Art and practicality have had a strange affair over the years. Andy Warhol said that an artist is somebody who produces something that people don’t need to have. While, technically, people don’t need to have painted walls, they have them because they’re pretty. Recent University of Minnesota graduate and talented artistic mind Broc Blegen seeks to make them even prettier.
Blegen, whose work you might have seen in the form of a giant inflatable George W. Bush statue outside of Northrop Auditorium this spring, started an art/business amalgam, Hopsack Painting Co., in which he and his crew come into your homes and turn your walls into a gallery, essentially.
Blegen contacted Valspar, the Minneapolis-based paint manufacturer, and asked them for their top five best-selling wall paint colors. They gave him a list of 100, and at the top was hopsack, in all its lackluster splendor.
“I looked at the color and I was like, ‘I can’t believe this is number one because it sucks,’” Blegen said. “It’s a really boring color, but growing up in the suburbs I would see it all the time.”
Rather than hiring on hands that can sufficiently move their arms up and down, Blegen has employed some of the most creative local artists to fulfill his vision. He searched for artists who were obsessive with materials and abstract compositions,and came up with Kate Shannon, a BFA grad from the University of Minnesota, Luke Aleckson, an art professor at Northwestern College in St. Paul, Luke Grothe, a Northwestern alum, Matthew Curtis Allen and Brendan Dawson of Minneapolis College of Art and Design, and more.
Blegen and the hopsack brigade work under a set of loose rules. They use the same tools and materials as painting companies, but everyone is free to use them in any way their creative hearts desire.
“It’s always good to have rules, or something to push against,” Aleckson said. “It’s great to have a box that you are sort of stuck in and have to break yourself out of.”
The hopsackians made their debut to Minneapolis at last weekend’s Home Building and Remodeling Expo at the Minneapolis Convention Center, an event fraught with posh interior decorators, straight-shooter carpenters and chipper salesmen. Blegen’s display was set up like an art exhibit, with the artists working on the walls in front of you. Reactions from the decidedly older passersby ranged from, “Oh, how neat!” to “I just don’t get that.” But for Blegen and his comrades, that’s the piece.
“There’s a nice question in this of, ‘What do artists do? How do they function inside of normal society?’” Aleckson said. “That there’s some use to us, that we’re not being used in the way that we could be.”
As an artistic statement, Blegen’s vision is salient and unique, commenting on mundanity while avoiding it. As a business model, the success still remains to be seen. Most of the artistic ilk that will enjoy these abstract walls are not exactly the home-owning type. But financial success is only a part of the artistic whole.
“I’m interested in how artists are able to incorporate businesses into their practice, so that it gets out of the gallery and into real life,” Blegen said.
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