Art and commercial communication are often cast as opposites, but the relationship is, of course, more symbiotic. In a culture where consumerism is our unofficial religion, marketing is as much the subject and aesthetic of contemporary art as its antithesis, a dialogue visible in the work of w:st="on">Minnesota artists on both sides of the divide.
Artists have long challenged the power of marketing by co-opting its style and class=GramE>vocabulary, with results ranging from sinister to hilarious (see Mark Hayden's tortured attempt at truth in advertising and href="http://www.mnartists.org/artistHome.do?rid=102789">Alison class=SpellE>Hiltner's preposterous inventions). Even as they reject consumer culture, some artists embrace the language of marketing with a playfulness bordering on affection href="http://www.mnartists.org/artistHome.do?rid=16280">Karl class=SpellE>Frankowski's You Deserve a Break Today poster celebrates the history of corporate identity while encouraging us to stop shopping.
Other artists find unexpected harmonies in the overlay of art and consumerism. Rico Vallejo's image of a grocery aisle and Justin White's Wal-Mart sketch have a loving quality, asserting themselves not in opposition to commerce, but around and within it.
Marketing culture is easy to criticize, but impossible to escape, a reality that influences commercial creatives and fine artists alike. One current of Minnesota's graphic design tradition is a homey, vernacular style epitomized by letterpress printing, hand-drawn typography and cheap materials. In its personal, modest feel, this work shows nostalgia for a world not ruled by slick corporate monoculture—a place that's increasingly hard to imagine, even for artists.
style='font-size:9.0pt;font-family:"Trebuchet MS"'>—Jake Nassifstyle='font-size:9.0pt;font-family:"Trebuchet MS"'> is a freelance copywriter living in Minneapolis and editor of Mindgum, a design and marketing weblog. When he's not doing his bit for consumer culture, his recent projects include an installation at href="http://www.artshantyprojects.org/">Art Shanty Projects on w:st="on">Medicine w:st="on">Lake and href="http://www.totalrockmania.com/">Rock Mania, a Minnesota-based power pop fanzine launching in June.