Kat Murrell
Susceptible to Images

Three men at Erickson, Calabrese at Green East

Expression and abstraction from Hoffman, Hughes and Jahnke; wry illusions from Calabrese.

By - Jun 22nd, 2012 03:51 pm

William Hughes' "Shadows and Fog," at Elaine Erickson Gallery.

Three Men: Tom Hoffman, William Hughes, Karl Jahnke are showing at Elaine Erickson Gallery, in the lobby of the Third Ward’s Marshall Building. Walk in; you can’t see the expansive gallery windows from the street. Prominent in one of those windows: Jahnke’s Mad Charlie — a life-sized painting of a suit-clad man with a boxy jaw, translucent skin, and a scream that’s the emotional cousin of Francis Bacon.

The contours are definite. Jahnke doesn’t mess around with ambiguity of form, but he’s curious when it comes to setting a picture in time and place. In this exhibition, he painted figures who seem drawn from folds of history. Some are military men under the weight of 20th century conflicts. Others harken to the 19th century, as if from ghostly portraits of dysfunctional families. Some glow more than others and some lay on their eeriness rather heavily, in alien-like eyes. But Jahnke’s unexpected visions all evoke something intriguing.

Hoffman delves into landscapes of brilliant color and light. He loves October yellow. It infuses sky and land with mellow gold. But strangeness lives in this work, too, though not in human form. Hoffman plays with trees, forests and meadows; the shadows among them have strong gravitational pull. They’re bold, dark, and in these works tend strongly toward the right, even when the light in the sky suggests otherwise. They tilt landscapes always in one direction and in defiance of physics, as if in a dream or idealized vision.


Kristin Calabrese's "Don't Be Afraid," at Green Gallery East.

Hughes’ abstractions counterweight Jahnke and Hoffman’s descriptive scenes. Pastels draw out layers of luminosity and veer toward constructions that could be blocky colors of furniture in rooms or filtered lights on watery glass. Generally, they maintain a coy nature as purely abstract illuminations. Shadow and Fog is an interesting anomaly: a lone figure dressed in red gazes toward a translucent window of white. The framing around this lightness is dark and thick in its application of black tone. It conjures an Edvard Munch sensibility —  the painter of The Scream delved into pensive window-gazing, as well.

From afar, the monumental centerpiece of Kristin Calabrese’s show of paintings at Green Gallery East looks like a purplish pulsing mass. The work, on unbleached linen, is Art as Band Aid. Calabrese painted the portraits of over 3,000 Band-Aids of every shape and tone into a tight, circular composition. Their colors blend in the overall hue of a large bruise. Such a painting that can make you laugh and sigh at the same time. Though beautifully wrought in poetic gesture and painterly touch, it relates to the banality of life, to our many imperfections and wounds. Don’t Be Afraid also operates on this level. This painting of a broom, on a tall, slender canvas, stands propped against the gallery wall like a quotidian sweeping implement. Rather than make art of found objects, Calabrese masks art as found objects.

Display photo on Arts and Culture page: View of Calabrese’s show at Green Gallery East. Visible images: “Art as Band Aid,” near, “Blending in,” far.

Leave a Reply

You must be an Urban Milwaukee member to leave a comment. Membership, which includes a host of perks, including an ad-free website, tickets to marquee events like Summerfest, the Wisconsin State Fair and the Florentine Opera, a better photo browser and access to members-only, behind-the-scenes tours, starts at $9/month. Learn more.

Join now and cancel anytime.

If you are an existing member, sign-in to leave a comment.

Have questions? Need to report an error? Contact Us