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Review: New works at the Front 

D. Eric Bookhardt on three new shows on St. Claude Avenue

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It is often said that no one really knows what to expect from the St. Claude Arts District galleries. Traditional art galleries typically work within the constraints that affect other small businesses, but St. Claude's co-op spaces seem more likely to reflect the whimsies of the artists who own and operate them. Volunteer labor and lower rents allow for diverse and experimental programming, which gets multiplied by four at The Front, where a quartet of separate but connected rooms ups the odds for encountering the unexpected. Two Japanese artists currently command the first room. Yukako Ezoe grew up in America and Japan, and her mixed-media concoctions, influenced by comic art and Hispanic murals, sometimes suggest the sacred ritual objects of a tribe of Latino punk Voodooists. Naoki Onodera blends comic art influences into flat, slinky figures painted as if navigating a geometric universe, and the artists' unique visual quirks are collaboratively blended into their inexplicably coherent Bahama Kangaroo series. More Asian connections appear in the next room, where an ongoing virtual video collaboration between the Front's member artists and the Tokyo Art Lab is under way.

  In the third room, a show called Thirds features work by Lindsay Preston Zappas, whose flat yet deliriously discombobulated color marker on paper works suggest what out of body experiences at a zoo might be like. Jamie Solock's stop sign-shaped graphic sculptures also are deviously challenging for their intimation of nihilist mind-control experiments, and recent transplant Hunter Thompson's neo-Fauve oil paintings hint at the curious shifts in perspective that ensue when a digital artist goes retro. Meanwhile, in room four, Ryn Wilson's eerie color photos recall 1970s experimental cinema forays into femme-centric film noir in works like Kiss of Death (pictured). Spanning odd corners of time and space, The Front's current offerings are united mainly by their diversity and unpredictability.

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