A new spirit of collaboration
The awarding of the Mary L. Nohl Fellowships is a big moment on the Milwaukee art calendar. Cash prizes go to established and emerging artists, and Suitcase Export Fund grants enable artists to send their work and/or themselves on the road. And about a year later, all the winners show their newest work in an important group exhibition.
The Nohl Fellowship show for 2009 is on view now through Dec. 12 at UWM’s Inova/Kenilworth Gallery, 2155 N. Prospect Ave.
Jurors Jennie C. Jones, a Brooklyn-based artist; Barbara Wiesen, director and curator of the Gahlberg Gallery at the College of DuPage, Glen Ellyn, Ill.; and Toby Kamps, senior curator at the Contemporary Arts Museum in Houston, came to Milwaukee and visited all the artists who applied for the award program. Their choices: Peter Barrickman and Harvey Opgennorth in the established artist category, and Kim Miller and John Riepenhoff in emerging category.
This year’s Nohl show differs from past cycles in a couple of ways. The number of awards for individual artists dropped from the usual seven to four, due to the economy’s effect on the trust fund. Perhaps more notable is the collaborative approach these four artists brought to their fellowship year. They worked together on a number of pieces in a variety of media. And in the exhibition, works are mingled rather than grouped by artist. Taken together, they show the witty, sophisticated side of Milwaukee art.
Stories, especially in dance and drama, figure in Miller’s multimedia work. A taste for humor and satire plays out in Liza’s Fosse Hands, with soft, sculptural, cartoon-like hands mounted like angel wings over a video screen. On screen, disembodied jazz hands flutter in energized performance. Miller also makes tiny replicas of film and theatre sets, including The Death of Tarelkin, a play by Russian author Alexander Sukhovo-Kobylin, a cardboard and balsa model from the Nicholas Brothers’ fantastic dance sequence in Stormy Weather, and a rolling landscape in miniature, replete with small pink skid marks flying off the side in reference to Thelma & Louise. So much drama, so earnestly small.
Barrickman’s large-scale paintings create a surreal drama of their own. Surprises pop from collaged layers that suggest places or narratives, but with ultimate situations unknown. His grisaille paintings are melancholy and beautiful in their modulation of light and shadow. Works such as Boss of History, with mysterious images reminiscent of classical motifs, bring to mind souvenirs of Giorgio de Chirico taking residence in your own attic.
Riepenhoff, artist, collaborator, and curator of The Green Gallery, contributes a variety of installations as well as paintings. Large, subtly expressionistic canvases have backgrounds toned like bruises or stormy skies, in low-key swirls of gray and purple, topped with bright punctuations of wind-blown color. Riepenhoff’s three-dimensional pieces include Art Stand with Lines, in which a papier-mâché Riepenhoff stands behind a large canvas, simultaneously as artist, art handler, and prop for art.
The artists will participate in series of free Thursday-night events, which begin at 6:30 p.m.:
Nov. 4: Open Casting Call for Audience (Kim Miller)
Nov. 11: Other People’s Vacations (Harvey Opgenorth)
Nov. 18: Interview with Artist (or Something Musical) (John Riepenhoff)
Dec. 9: New Informal Salmagundi (Peter Barrickman)
A collaborative work in the Nohl Fellowship Exhibition: John Riepenhoff with Kim Miller (foam), Peter Barrickman (drawing), Harvey Opgenorth (reflective tape). Courtesy of Inova/Kenilworth.