Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Sources of inspiration: MARN mentors and National Parks

Extraverts draw energy from social interactions and introverts find themselves sapped by the same situations. Instead they are nurtured by solitary pursuits. Likewise some artists find inspiration from and amongst other people while others head as far out of town as possible and immerse themselves in nature. Two divergent exhibitions currently on display in Milwaukee illustrate these tendencies.

From long experience I know that I will be unable to visit half the venues on my “must see” list for gallery night and day, which is coming up this weekend. Therefore, I took the opportunity to visit these two shows, which are a bit off the beaten track, ahead of the weekend.

Sculptures by Ann Baer
Vanguard Sculpture Services, a foundry and gallery on the north side, is hosting the annual exhibit of work done during the past year by MARN mentors and their protégées. Sponsored by MARN (Milwaukee Artist Resource Network), the program pairs artists with similar interests or disciplines who then commit to meeting together for a year. Their relationship is intended to be a mutual exchange or dialogue, each drawing inspiration from the experience of working with the other.

Yelling Man, Rhonda Gatlin-Hayes
The drawback of visiting this show outside of official opening or gallery night events was the absence of the musicians and the “platforming” (which I must confess is a new category for me; can’t say what it actually is.) However, the visual arts on display are quite diverse, including painting, printmaking, sculpture, mixed media, and video.

One that struck me in particular was a series of projected images entitled “The Sequence Collection” by Jason Altobelli. Each projected image in the series is composed of several still photographs collaged together. The relationships amongst these disparate images were often enigmatic and I found the impulse to create associations intriguing. There was no way to capture this piece in one still image.

Hidden Face, Kyle Jeske
It is a testament perhaps to the power of the mentor/protégée relationships that I found it hard to distinguish the work of the protégées from that of the mentors. Something is working here!

 The other exhibit is at the Schlueter Art Gallery, on the Wauwatosa campus of Wisconsin Lutheran College. It couldn’t be much more of a contrast with the MARN show. The six artists in the show have all taken advantage of the opportunity to retreat into the remote wilds of nature through a U. S. National Park Artist in Residency. The show was curated by Kristin Gjerdset, a Wisconsin Lutheran faculty member who herself has participated in multiple National and State Park residencies.

Great Basin Triptych, Kristin Gjerdset
U. S. National Parks Artist in Residency programs are offered in over 29 parks, monuments and wildlife refuges. They generally provide participating artists with minimal accommodations and maximum access to nature and the unique features of each park. In return the artists are expected to provide some kind of public program for park visitors and to donate a work of art that was inspired by their residency.

Mosquito, Joyce Kostenmaki
The work of the six artists in this show is remarkably consistent both in content and quality. Inspired by their surroundings, traditional nature studies and landscapes prevail, as might be expected. The parks represented range from Great Basin in Nevada and Rocky Mountain in Colorado to Isle Royale, MI, in Lake Superior.

It was eye opening to see how many of these artists have been granted residencies year after year. At least two of their number have done no fewer than a dozen stints in one or more parks. This was of particular interest to me personally, not only because I myself often find inspiration in the natural world, but also because I have applied to be an artist in residence to at least five different National Parks.

Spring Melt, Diane Bywaters
“Summer Arts: Inspired by the National Parks” runs through August 2 at the Schlueter Art Gallery, 8815 W. Wisconsin Avenue, Wauwatosa. For more info, see Wisconsin Lutheran College.

The “MARN Mentor/Protégée Exhibit” runs through July 30 at Vanguard Sculpture Services, 3374 W. Hopkins St., Milwaukee. For more info, go to the Vanguard website or MARNmentors.

Ps., if you go to Vanguard and find the front door locked, as I did, don’t be stymied. Go around to the left side loading dock. They have a buzzer there—and they will let you in.

Full disclosure: I have been a MARN mentor in the past—but I have not (yet!) been accepted as an artist in residence at a National Park.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Art abounds in Chicago (as it so often does!)

On Friday I was in Chicago for the opening of The Chicago Project V show at the Catherine Edelman Gallery (which I am in--if you haven't read my earlier post, click here.) Before the opening I had the afternoon free and did a whirlwind tour of the Art Institute, the Cultural Center, and the Museum of Contemporary Art. All three have shows worth seeing.

The Art Institute of Chicago has a new twist on Impressionism. The show is titled "Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity." The Impressionism part of the show is mostly portraits of women in fashionable and fancy dresses. The twist is the display of actual period dresses, the "Fashion" part of the show. These often are identical to the ones in the paintings hanging next to them. Clever. If you're in the museum anyway, it's worth visiting.

However, the Abelardo Morell show, also at the AIC, is worth the trip from Milwaukee. This sprawling retrospective of a photographer who should be more well known (and may become so) is too large for the basement photography galleries alone. Part of it is in the new wing of the museum.

Morell's claim to some fame is his imaginative and distinctive use of the ancient principle behind the camera obscura, like the one above. These are well represented in the smaller portion of the exhibit in the new wing. I'd seen some before and it was nice to revisit them.

What I especially liked was seeing his older work, which was new to me, like this illustration for Alice in Wonderland. These fill all three of the basement galleries.

If you go, make sure to go up to the rooftop patio of the new wing. There you'll find five of Tomoaki Suzuki’s tiny bronze people and also, most likely, lots of life-size people posing with them. Watching the interaction with the sculptures was fun.

Taking up all three of the ground floor galleries at the Chicago Cultural Center is another sprawling exhibit called "SpontaneousInterventions: design actions for the common good." You could spend days in this exhibit and not exhaust what it has to offer. It provides serious civic lessons for "the common good," as well as sufficient interactive and visual stimulation for audiences of all ages.

Read more about "SpontaneousInterventions" on the Cultural Center website and at SpontaneousInterventions.org. (Each of the drop down panels with specific interventions is accessible on the latter website.)

Upstairs in the second floor galleries is another interesting show called "Modernism’s Messengers: The Art of Alfonso and Margaret Iannelli – 1910 to 1965." It is a surprisingly diverse collection of early twentieth century commercial, graphic, industrial, and architectural designs.

Finally, there are several shows at the Museum of Conemporary Art. The one I was most interested in seeing is called "Think First, Shoot Later: Photography from the MCA Collection." As the title suggests, the show is about conceptual photogaphy. It seemed to me that "conceptual photography" was rather generously defined. The usual suspects are included and if you've kept up with MCA photography exhibits, there will be few surprises: Jeff Wall, Cindy Sherman, Andreas Gursky and many others.

In another part of the museum I came across this unfamiliar piece of digital photography by two artists whose names I didn't recognize: Jan Smaga and Aneta Grzewzykowska. Nice.

Fans of Theaster Gates, who had an exhibit at the Milwaukee Art Museum a few years ago (?), will want to see his "13th Ballad," which is installed on the top floor of the MCA.

Check the links for exhibit dates and other information.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Lynden Sculpture Garden is a Feast in more ways than one

Linda Wervey Vitamvas installed this piece (above), entitled Indigenous Transience, at the Lynden Sculpture Garden three years ago in the summer of 2010. It was the first of a series of invitational collaborations called Inside/Outside sponsored by the Lynden. Although the installations were intended to be temporary and most were indeed ephemeral, this one has lasted all these years. Until now, that is. Vitamvas was present yesterday to decommission the work in advance of its disassembly.

However, you can see more of her experimental ceramic work at the Lynden. Vitamvas has been invited to engage in an on-going dialogue with the landscape and the gardens as an artist in residence of sorts. Her latest offering is called Feast. (Below) Read all about it on the Lynden website.

A different kind of feast awaits those who venture into the dining room of the Bradley family's former house, which now serves as the gallery. Emilie Clark's Sweet Corruptions is laid out on the formal table, as if the family were preparing to dine. No one will wish to partake of this particular feast, however. It is comprised of food waste elaborately collected and preserved, literally, over the course of a year. You can read a far better account of that, as well as Clark's other art works at Art City.

While I was there I also revisited one of the other remaining pieces from the Inside/Outside installations. Amy Cropper and Stuart Morris collaborated on Inverse, for which they painted rocks and the trunks of trees in bright, unnatural colors. In a fittingly ironic twist this particular tree has resprouted vigorously despite the remnants of the paint on it. A fine turn of the screw, if you ask me!

Full disclosure: I had the privilege to be among the artists who participated in Inside/Outside, in Oct. 2011.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Catherine Edelman Gallery exhibits The Chicago Project

I am happy to announce that two of my pieces will be exhibited in a group show at The Catherine Edelman Gallery in Chicago.

The Chicago Project V: Selections from our Online Gallery. 

July 12 - August 31, 2013

Opening reception with the artists: Friday, July 12, 5-8 pm.

I will be there! 

If you can't make it to the opening, I hope you'll stop by sometime during the run to see the show.

Brink, from Synecdoche: The fragment that represents the whole

From the gallery invitation:

2013 marks the ten-year anniversary of The Chicago Project. Started in 2003, The Chicago Project was created as an online only gallery, devoted to unrepresented photographers in the Chicagoland area. In an effort to promote local talent, Catherine Edelman Gallery put out a call for submission to all local photographers to submit work on an ongoing basis. To date, the site has featured more than 80 photographers whose photographs range from traditional black & white landscapes to color narratives. The goal of the online gallery is to expose local artists to our ever-increasing audience, which includes curators and collectors worldwide. 

Grain Elevator, from Synecdoche: The fragment that represents the whole

Click here for additional show images.