Kat Murrell
Art Date

The Colors of Today

Nine artists in Haggerty Museum’s “Current Tendencies” show offer varied takes on the now.

By - Dec 20th, 2013 11:46 am

Nine artists in Haggerty Museum’s Current Tendencies show offer varied takes on the now.

William E. Carpenter, Bulletin Board, 2013.

William E. Carpenter, Bulletin Board, 2013.

Current Tendencies III, on view through Sunday at the Haggerty Museum of Art, is like a series of spotlights. If there is connective tissue to be found, it is that dramatically varied strategies fuel the work of area artists today.

Nine artists at all career stages are represented, such as the nascent career of William E. Carpenter (born 1990) to the well-established Mark Mulhern (born 1951). Carpenter uses acrylic house paint and faux silk wrapping paper for his work Bulletin Board, and then pastes a real calendar page on top of the lot, but please don’t write your dental appointments on this one. So what counts as real here and what is merely representation? This treads into the 20th-century quandaries suggested by Marcel Duchamp, Robert Rauschenberg, and Jasper Johns, but he brings a deadpan freshness to the conversation with sharp humor and meticulous craft.

Mark Mulhern, Brocante, 2013.

Mark Mulhern, Brocante, 2013.

Mark Mulhern shows big gorgeous canvases of mutely colored patience. In his artist’s statement, Mulhern recounts his love of travel, connected to the paintings and drawings shown here by their suggestion of Italian piazzas and lots of pigeons. There is a bench in the middle of the gallery, and I suggest using it for a few minutes to peruse a painting like Brocante. It’s like people watching in slow motion. You imagine the two men discussing in low pitched voices, or feel like you hear the click of the woman in orange as her heels sharply strike the stone pavement. Pigeons mill about in the lower right corner, around a wash of paint like a reflective puddle. There must be a splashing fountain somewhere nearby.

Evan Gruzis eshews expansive views for tightly focused still lifes and esoteric patterns. Using India ink, he creates sleek compositions of cosmetics with the sophisticated panache of Calvin Klein advertisements. The language of consumer seduction is transformed by his technical tour de force.

Jean Roberts Guequierre‘s notable painting skill combines the clarity and sharpness inspired by northern Renaissance art and the traditional iconography of the Madonna and Child but with a twist. The idealized beauty of the iconic figure of the young Christ is afflicted with a variety of diseases – mumps and measles are just a couple –  to bring the heavenly beings down to earth through modern pathos.

If you have been hanging around the Milwaukee art scene lately you’ve likely encountered the work of Tyanna Buie, who was also featured in the recently closed Nohl Fellowship exhibition (see the TCD review). Biography is an important force in her work, but her most powerful qualities are a strong sense of pattern, texture, and color. Her work frequently looks to the past, but she has a nuanced vision that may well take on other subjects in the future.

One of the curatorial strengths of the exhibition is that each artist is afforded their own space, so the effect is like walking through a series of smaller shows. An added twist is that each artist chose works from the Haggerty’s permanent collection as inspiration pieces for their work, or simply to have included in their space. It is an intriguing idea but the one place where this draws attention away is in the installation Circumstantial by Cassandra Smith and Jessica Steeber. At the end of a long, relatively narrow gallery hang three large, colorful works from the Haggerty, selected by the artists to accompany their piece, which consists of a dark blue background decorated with large gold cross and starshaped emblems as markers of status and wealth. The end result of Circumstantial is pleasant and decorative, but rather benign.

One of Haggerty pieces chosen by Jon Horvath is by the Surrealist René Magritte, whose La solution de rébus (The key to the riddle) hangs in his gallery space. It is fitting, as a plethora of photographs, paintings, installations and otherwise convey a feeling like a very neat studio, but with an excitement of ideas that would need a very elastic rubric to cover them all. Horavth seems to suggest as much, as his artist’s statement suggests three different titles for his exhibition.

Jason Yi, Terraform 01, 2013.

Jason Yi, Terraform 01, 2013.

Jason Yi‘s Terraform 01 is the most monumental work on view. It is an airy frame of wooden diagonals and open angles in a somewhat conical, biomorphic skeleton covered with an linear skin of colorful duct tape strips. It’s an unexpected piece, embracing simple materials and complex lines, great ambitions and a distinctly individual approach. Though Terraform is quite unique unto itself, these qualities can be ascribed to many works in the exhibition, each with idiosyncratic approaches that exemplify current tendencies.

Current Tendencies III (http://www.marquette.edu/haggerty/exhibits.shtml) is on view through Sunday, December 22 at the Haggerty Museum of Art on the Maquette University campus (13th and Clybourn streets).


If you’re on the road to visit out-of-town relatives in the area, there are enticing art options further afield.


State of Art: Wisconsin Triennial Exhibition continues through January 5.

227 State Street, Madison, WI



Six different shows, led by The Art of AdORNAMENTS through December 29 and including small shows on John Wilde and on Ken Loeber.

441 Main Street, Racine, WI



Five different shows, including J. Shimon & J. Lindemann: We Go From Where We Know through February 23; Ray Yoshida’s Museum of Extraordinary Values through January 19; and  Joseph Yoakum: Unfolding Landscapes through February 23.

608 New York Avenue, Sheboygan, WI

0 thoughts on “Art Date: The Colors of Today”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for this review. I’ve seen the Current Tendencies exhibition at the Haggerty and liked reading about it from your perspective. (Also I’d recommend the Haggerty – which is always free – to anyone who loves art.)

  2. Anonymous says:

    Kat, great comment on sitting on the bench for the Mulhern. These pictures need that sort of time.

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