Kat Murrell

Art from near and far at the Marshall Building

By - Sep 10th, 2010 04:00 am
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London-based, internationally-recognized photographer Vanessa Winship is having her first solo exhibition in the United States.  And it’s in Milwaukee.

From “Dancers and Fighters.” Photos courtesy of the artist and Portrait Society Gallery

The Portrait Society Gallery , located on the 5th floor of the Marshall Building, will feature Winship’s work. In a former life the historic building was a warehouse, but today is a hub for the Milwaukee art scene.  A building-wide open house tonight will showcase the numerous galleries, artists studios, and creative entities that call this address home, with music, refreshments, and plenty to see.

Portrait Society Gallery occupies a few rooms on the fifth floor, with exhibitions frequently spilling over into the adjoining hallway. Winship’s suite of photographs called Dancers and Fighters, which developed out of her work in the Republic of Georgia, is installed in a sparse, airy room.

The photographs of youths seem straightforward, but the nuances of light, tone, and expression reveal their individual poetry. Despite the purposeful similarity in the compositions, each conveys a strong sense of personality and place.

Winship notes the power of connection that come through making portraits:  “I think it is the most direct way photographically to make human contact — the gaze that returns to me.”

The strength of individual presence figures strongly in the work of  J. Shimon & J. Lindemann, whose Real Photo Postcard Survey Project is on view in the larger of the gallery’s rooms.  This project, the culmination of 175 participants visiting the Simon & Lindemann studio in Manitowoc, is a contemporary revival of the early twentieth-century practice of photo postcards that were used as means of correspondence.  The simplicity of each composition, as in Winship’s work, directs our attention to the particularities of each individual.  This exhibition originated as a distinctly Wisconsin-based project, but possibilities are opening for the show to travel to Berlin and China.

Gallery director Debra Brehmer notes how the possibilities of an internationally touring show reflect the Milwaukee art scene.  There is a distinct local flavor and support, but also a growing connection with the art world at large through events of recent years like the 2008 Milwaukee International, in addition to the contemporary exhibitions featured at institutions like Inova.

The Marshall Building’s open house is a way of experiencing a slice of the local art scene, and will also inaugurate the latest incarnation of Luckystar studio.  Over the past decade, Luckystar has occupied various spaces in this building, and after an absence of a few years, is back.

Other highlights to see include Reginald Baylor’s studio on the first floor, just across the foyer from art-scene stalwarts Elaine Erickson Gallery and Grava Gallery.  Gallery 218 continues celebrating multiple decades of their co-op, and The Fine Art Gallery makes for new addition to the collective energies of this creative address.

The Marshall Building (207 E. Buffalo St.) open house is free and open to the public, and takes place tonight from 6-9 p.m.

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