Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Charles Allis: A visual tour of 100 Years

detail from The Master Bedroom by Martha Glowacki
When I first moved to Milwaukee in 1976 I happened to live just a few blocks from the Charles Allis Art Library, as it was called then. I developed a fondness for the quirky tastes of its former owner when I met there regularly with a group of poets. I admired the gems by Inness and Ryder and always knelt before a small glass case to admire the netsukes from Japan.

from permanent collection
Some things have changed in the 30+ years since then. The Library became a museum and, along with nearby Villa Terrace, was acquired by the Milwaukee War Memorial as a satellite. A gallery to exhibit changing contemporary shows was shoehorned into two upstairs rooms. A great room was added that could accommodate larger contemporary works as well as larger parties of patrons.

from permanent collection
 But most of the mansion has remained exactly as I first saw it, the main hall, the sitting room, dining room, library and master bedroom, all kept meticulously inviolate with Mr. Allis’s personal collection intact. Until now.
from permanent collection
 In honor of its 100 year anniversary, for the first time artists were asked to create installations that intrude – and reflect – on the staid integrity of the permanent collections. I found it a refreshing and welcome departure and I enjoyed the diversity of responses.

The Library with Gary Gresl installation
 Gary Gresl's transformation of the library was characteristically outrageous and constituted the most extreme intervention. A collaboration by Alexander Boyes and Martha Glowacki in the master bedroom was much subtler, moodily evoking the spirits of the deceased former inhabitants. 

The Dining Room with Ashley Morgan installation
(you have to listen to this one!)
 Here then is a visual tour, just a few things I noticed (and was able to capture in the mostly dimly illuminated rooms.) I wasn't able to capture Reginald Baylor's multiple video installations in the Sitting Room. Of course, you should go see them all yourself. These are mere snapshots.

the changing exhibits gallery with fireplace
The Marble Hall with Carol Emmons installation 
the house is showing its age
The Master Bedroom with Glowacki installation 
The Master Bedroom bath with Boyes installation
(you have to see this one move!)
You have plenty of time to plan a leisurely visit - or multiple visits: according to the Charles Allis Art Museum website this lasts through November 13.

1 comment:

  1. Some years ago -- seems like 100 -- I was alone in the Charles Allis in a conference room with a tiled floor and an enormous table (looks like it's still there). An incredible object in the middle of the table lured me to reach out and touch it. Its fancy silver lid popped off and rolled and clattered to the floor! No one came, so I nonchalantly replaced the lid and left. It was undamaged..thank god! The object was an actual elephant's foot made into a humidor!