Odd future at Light Grey Art Lab

Over 80 artists recreated the covers to the pulp science fiction novels for Light Grey Art Lab’s “Station Zero.”

Minneapolis artist Bill Ferenc is one of the many artists updating vintage science fiction novel covers from the '50s and '60s for the Light Grey Art Lab's show

Jaak Jensen

Minneapolis artist Bill Ferenc is one of the many artists updating vintage science fiction novel covers from the ’50s and ’60s for the Light Grey Art Lab’s show “Station Zero”.

Joseph Kleinschmidt

DreamHaven Books houses a vast repository of lost science fiction gems. Talking cats and floating cubes litter the pages of these ’60s- and ’70s-era pulp novels, but simply taking a look at the illustrations on the cover gives a sense of each book’s surreal sci-fi.

On one fateful Wednesday, artist and collector Lindsay Nohl entered DreamHaven. She visited the South Minneapolis store to add to her own collection of vintage paraphernalia.

“I saw all these books just piled on the floors up to the ceiling, on these tables — it looked like my house,” she said.

Nohl, the owner of the Light Grey Art Lab, began amassing a massive sci-fi collection for “Station Zero,” a new poster art exhibition tackling interstellar imagery. She assigned each of the over 80 artists a different novel from her retro treasure trove.

“We realized how exciting it could be to re-envision what the future would look like,” she said.

Most of the authors faded away into sci-fi obscurity, but the period “Station Zero” celebrates is a bounty for the golden era of illustration. “The Universe Against Her” imagines a young girl with glowing eyes next to some ferocious cats; “The Stardust Voyages” depicts a slew of abstract spaceships.

“All of the books from that era have this really fantastic sensibility,” Nohl said. “The colors are just vibrant and crazy.”

“Station Zero” remembers this lost era when illustration was king. In an age of Photoshop and Google image search, hand-drawn artwork has been pushed aside. The new illustrations recall the past, but keep a contemporary aesthetic with the ever-present future locked in sight.

“They are both paying homage to these old styles, but also reinventing and becoming re-inspired,” Nohl said.

When artist Bill Ferenc received his worn copy of “The Stardust Voyages” in the mail, he started to apply his cartoon sensibility to the galactic conflict within Stephen Tall’s story. But it wasn’t that simple.

“It’s challenging—what should I show and what shouldn’t I?” he said.

Ferenc decided to tackle one of the more surreal moments of the Star Trek-style space epic. A team of scientists and one artist flee from a geometric conflagration.

“They find out there’s a war going on on this planet between the perfect, colorful cubes and the misshapen, grey cubes,” Ferenc said.

His poster looks dynamic with all of the characters on the brink of falling from the car, a distant relation to the dull black emptiness of the original 1955 cover.

One of the artists for “Station Zero” used the original cover as a springboard. Kelsey King’s version of “The Universe Against Her” portrays a young girl and her cats like the 1964 first edition’s cover.

“She’s meditating with her cat trying to develop her psychic powers,” she said.

King’s piece embraces the cheesiness of the artwork like many of the pieces, but nothing’s ever tongue-in-cheek. She was wholeheartedly invested in the story, even in its more outlandish moments. “Station Zero” offers no parody, only a tribute to this cosmic-leaning era.

“It’s this perfect fifteen year old girl who’s in college and a genius and has a psychic pet cat,” she said. “You can’t go wrong with that.”

 

What: “Station Zero” opening reception

When: Friday, 7-10 p.m.

Where: Light Grey Art Lab, 118 East 26th St., Suite 101, Minneapolis