Saturday, April 24, 2010

CoPA Show a Smorgasbord of Milwaukee Photography

Those who managed to find its out-of-the-way location on the 4th Floor of the Third Ward’s P.H. Dye Building (and the crush of visitors on gallery night proves that many did) found in the CoPA Show a veritable smorgasbord of photographic delights. For this its 5th annual show, CoPA (The Coalition of Photographic Arts) continues to defy the odds with an unjuried show for its large membership. Subject matter and style vary tremendously, but the show maintains a remarkable level of quality and a large following of admirers.
I, of course, am not a dispassionate observer, being a founding member and former board member of the still young, still evolving organization. I also have work of my own in the show.

I couldn’t possibly comment on all or most of the participants, who, in any case are represented by a mere sample of work, in most cases 3 to 5 pieces. A few with larger prints have only one or two on display, which admittedly begs the question of whether the show tries to be too inclusive and ends up frustrating visitors who want to see more of a particular photographer’s output. I for one think the format is serving its purpose. The gallery night crowd seems to agree. Thanks go to Geri Laehn and Jill Moore, who organized the show and the army of volunteers who helped put it together.

There are quite a few familiar favorites.
Coree Coppinger continues to amaze me with her Fight Club series. The images manage a wonderful balancing of formal abstraction and intense emotion.
William Mueller teases with his incredibly complex constructed metaphoric scenes. I’ve seen some of these before. Here he has presented them with a gold monochrome that enhances a macabre content that teeters on the brink of humor before a close inspection reveals how serious they really are.
Suzanne Garr takes us with her on a trip to Nepal, but leaves out the travelogue to focus on carefully observed moments of human interest.
Despite repeated exposure to the colorful distortions in Cardi Toellner’s studio abstractions, I still don’t know how she does it without resort to Photoshop!
Paul Matzner takes on Milwaukee’s Motif #1, the Calatrava wing of the Milwaukee Art Museum and handles it with a refreshing emphasis on the people who visit.
Bill Zuback creates an ambiguous dialogue between his enigmatic subject and us the viewers, leaving us to do the interpreting.
Mary Dumont manages to marry two seemingly contradictory realities, mounting her beautiful, almost archetypal landscapes on an aluminum surface that gives them an industrial sheen.
I am particularly drawn to Jessica Zalewski’s taut abstractions of ordinary landscapes and I find Nancy Aycock’s colorful and monumental cupcakes luscious enough to drool over.

In the delightful new surprises category:
Angela Morgan’s contribution is the three tiny, moody gems that can be found right at the top of her website.
I could not find Mark Johnson’s three entries on his website. They are all tied together by a tall, thin, mostly black composition. A minimal bit of different ephemeral subjects, an exit sign, the moon over water, a shadowy figure, emerges out of the inky depths.
In Africa Anil Warrier found young children as subjects and presents them as monumental and integrally connected with their colorful land.

There are more, but I must stop now!

I close with Susan Lukas’s delightful re-use of a classic technique, which struck me not only as visually and conceptually stirring but humorous. I like that.

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