The Weisman Art Museum was just deciding to devote a multi-gallery exhibit to Prince when, suddenly, the Minnesota music legend was no more. The icon’s death lends a poignant note to Prince from Minneapolis, a show that officially opens tomorrow. Tonight, a preview party will feature tunes from DJ Shannon Blowtorch and visits with artists including Rock Martinez.
Martinez has created a massive new six-panel painting for the exhibit: an image of Prince wailing on one of his signature Cloud guitars, with a giant Love Symbol set against a wavy psychedelic background. You’ve probably seen Martinez’s work even if you don’t realize it: he’s a prominent muralist who painted the beloved image of Prince on the back wall of Sencha Tea in Uptown.
The painting, named I Would Die 4 U, will be on display in the Target Studio, along with items including a purple Prince bicycle commissioned by Anna Schwinn (yes, from the Schwinn family) from bike designer Erik Noran. Many visitors to that gallery will also recognize images from the “Le Petit Prince” series created by Troy Gua, with miniature Prince figures posed for carefully art-directed shoots that evoke moments and places (including not-Lake-Minnetonka) from throughout Prince’s career.
A 1987 Prince portrait by legendary seed artist Lillian Colton is part of the mix, as is a collage by Burhan Dogançay. Maybe the most fascinating pieces in that gallery, though, are two glass figures created by Mexican-American brothers Einar and Jamex De La Torre. One depicts Prince as a Dia de los Muertes figure, and the other is an antlered animal totem conceived in Prince’s honor.
“They were doing a demo at Foci,” explains curator Diane Mullin, “and they were like, ‘We’re going to do a Day of the Dead figure.’ It was literally a couple of days after Prince died, so they were like, ‘We should just do some Prince spirit figures.’ I actually watched some of this, and I asked, ‘Can we have those for the show?'”
Across the museum, the Edith Carlson Gallery contains work by four photographers who documented Prince at crucial points in his career. One wall features images from Robert Whitman’s famous shoot in downtown Minneapolis, including the photo of a young Prince in front of the Schmitt Music wall, perhaps the best-known music photo ever taken in Minnesota. The facing wall contains Purple Rain tour photography by Nancy Bundt, while Terry Gydesen and Allen Beaulieu capture Prince in his mid-career glory at locations around the world.
It’s all a lead-up to a major academic symposium, also called Prince from Minneapolis, taking place at the university April 16-18. The symposium will conclude just as Paisley Park’s second annual Celebration is kicking off in Chanhassen. The Weisman show will remain on display through June 17, and a book highlighting the work will be published later.
“The whole project is interested in, what does it tell us about Prince through the lens of Minneapolis,” says Mullin, “but it’s almost more, what does it tell us about Minneapolis?”