Saturday, July 15, 2017

Journey to the House of Balls

White paint traced the black lines of the graffiti letters on the concrete of a freeway overpass spanning the Cedar Lake Trail: a failed cover-up. I imagined a subversive city worker performing the cleanup: "F*** you Mitch McConnell" was still visible, white on gray.

"Images hiding in plain sight" was my theme for the day. I was on my way to three places I had often passed, but never noticed.

Sidewalk Harp by Jen Lewin

At the Target Field baseball stadium, I rode past a bronze dog in baseball garb. This is Bullseye, the mascot for Target Corporation, a Fortune 50 company headquartered in Minneapolis. Here, Corporate World reigns.

I crossed light rail tracks and a road to reach a Class A office building, the headquarters of Be the Match. Whenever I see this building, I wonder how a thoroughly worthy non-profit that matches bone marrow donors with recipients can justify occupying such a fancy structure.
I had come to see an appendage attached to a wall of the fancy structure. It's a 40-foot swirl of stainless steel with inset LED lights and proximity sensors. I moved around under the sculpture, setting off tinkly sounds that were almost drowned out by the sounds of the city: "walk sign is on, walk sign is on" from the nearby pedestrian crossing, digitally sampled streetcar bells and screeching metal wheels on curved rail track from a light rail train.

A janitor was carefully scrubbing the squeaky clean, inoffensive corporate art with steel wool. To be fair, the artist represents this as an instrument, not visual art.

Untitled Mural by Broken Crow and Over Under

Across the Mississippi, I was greeted by the exuberant, re-purposed Grain Belt brewery. From there, 13th Avenue NE took me through a human-scale Nordeast (northeast Minneapolis) commercial area. I passed Young Joni, a comfortably hip restaurant where Dwight and I had enjoyed dinner last month with friends from Portland, Oregon. We plotted our next time together on the opposite side of the world in January 2018.

Two blocks further on, I turned into an alley to a parking area behind businesses that front 13th and University Avenue. 
A mural dominated one wall, a collaboration between local street artists, Broken Crow, and an itinerant street artist, Over Under. A house had collided with a human and animals, with interesting juxtapositions of structure and limbs. It had been created carefully and thoughtfully. It had attitude.

The summer sounds of street repair provided the aural backdrop. A father and happy toddler emerged from the back door of a restaurant and walked past the mural.
Back door of restaurant, fading signs.
House of Balls by Allen Christian

I cycled back across Old Man River towards Cedar-Riverside, a neighborhood dominated by the University of Minnesota and home for new Americans.

I know the Cedar-Riverside LRT station well. I've posted previously about the mural on the back of a building adjacent to the station:
This was not official public art: a private individual had decided it belonged on this wall. For me it evoked a more innocent time, a Somalia or Ethiopia without war. At least that's what I imagined it might say to today's Cedar Riverside settlers from those failed states as they wait for trains to go to work to grow the Twin Cities' economic pie.
I had no idea I was looking at the back wall of the House of Balls.

I crossed the railroad tracks towards a short street terminating at a LRT maintenance facility. One side of the street looked down onto freeways. On the other side, stood the House of Balls, the studio of artist Allen Christian.
Christian was not at home, so I didn't get to see the inside of his studio. I wandered past an art car, a huge bear operated by pedals, and a yard decorated with cheekily placed found objects. Bowling balls, stacked in a pyramid, were a nod to the origin of the name of his studio.
I had been vaguely aware of Christian and his former House of Balls in the Minneapolis Warehouse District, not so far from Target Field where I had been earlier in my cycle ride. The gentrification of the Warehouse District pushed out artists like Christian.

LRT announcements for downtown Minneapolis, the airport, and the Mall of America periodically broke into my solitude. A cop car drove slowly past me, paused, then turned back out of the dead-end street. 

Note: Atlas Obscura was my inspiration for this journey. I took the photo at the top of this post at the House of Balls.

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