Review: Dinderbeck’s Time Capsule

I first met the Dinderbeck kids at a rather lackluster Division Avenue Arts Festival. Amidst the clutter of jankety jewelry and muddy canvases, their smart hand-printed show cards were a ray of light. Since then, this band of printmakers has struck me as an of-the-moment bunch who didn’t quite realize their capabilities. Or, if they did, they weren’t ones to brag about it. Maybe it’s a printmaking thing in which fist pumps are saved for the mighty press and fierce multiples.

Dinderbeck consistently organizes experimental and inventive shows unlike any arts space in Grand Rapids. Last Saturday was no exception as they hosted a one-night exhibit, “Time Capsule” in which they transformed their collective studio space into a 360° collaborative mural. The event was a last-hurrah grand gesture before the space is dry-walled and converted into a multi-process and, cross your fingers, community printshop. The load of printmaking equipment that this group of recent grads has accumulated is so impressive that it threatens to crash through the wood floors of its current space. Hence, the need to reconfigure the space.

So, for one night, practical demands gave way to fanciful reimagining. In part, the night’s magic was due to its ephemeralness. I sympathize with the Art.Downtown goers who begged for a longer event, but Time Capsule was a reminder of the unique experience and perspective that a tragically short lifespan affords. The show offered attendees a privileged visitation akin to that reserved for close friends and family witnessing the last breath of a loved one. In the case of Time Capsule, that last breath was a potent one full of the promise of what is to come. And with it, the urgency to take it all in.

In my limited exposure to previous shows at Dinderbeck, it seemed as though fits and starts were given equal weight as more thoughtful, considered works. Restrained and polished graphic works could be seen alongside torn scraps of paper with juvenile doodles and smudgy prints tacked up in nooks and crannies. The effect made you feel as if you were trespassing in the artist studios, which made for a cool vibe but perhaps amateur, if not confusing presentation. The space has held a tension between grown-up determination and a youthful refusal to be taken too seriously—perhaps a reflection of where these young artists find themselves on their own career paths.

Time Capsule seemed to capitalize on the strengths of this polarity. Cohesive and ambitious in scale, the show felt like a real milestone for the group. The simple fact that they left no wall space untreated testified to the wholeheartedness of their efforts. A layered mash-up of processes and mediums ranging from wheat-pasted silk-screen and relief prints, hand-painted contour drawings, folded and crumpled paper reliefs, and various found objects yielded a dense visual field with countless points of interest. In its use of high contrast vibrant hues, varied scale, and figurative imagery pair with graphic patterns, the floor to ceiling mural evoked a style similar to The Screwed Rapids Collective’s mural shown at the UICA during last year’s ArtPrize. Recognizable subject matter ranged from animals, quippy text, appropriated figures including a Banksy-esque stenciled boy-soldier and what appeared to be a turban-wearing policeman on a Segway. When I asked Ali Horn, one of the collaborators where these figures came from, she laughed and said, “Oh you know, we’d all be working and talking and someone would have an idea, and we’d say, ‘Throw it in there.’”

 This intuitive approach may make it difficult to pin down thematic connections, but visually, the piece resounds as a true collaboration in which the sum is greater than the parts. While no one component dominated the work, certain aspects of the work packed more punch than others. The groups’ strength clearly lies in two-dimensional work, so more sculptural elements like the paper wads clustered in the shape of a tree and the incorporated found objects of an electrical plug and a telephone pole felt timid and safe compared to the imagery. Erwin Erkfitz’s cut-out drywall drawings that punctuated the space were an exception as they bridged the representational and the real. The street presence of their chunky, angular forms resembling graffiti tags or skateboard lettering was further reinforced by the small piles of residual drywall left from carving. This tangible reference to built environments made me long to see this stuff in a more public site. Yep, that’s a dare, Dinderbeck. Give little Ford some big kid playmates.

Maybe it’s perfect timing to borrow other walls, as Dinderbeck members remarked that they’ll be taking a hiatus from hosting shows while they work to build out their space. My hope is that this next phase indicates the group’s staying power in our city’s art-scene—and that their clean, new walls don’t deter them from approaching the space with the energy and abandonment that was Time Capsule.

Artists in the show include:  Allison Horn, Anthony Mead, Brandon Alman, Cory VanderZwaag, Kyle Isbell, Trevor Rowley, Steven Rainey, Mariel Versluis, Erwin Erkfitz, Sarah Parr, Korin Hollinshead, and Case Michielsen. 

by Tori Pelz

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