by Kate Iverson
For those of you who were hip to the Minneapolis art scene in the mid-2000s, the name Isaac Arvold likely rings a bell. The lovable young painter created signature character-driven works that fell somewhere between fine art, street art, and comic art. Filled with vivid colors and edged with a fine-lined illustrative style, Arvold’s poppy, whimsical world was and continues to be all his own.
I first met Isaac somewhere around 2005, just as a fresh art movement seemed to be bubbling up in the Twin Cities. Alongside local contemporaries such as Ben Olson, Drew Peterson, Eric Inkala, Keiko Yagashita, Jennifer Davis, and Broken Crow, Arvold flourished. He collaborated. He created. He allowed his work to evolve continuously–which is something many artists struggle with. And eventually, he left Minneapolis for New York, a move that seems to be the next step for many talented Midwesterners.
Arvold’s “homecoming” exhibit, “Second Hand Emotion” at CO Exhibitions, is ridiculously ambitious, wildly creative, and definitely collaborative (just ask the many tattoo artists, bakers, shoe-makers, and video artists who are involved with the project). The exhibit is based on the concept of three lost sketchbooks that contained years worth of illustrative work; a visual diary of sorts which followed the artist through relationship woes, his transition to New York, and even a lengthy stint on tour with Rhymesayers and famed Minneapolis hip hop crew, Atmosphere. In essence, Second Hand Emotion is an exhibit full of nostalgia, re-creation and, perhaps most importantly, re-invention.
Revisiting scans and photos of his lost work, Arvold was able to craft a sort of abstract narrative to the past few years of his life, each canvas representing different piece of the puzzle. Wispy flourishes, grand brush strokes, delicate illustrations, hidden messages, quirky characters and the like all seem to speak to Arvold’s humor, memories, and his signature style. At the same time, however, the semblance of the exhibit conveys a freshness and a sense of new beginning for the artist. Sometimes, as the saying goes, you just need to get it out of your system–and that’s exactly what Arvold did with Second Hand Emotion. It just happened to come out in a big, beautiful way.
Seeing Isaac come full circle from a scrappy young artist living in Minneapolis to the fluent, idea-driven painter and illustrator he is today is especially touching to me personally. When we were both early in our careers I had the pleasure of hosting Isaac’s work on a single wall at my old gallery, Density, during a long-ago Art-A-Whirl weekend. This past Saturday, I had the immense pleasure of hosting him again in a much larger sense (along with my partners at Permanent ADG and Burlesque of North America) at our Northeast gallery, CO Exhibitions. To say Arvold has come a long way from that small wall of brightly hued, resin-coated works at Density to the large-scale, concept-based exhibition at CO is an understatement–and I expect this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Isaac Arvold: Second Hand Emotion runs through Sunday, May 20th. With special extended hours over Art-A-Whirl Weekend, May 18th-20th (keep your eyes peeled for info on CO’s sure-to-be-epic AAW party on the 19th). Regular Gallery Hours: Noon-5pm, Monday-Saturday. For more info visit www.coexhibitions.com.
Kate Iverson is former Editor-in-Chief of l’étoile and will periodically grace our pages as a guest arts writer.