Kat Murrell

MKE inspires local shows of international artists

MIAD and Inova are holding exhibitions of contemporary art spanning the globe, to coincide with the SGC International print conference this March.

By - Mar 19th, 2013 04:00 am

William Kentridge, Self Portrait as Coffee Pot, 2011. Image courtesy Inova.

Southern Graphics Council International will be in Milwaukee this Wednesday through Saturday for its annual conference, titled Print:MKE, bringing about 2,000 artists to the city. This major gathering is jointly hosted by UWM’s Peck School of the Arts and the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design. To that end, PSOA’s Inova (Institute of Visual Arts) and MIAD’s Frederick Layton Gallery have assembled Makers in Print, a joint exhibition with a sweeping survey of contemporary printmaking from across the globe.

Inova’s half of Makers in Print showcases artists hailing from South Korea, Mexico, and South Africa. Many of the works are large-scale pieces, exploring figurative and abstract compositions created through a variety of printmaking techniques. Within the exhibition are pieces from the La Ceiba Gráfica printshop in Veracruz, Mexico, which is also featured at Walker’s Point Center for the Arts (also recently reviewed by TCD).

A contemporary artist known for his broad-based approach to art making, which includes prints, drawing, and video, is South African artist William Kentridge. The selection of his works on view illustrate a complex, layered approach to image making, with combinations of collage, print and ink filtered through contemporary advertisements and art history. His Self Portrait as a Coffee Pot seems a tongue-in-cheek reference to which many of us can probably relate. Our selves become our images, our possessions, and our conveniences perhaps? We are large filters, but not without levity.

Rounding out the ample exhibition space at Inova are three galleries focusing on recent work by award-winning artists Lesley Dill, Frances Myers, and Alison Saar. While the larger survey exhibitions are a delicious sampler of all sorts of prints, it is a welcome addition to absorb with concentration works by a single artist. It is an extended conversation, getting to know something more of the artist’s thoughts and technique. Dill’s work is especially potent, working like a psychic medium who channels the power of words, images, and lines drawn out in thread, collectively contributing to the metaphysical transformation of the body.

Work by Qi Chen on view at MIAD. Photo by the author.

The Third Ward is only separated from Inova by a few miles, but there MIAD’s focus is in three entirely different nations: China, Argentina, and Poland. A few smaller galleries provide an acquaintance with selected artists, and the Brooks Stevens Gallery offers Making Connections: A Juried Exhibition of MIAD Printmaking Alumni.

A detail of Zhiyuan Cong’s Paradise, on view at MIAD. Photo by the author.

The path of the featured exhibition deftly combines works originating in particular regions, yet revealing something of each artist’s singular vision. The group of artists from China is particularly strong. The elegantly sparse compositions of Qi Chen, fixated on round waves of water, or an unplucked zither-like guqin, are visually arresting yet meditative. More boisterous is Zhiyuan Cong‘s Paradise, where weightless yet muscle-bound basketball players leap through a red heaven, goaded on by cheerleader-courtesans. There’s a degree of cultural commentary there, one of the few works that lift a mirror of critique to modern society.

However, that is not to say that social issues are altogether absent from these exhibitions. Ecological issues are clear in the work of Silvina Paulón of Argentina. Her images of the ocean, rendered with wonderful clarity in crisp black and white, show an environment tainted with the refuse of consumer culture. Mar Muerto does this with particular directness, as plastic bottles articulated through strong hatch marks crowd through lines of uneasily swimming fish. Their habitat is overtaken; the natural order is upset and the dominant species becomes one of throw-away consumables.

Silvina Paulón, Mar Muerto, on view at MIAD. Photo by the author.

The upcoming SGC International Print:MKE Conference is a big event, and collectively, Makers In Print: International Exhibition spans a big territory. For Milwaukee audiences, it is a unique opportunity to peruse trends in art from across the globe while remaining surprisingly close to home.

Inova is located at 2155 N. Prospect Avenue. The exhibition continues through March 24.

MIAD’s Frederick Layton Gallery is located at 273 E. Erie Street. The exhibition continues through March 23.

Categories: Art, Arts & Culture

0 thoughts on “Print: MKE inspires local shows of international artists”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Just aesthetically, the show at Inova seemed a better fit than the one at MIAD (or don’t you think so?). Both places had valuable work, but it was so much easier to stand back and admire the work at Inova than it was at MIAD, which I feel should have been placed in its major downstairs gallery.

  2. Anonymous says:

    … and an innovation into “4D” printing.

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