Located at the northeastern corner of Minneapolis sits a four-story red brick building. In its design, you can see the now useless remnants of its first owner. A seed tower. Cavernous bulk storage. Built in 1917 at the crossing of the Great Northern and Northern Pacific railroads, the building was to act as a distribution hub for the Northrup-King Seed Company. The seed company has long since abandoned the space and now the Northrup King Building is home to over 200 art studios, galleries, and non-profit organizations.
The art collective known as THE VACVVM calls the Northrup King Building, and more importantly Minneapolis itself, their home. The Vacvvm has a roster of eleven artists, each member pinned to a different part of the globe – Randy Ortiz from Canada, Ken Taylor from Australia, João Ruas from Brazil, Vania Zouravliov from Russia, Nico Delort from France, Vanessa Foley from England, and Mike Sutfin, Jes Seamans, Teagan White, Aaron Horkey, and Brandon Holt from all across the United States.
V1, the first group exhibit by The Vacvvm, opened on Friday, September 30th at their Minneapolis studio and a day later, was gone. V1 existed as a single moment shared with those who knew, those that knew where to look, and what to look for, from The Vacvvm, something that creative director and co-founder Mitch Putnam sees as vital to the group’s existence, “We try to keep some of the experience held back for those that were there. When I was younger, going to small shows and raves, I was really fascinated by how shadowy everything was. You didn’t know what you were getting into until you showed up. Those shows existed for one night, and if you weren’t there, you couldn’t see the entire thing on someone’s social media. Why leave your house if you can see the entire thing online? That’s our weird philosophy, anyway.”
For their part, Putnam and The Vacvvm member and co-creator Aaron Horkey put almost a year of work getting the show together, an act of joy for Horkey, “It is a lot of work for a one night event but I like that aspect of it – to put so much collective time and effort into something that is only a cohesive thing for a few hours is really satisfying.” Horkey handled the tasks of laying out and hanging each piece in the show, setting the pace for the viewer and forming their experience. With no narrative or theme connecting the work, Horkey followed his gut in V1’s layout, “going into it the only real framework I had in mind was to hang each member’s work together to give each artist their own micro showcase within the context of the exhibition. Luckily everyone turned in such stellar pieces there were no issues as far as who was going to hang well on any particular wall or whose body of work was going to segue seamlessly into someone else’s. In the end I mostly just tried to break up the more colorful work with the monochromatic pieces and present a back and forth between drawings and paintings as much as possible. Also, as with everything involving a large group of creative folks the timeline for deliveries dictated how it all came together as the international pieces were the first to land in the gallery whereas the local members (myself included) pushed it up until the last minute.”
For those willing to make the journey to Minneapolis, V1 offered a bevy of incredible original works as well as limited edition prints, like Mike Sutfin’s Embers Vol. 1, a collection of eight 6″ x 9″ prints. The set offers collectors a series of Sutfin’s gorgeous paintings contained in a custom, die-cut, screenprinted box. The combination of original and print work is something Putnam has refined over his years as creative director for print publisher Mondo and creator of the influential site OMG Posters. “Almost all of the artists in The Vacvvm also come from a print background, so it’s kind of natural for us to put together print releases for our shows. In our experience though, the people at the front of the line are mostly there to get the first shot at original art, which is something we are hugely grateful for. But because we only have so much original art to offer, we try to make sure there are also prints available.”
V1, as the name implies is the first of many group efforts from The Vacvvm, but as with all the group does, the when is a mystery.
For further reading on The Vacvvm, read “The Vacvvm: An International “Cult” of Illustrators & Poster Designers” by Chris Jalufka from HOW Magazine.