Judith Ann Moriarty
Mind Shattering

“Agristocracy” at RAM

By - Feb 19th, 2011 04:00 am
Sign-up for the Urban Milwaukee daily email

Matt Eskuche: Agristocracy, 2010. Photography by Mark Wilson.

At this writing, Racine has emerged from the recent Big Blizzard — you know, the one that dumped tons of frozen fluff, shattering records and optimism. A recent thaw-down, courtesy of winds from the south, took care of quite a bit of what was left. On 441 Main Street, where the Racine Art Museum (RAM) shines like a beacon of hope, you can view Matt Eskuche: Agristocracy in the south facing expansive windows, otherwise known as the Fifth Gallery.

Whether inside the building, or outside peering in, you’ll get an eye-full. The day I visited, a huge pile of trash near the fountain-centered square across the way was being shoved into a messy heap. I watched the pile grow as I sat in a sub shop drinking bad coffee from a big paper cup.

Trash heap in Racine’s Monument Square. Photo by Thomas Kovacich.

In a strange way, the messy heap of pallets served as a coincidental introduction to the Fifth Gallery window tableaux of Matt Eskuche, an impressive array of his ‘trash glass’ marching from west to east. An exploration into the role of consumer waste, it lures us into considering luxurious packaging, our consumption of stuff inside the packaging, and how that relates to our demand for luxury at any cost. The “cost” goes far beyond what’s in our wallets.

You’d swear that the trash is merely an artful arrangement of plastic containers, but hold that thought. What appears to be trash is actually handmade glass combined with Italian glass-working tradition, then assembled to suggest that we only marginally consider the ecological consequences of our actions.

Photo by Thomas Kovacich

The objects, white as bleached bone, echoed cast-offs from a huge orgy, leftovers from a grand Masked Ball (perhaps in Venice?), where revelers grabbed, consumed and then tossed hither and yon what they no longer desired. Viewed from RAM’s first floor interior, the play of light through the windows both illuminates the installation, and then creates a ripple of theatrical shadows.

Interior display. Photo by Thomas Kovacich

A treat for the senses, in March Eskuche will re-interpret the installation, and that will run until July 24, plenty of time for any remaining snow banks to make way for summer. The bandwagon of environmental concerns has been with us for decades (remember “Woodsy Owl” from the 70s?) but most of us continue to party like there’s no tomorrow. Will there be a Tomorrow?

This exhibition invaded my head, then shattered like glass and cut through to what matters.

Matt Eskuche: Agristocracy remains on view in RAM’s Fifth Gallery until July 24. For more information, click here.

Categories: Art

0 thoughts on “Mind Shattering: “Agristocracy” at RAM”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Just reflecting on what we saw, my only reservation would have been to be able touch some of the pieces. Some were very tactile in nature.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Wonderful review. Awesome exhibit ina background of a beautful lakefront.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *