House of Balls and the Walker: Art Imbuing the Everyday with the Bizarre

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New location for the House of Balls, formerly the Medusa.

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Former duct work, transformed into the scales of a dragon.

The other Saturday, I biked over to the House of Balls studio in the Cedar Riverside neighborhood, after seeing the open house offered in celebration of Obscura Day. You can’t really be a student of weirdness in the Twin Cities without being at least slightly aware of the name “House of Balls,” sculptor Allen Christian’s ever evolving project, or coming across one of his creations at some point. I believe I first encountered his work at the new Science Museum of Minnesota (well, I still call it the “new” Science Museum, I guess). I had never witnessed the actual place of creation, though, so it was very fun to visit the actual house, peer into a Wonder Bread camper, examine the details of some creepy looking doll thingy, and marvel at the technological turned sculpture.  As Christian is quoted, “we all possess the creative impulse and we owe ourselves the balls to express it.” There is certainly no lack of that at the House of Balls.

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Some of the wonders inside the House of Balls interior

The House of Balls specializes in bizarre, unique, robotic sculptural creations, brought to life from the detritus of American junk. Bowling balls carved into faces, old air ducts transformed into dragons.The little studio in the old garage right off of the Cedar Riverside light rail station, former home to seminal underground music venue, the Medusa, is totally jammed with unique characters; in fat, the building was surrounded with them, including a few I recognized from around the city. Art cars I’d seen driving around town, the frame of that awesome polar bear bike from last year’s Art Shanty.

I’ve been a fan of taking these lost fragments of human lives and making meaning from them for a long time. Found Magazine, roadside attractions, found art of all kinds. My aunt used to look for rusty objects to transform into pieces o jewelry, so as kids, we always kept our eyes out for interesting pieces of lost metal. This stuck with me.

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Cedar Riverside light rail station, behind the House of Balls backyard.

I know I’m not the only one to look at a piece of rusty ironwork and see a face, eyes made of screws and an open, surprised looking mouth, from a hole of unknown us. I have always been fascinated with artistic visions that transform these forgotten pieces of kitsch, of old, neglected objects, into new, beautiful and strange creations. To me, it comes from the same impulse that causes people to assemble huge balls of twine or put up a huge otter statue; transforming the everyday into the unique and Minnesota seems to specialize in this sort of stuff. I cannot say that I am very knowledgeable about the art world, aside from a dilettante’s interest and a love of seeing human creativity on display, but I guess I’m going to try talking about it anyway! To my own uneducated eyes, there seem to be similar things happening over at the Walker Art Center. I mean, how about a huge piece of silverware expanded to gargantuan proportions (see last entry)?

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I find maps to be perfect for found work, here showing Walker Art Center history.

After stopping in at the Walker for the first time since I moved into the neighborhood on a Thursday, taking advantage of the free admission, and explored the very interesting current exhibit on International Pop. The Walker has had a very interesting collection of Pop Art, which has always fascinated me by imbuing the banality, the commonplace of everyday commodities in industrial culture, the media, advertising, the commercial with a significance that belie its mundane origins. Similar to imbuing everyday found objects with new life, I can’t really express my interest in this artistic vision of elevating visions of our everyday life into something more; creating the new from the old.

Some of the artistic styles represented among these intriguing pieces integrated found items and objects into their visions, showing that this is, of course, not limited to Minnesota or to North America at all. Pop art styles from South America, continental Europe, and Asia illustrate how, in the 20th century, such ideas evolved across the globe. There were some extremely interesting things to check out, and the exhibit continues all summer, into August, so I’d recommend a visit!

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House of Balls art car from studio entrance, with view of Minneapolis skyline

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One thought on “House of Balls and the Walker: Art Imbuing the Everyday with the Bizarre

  1. Pingback: Most Popular Posts of 2015 | MSP Adventure Time!

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