Now that 2020 is here, everything starts anew. But a few killer art exhibitions are lingering into the next decade for just a few more days.
Empathy for emigrants: Thirty-one international artists offer their takes on the humanitarian and political crises triggered by Central American migrants headed toward the U.S.-Mexico border. Titled “Caravan,” this emotionally intense and timely exhibition at Concordia University takes a sensitive, empathetic approach. Artists explore the sense of loss felt upon leaving one’s country and trying to rebuild anew on new soil. Others offer prayers for migrant protection, building altars donned with drinkable spirits. Spanish and English blend as artists from various Latinx backgrounds create a beautiful, vividly colorful atmosphere wrought with emotions.
(Closes Friday. Open 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Concordia Gallery, 1301 Marshall Av., St. Paul. Free. 651-641-8278 or csp.edu)
A time capsule from West Africa: Sanlé Sory’s beautiful exhibition “Volta Photo” is a flashback to the socially and politically vibrant scene of the 1960s-’80s in the Republic of Upper Volta, which became Burkina Faso in 1984. Then a budding young photographer, Sory set up his studio on a busy street in the city of Bobo-Dioulasso, inviting people in to get their portraits taken. It was 1960, and the country had just gained its independence from France. The people he shot posed in front of patterned or plain-colored sheets, or artist-rendered designs. In the lively photos, couples kiss, women pose in matching outfits, teen boys imitate boxing punches or karate kicks. In “Elvis,” a man poses, shirtless, wearing white pants, a gold chain around his neck, and gold-rimmed glasses, channeling the American pop culture “King.”
(Closes Saturday. Noon-5 p.m. Fri.-Sat., Weinstein Hammons Gallery, 908 W. 46th St., Mpls. Free. 612-822-1722 or weinsteinhammons.com)
Exploring the complex “Arab Imaginary”: Not all of the artists in this exhibition identify as Arab, something that curators Heba Y. Amin and Maymanah Farhat considered when organizing “History Is Not Here: Art and the Arab Imaginary.” This touring show features 17 artists exploring topics such as the ways language is lost through immigration and cultural assimilation, anti-Arab racism in the U.S., and the dogmatic rhetoric of an Egyptian Muslim televangelist. This perplexing show deserves even more space than it got and is a must-see before it comes down.
(Closes Sunday. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Fri.-Sun., Minnesota Museum of American Art, 350 N. Robert St., St. Paul. Free. 651-797-2571 or mmaa.org)
Examining the Vietnam War, then and now: Over the past three months, a teletype machine on the second floor of the Minneapolis Institute of Art has pumped out more than 5,700 feet of news articles. This is Hans Haacke’s 1969 sculpture “News,” which greets people at the entrance of the two concurrent exhibitions “Artists Respond: American Art and the Vietnam War, 1965-1975” and “Artists Reflect: Contemporary Views on the American War.”
The former includes more than 150 artworks made during the war years, assembled by Melissa Ho, curator at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C. The second exhibition focuses on the now, featuring artists of Vietnamese, Laotian and Hmong descent who carry the trauma of what they refer to as the American War, which displaced their families and cultures.
(Closes Sunday. 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Fri., 10-5 Sat., 11-5 Sun., Minneapolis Institute of Art, 2400 3rd Av. S., Mpls. $16-$20. Free for ages 17 and younger, veterans and active military, and those of Vietnamese, Laotian or Cambodian heritage. 612-870-3000, new.artsmia.org)
Assembly required: Theaster Gates loves old stuff. Last fall, the Chicago-based artist brought about 2,000 objects to Walker Art Center, ensuring that they won’t be lost to the black hole of time. He saved 130 glass lantern slides from the University of Chicago, thousands of objects from the Chicago-based African-American company that produced Ebony and Jet magazines, and hundreds of items of “negrobilia” — everyday consumer objects featuring racist stereotypes of black people. The show stretches across four galleries, ending with a collection of 1,200 of Gates’ own meditative ceramic works. Gates’ practice is something between maker and archivist. “I don’t think that I am actually interested in creating my own collections,” he said. “It’s super exciting to me to look at someone’s life, a life of accumulating without consciousness about the accumulation.”
(Closes Jan. 12. 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Fri.-Sat., 11-5 Sun. & Tue.-Wed., 11-9 Thu., Walker Art Center, 725 Vineland Place, Mpls. $7.50-$15; free for ages 17 and younger, and for all Thursday evenings. 612-375-7600 or walkerart.org)