Kristie Bretzke exhibits at XYandZ Gallery
By Sheila Regan Thu., May 17 2012 at 7:59 AM
There's something that can be said about technique. Pure and simple Kristie Bretzke, whose work is now on exhibition in "Eye of the Beholder" at XYandZ Gallery, has got technique in spades. Her paintings are exquisitely crafted, from her use of light, to her attention to detail, to her ability to draw out the personality of her subjects. She's wonderfully talented.
But in a way it seems passé these days to simply present realistic portraits. Or rather, not even passé. Her style doesn't belong just a few years back, but hundreds of years back. Her through line draws not from a contemporary oeuvre, but rather a classic one. She's the artistic product of the great masters traditions.
Which begs the question: Is that so terrible? In a way, it's a relief to view art that isn't trying to break boundaries, mix genres, or reinvent contemporary art. Bretzke seems to reject the notion that new is always better. Instead, her work is specific, focused, and personal. She evokes emotion and relationship in each of her portraits, as well as in her "poolscape" paintings that draw on memory and feelings.
Viewing her paintings forces on to question exactly what all the fuss is about in constantly seeking new forms. After all, has contemporary art really progressed in the last 50 years? There's something refreshing about an artist who follows her own path, even if it isn't as sexy or popular as the current trends.
At the same time, perhaps Bretzke's work is in its own way contemporary. The artist takes on subjects such as a homeless youth; soldiers from India; her mother, who battled cancer, seen in the portrait bald and looking pensive; and other people that are either in her daily life or whom she has encountered. Her portraits do have a viewpoint, and engage with the viewer on a number of levels. She stirs up compassion for her subjects, shows their strength, and questions the world through their eyes.
Her expertise in using light can be seen in her portrait work, but even more so in her poolside paintings, which depict large public swimming pools at night. In one piece, the lit windows from a neighboring building and a street light pour their reflection in the water. Here, the water isn't just water, but a medium for memory and reflection.
Art spotlight: 'Eye of the Beholder'
May 10, 2012, By Jahna Peloquin
For its latest exhibition, XYandZ Gallery departs from the highly conceptual, digitally based exhibits it typically favors for a collection of realistic paintings that exemplify technique over conceit. "Eye of the Beholder" features the work of award-winning Minneapolis painter Kristie Bretzke, a longtime member of the Traffic Zone artist co-op who holds a BFA from the University of Minnesota. Her portraits and "poolscapes" -- a collection of moonlit renderings of empty concrete swimming pools -- are serene, hauntingly beautiful depictions of loneliness, detachment, loss, triumph and family. Bretzke's work seems strikingly straightforward and classical for the contemporary gallery, but her slightly voyeuristic perspective lends a modern edge.
Art: A sign of the times
by Mary Abbe, The Star Tribune
Anyone driving in the Twin Cities has seen them standing by the freeway ramps, clutching their hand-lettered cardboard signs. Men mostly, but a few women, too, stand for long hours, hunched now against the bitter winds. Emotionless and stoic, they offer their lined faces and battered lives to the casual scrutiny of strangers in warm cars.
"HOMELESS please help if U can. Thank U -n- God bless."
"STRANDED homeless ... "
The messages are simple, direct, familiar and easy to ignore. Just hang up your conscience, toss out some coins and drive on.
Now, Minneapolis artist -- portrait painter Kristie Bretzke, has broken that defensive habit and put her time and talent to work for the benefit of Minnesota's homeless.
Bretzke became interested in the homeless after moving from south Minneapolis to an apartment near Loring Park about 18 months ago. Homeless people, who often sleep under the nearby freeway overpasses, would make their signs on cardboard from her apartment's recycling bins. Intrigued, she overcame her own nervousness, introduced herself to one of the men and asked to take his photo for a portrait.
Buoyed by his enthusiasm and friendliness, she became comfortable asking others to pose and soon had a studio full of street-people portraits. Then, with the assistance of Premier Gallery and Lutheran Social Service staff, she met what she calls the "hidden, or invisible homeless." These are the families, children and teens who hold jobs and go to school, but still have no place to live. They, too, became her subjects.
Bretzke's show includes 27 paintings of homeless individuals whose faces mirror contemporary America: beautiful and plain, worried and dreamy, old and young, men and women, white and black and other races. She depicts them with a sympathetic dignity and care that reinforces the recognition that theirs are the faces we all see in the mirror each morning.