Slower Than a New York Minute
Artists Tony Brown and Gregory Klassen slow down the viewing process in two very different ways.
Good art can take its own sweet time.
Take Structure and Flow: Everyday Life, featuring work by Tony Brown and Gregory Klassen at Walker’s Point Center for the Arts. It’s not the sort an exhibition where a quick look around reveals everything in a hot minute. These artists ask for more time and attention, a longer gaze rather than a fast glance.
L.A.-based Brown’s Inlay series is like that really quiet friend whom you can’t quite figure out at first, but who gradually reveals a dry and witty sense of humor. These are tiny images that obviously come from newspapers. There are delicate seams along the surfaces, but you might think that’s just the nature of flimsy newspaper. No, those seams are the way into the work. Brown takes cut-and-paste back to analog form, reconfiguring pictures into things that never have been, but retain the patina of truth that comes from printed news. Surrealism becomes real in his delicate, diminutive images: pieces of twisted metal might suggest a car wreck or coral reef and another image might be a tranquil sunset over a burned out city. Not all is gloom and doom. Some pieces have sparse minimalist arrangements, or very convincing representations of weathered wood.
His Object series is transformation of another sort as Brown repositions and repurposes carved wood and furniture bits as relief sculptures in a buoyant wave over three white gallery walls. The matte black surfaces of the objects emphasize their sensual curves. It’s natural to anthropomorphize, to read many pieces as figurative, things like legs or lips or other body parts scattered about. (After all, we reference chairs after ourselves, calling their parts arms and legs and backs.) Singular bright slashes of paint enliven the surfaces of the individual pieces but it’s hard to say if those gestures are merely visual punctuation or hold a deeper metaphor. Not all art gives up its meaning easily.
Structure and Flow: Everyday Life continues through May 31 at Walker’s Point Center for the Arts (839 S. 5th Street).
Two other shows of note:
A New Life: Portraits of Refugee Families in Milwaukee at the Alfons Gallery displays photographs by John Ruebartsch in collaboration with visual artist Sally Kuzma. The exhibition creates a visual documentary about people who have left their native lands, often under threatening circumstances, and how they are building new lives and communities here. The photographs reveal the ways in which culture is maintained through custom and clothing, even as it blends within the larger American and Midwestern cultural landscape.
Through June 22, Alfons Gallery (St. Joseph Center, 1501 S. Layton Boulevard, 2nd Floor).
The New Still Life at Tory Folliard Gallery presents nine artists whose representations of everyday objects explore all manner of ways in which things like a vase on a table or bunch of fruit can delight and surprise, as in the naturalistic paintings of John Sayers and Jeffrey Ripple. Clare Malloy’s still lifes of singular luxury goods poke at notions of desire and status, while in the tradition of vanitas painting, glass sculptor Beth Lipman makes ordinary things that also stand as symbolic references to the fleeting nature of time and mortality. This exhibition shows that still life is indeed still potent.
Through May 24 at Tory Folliard Gallery (233 N. Milwaukee Street).
FRIDAY, MAY 16
3rd Friday Open House
The Marshall Building
207 E. Buffalo Street
Seven floors of galleries, artists’ spaces, and studios will be open late for your aesthetic enjoyment.
1950b S. Hilbert Street
Curated by Shane McAdams, this exhibition presents work by artists based in Milwaukee and New York.
SATURDAY, MAY 17
5th Annual Great Rummage Sale
722 E. Burleigh Street
Art, artifacts, kitsch, collectables, treasures and trinkets can all be yours at this annual event.
LAST CHANCE TO CATCH:
Jazz Gallery: Raise Your Voice, through May 17.
Haggerty Museum of Art: Brian Ulrich: Copia-Retail, Thrift and Dark Stores 2001-2011, through May 18.
Haggerty Museum of Art: Between Critique and Absorption: Contemporary Art and Consumer Culture, through May 18.
Haggerty Museum of Art: Aesthetic Afterlife: An Exhibition by the Chipstone Foundation, through May 18.
Read the review: All the Stuff of Life
Harley-Davidson Museum: Living Lost: Photographs by Josh Kurplus, through May 18.
Read the review: Easy Rider
Inova: Lisa Selby: Must Come Down, through May 18.
Inova: Benjamin DeMott: Teeter Jam, through May 18.
Read the review: I Owe You Nothing, Darling