Blood type 

Exhibits embody Young Blood charm as gallery ponders its future

For fans of a certain breed of art, Grant Park's Young Blood Gallery has always been a nexus: part countercultural hangout, and part prescient billboard for emerging trends in lowbrow, graffiti and street art -- as well as the indie craft -- that have recently bubbled up to the larger art world and popular consciousness.

Young Blood's current two-artist show, featuring Kurt Halsey Frederiksen and Kathleen Lolley, is another example of owners Kelly Teasley and Maggie White's distinctive vision.

It's a vision all the more worthy of recognition as the gallery, says Teasley, tries to recover from a difficult summer of slow sales, including a June benefit auction that garnered only about 100 artist donations compared to usually double that in previous years.

Young Blood is thus poised to, at some point in the near future, leave its current off-the-beaten-path location downhill from the Boulevard Avenue I-20 off-ramp to one with better foot traffic and a bigger audience. (Little Five Points is a possible alternative.)

"Moving to another location is a last attempt to keep it going," admits Teasley, who has co-owned the gallery with White for the past eight years.

Until then, Teasley and White present yet another exhibit that exemplifies the Young Blood ethos: rooted in popular culture, accessible and featuring two painters with a shared investment in lyrically expressed heartache.

Frederiksen and Lolley met at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design and had longed to do a show together, Teasley says on a hot, quiet Wednesday afternoon hanging Frederiksen's work in the gallery.

Though now decamped on opposite sides of the country in Portland, Ore. (Frederiksen), and Louisville, Ky. (Holley), the artists are united by their shared investment in cuteness. It's a cuteness underpinned with a fair amount of romantic angst and stylized sadness.

"A sweetness and a sadness are definitely connections between our work," says Frederiksen, who has managed to support himself as an artist for almost three years now.

Lolley received her bachelor of fine arts in experimental animation in 2001 from California Institute of the Arts and then worked for a time in Los Angeles on animation for television and movies, including "SpongeBob SquarePants" and Willard while making a number of short films. Eventually, she returned to Louisville. Her website proclaims the artist's "love of storytelling, animation and sequential art is reflected in each of her paintings. Rabbits flee from hunters, girls are lost in the woods. Giant elk stumble over towns clasping bottles; is it a remedy they hold or just a beer?"

If Lolley seems inspired by whimsical fairy-tale scenarios where a cast of owls, wolves, bears and rabbits walk upright in images both childlike and grim, then Frederiksen's work is rooted in more close-to-home affairs of the heart and the intertwined intellectual and romantic suffering of young hipsters in love. His sparingly drawn couples sporting characteristically large heads placed on slight bodies are all jutting shoulder blades, eyeglasses, baggy T-shirts, gamine haircuts, hangdog expressions and indie-rock attitude expressed in a terse combination of image and text. Considering Frederiksen's acknowledged interest in comic strips like "Marmaduke" and "Family Circus," whose simplicity continues to inform his own work, it doesn't feel like an insult to call Frederiksen's work a kind of slacker, 21st-century version of the quintessentially '70s "Love Is ..." comics drawn by New Zealand's Kim Grove. These are the ones featuring a pair of perpetually naked heteros contemplating the vagaries of love and sex.

On the day Teasley was hanging Frederiksen's work at Young Blood, the artist's unique take on love and pain was generating lines of buyers three-deep -- one from as far away as Australia -- snapping up his paintings and drawings.

And just maybe Frederiksen's brisk sales are a sign of better days to come for Young Blood.



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