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Chaos and control

New York-based painter and Minneapolis native Eric Inkala exhibits new work at Public Functionary for his first time showing work in the Twin Cities in five years.
Artist Eric Inkala works on one of his paintings in preparation for his gallery show at Public Functionary on Saturday, November 22.
Image by Alex Tuthill-Preus
Artist Eric Inkala works on one of his paintings in preparation for his gallery show at Public Functionary on Saturday, November 22.

Eric Inkala is colorblind, but that doesn’t stop him from painting large, complicated compositions in vivid hues.

“[Colorblindness] has had a lot of influence in how I choose colors. My colors are very bright, and I use a lot of contrast,” Inkala said. “I start with one very dominant color, and [the paintings] branch naturally outward from that. If I was to do a monochromatic color scheme in a painting, I’d look at it and my eyes would just be bored.”

His carefully crafted pop style will be on display at Minneapolis’ Public Functionary gallery in “Chaos Complex.”

The Minneapolis native’s art career began in his adolescence with graffiti. Inspired by work he saw on freight trains by his house, Inkala began creating his own street art.

“It was this mysterious thing that I didn’t know what it was or who did it. I got completely obsessed with it,” Inkala said. “I was about 14 or 15 when I started getting really interested in it. For the next couple years I was a really horrible graffiti writer.”

 Inkala has since moved on from tagging the nooks and crannies of Minneapolis to painting canvases in his New York studio.

“I wasn’t bored in Minneapolis, but I felt like I got to a point where I wasn’t pushing myself enough. Part of the reason why I moved was because I was getting too comfortable,” Inkala said. “I fell in love with New York when I was younger, visiting here all the time. I got to a point where if I didn’t make that move, I could see myself never leaving Minneapolis.”

Tricia Khutoretsky, director and curator of Public Functionary, approached Inkala about two months ago asking if he would be interested in showing new work at the gallery.

“I wanted to show Eric’s work for a while, being a fan of him as an artist,” Khutoretsky said. “I was waiting for a development in his style. I was seeing his character work and line work for a number of years. He could ride that out for a while, but I was waiting for him to push his work somewhere else.”

When Inkala posted a new painting on Instagram, Khutoretsky realized her patience had paid off.

Inkala said the work is a departure from what he’s been doing for a while.

“I did one painting, I painted it pretty quickly and posted a photo,” Inkala said. “Tricia saw it and texted me and said, ‘Your new direction is crazy; I love it.’”

Inkala’s new approach is an abstract take on the character he developed over the course of a decade. It’s common for street painters like Inkala to focus their work on a specific character or symbol, similar to the tags of graffiti artists.

 “He’s starting to work in shadows, which is really complicated because he uses so many different colors,” Khutorestsky said. “He used to outline everything, but he’s taken the outlines away. Now the colors are butting up next to each other, and that’s changing the dynamic.”

Khutoretsky wanted Inkala to fill Public Functionary’s November slot, which is the last show of the year,  giving Inkala a little more than two months to paint fourteen large canvases.

“I’ve been painting day and night, working 12 hour days or more in my studio. I haven’t taken a day off in six weeks,” Inkala said. “But it’s been fun. This is what I love to do.”

During the preparation for the exhibit, Khutoretsky and Inkala said they had a very collaborative relationship. They kept in constant contact through a message thread on their iPhones.

“This is probably the first time that I’ve had this much day-to-day interaction and feedback with an artist who isn’t even in the same city,” Khutoretsky said. “I think that’s really modern. He can send me pictures that I can zoom in on and look really closely at.”

Khutoretsky strives to make Public Functionary a space that is responsive to what it means to consume art in the post-Internet era. To achieve this, Khutoretsky transforms the gallery to fit the aesthetic of each exhibit by repainting the walls, changing the furniture and even altering the floor plan.

“We always describe Public Functionary as trying to rethink the role of the gallery. We’re trying to make it feel more immersive,” Khutoretsky said. “The model of a white space box gallery is very sterile. I don’t think that’s going to serve young audiences. I think there’s a need for another sort of gallery experience that matches the way we consume culture now.”

“Chaos Complex” will also feature a wall mural painted by Inkala the week prior to the opening.

And those involved with the exhibit agree — Inkala’s task of covering fourteen large canvases and a wall with paint in just two months is incredibly ambitious.

“That’s kind of the nature of Public Functionary,” Khutoretsky said. “All of us at the gallery and [Inkala] were like, ‘Let’s jump off a bridge together! Why not?’”


What: Chaos Complex

When: 7 p.m., Saturday

Where: Public Functionary, 1400 12th Ave. NE, Minneapolis

Cost: Free

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