration.

The central figure is a young black man clad in jeans, tied to a tree and pierced with syringes. One end of the rope is loosely tied around his hand; it’s tied tightly enough to make escape difficult but loose enough to make escape possible. His dark brown eyes, somewhere between helpless and accusatory, dare the viewer to untie the knots or pull out the syringes.

Founded by a local artist in 1988, No Name Exhibitions uses a 40,000 square-foot turn-of-the-century factory and warehouse space to display sculptures, video art, two-dimensional photography works and paintings.

“BB Gun Firing Range,” by Chris Pennington, is a room chock full of balloons, audio tapes, compact discs and random carnival game prizes. There are funky lights and incongruous smooth jazz music in this interactive exhibit. Just load up the gun and aim at a compact disc that dangles from the ceiling, one of the balloons scattered on the floor or a tape glued to the back wall. Take your pick. Every time an object is hit, the installation is subtly altered.

For those who can’t fit into the little room with the BB guns for visitors to fire, the space that leads to the CD/tape/toys area is blocked off with some heavy-duty plastic glass. It’s kind of reassuring, in a taped-up barricade sort of way.

Along with letting emerging artists showcase their works, No Name Exhibitions also provides gallery space to well-known artists in the prime of their careers. This all-inclusive mindset has earned No Name Exhibitions @ The Soap Factory a reputation as one of the Midwest’s best exhibition spaces.

No Name Exhibitions takes an old building, blends in sculptures, paintings, video and interactive art and ends up with an exhibition that’s as unique as its gallery space.