Violence in America
A new show at the Walker’s Point center considers the impact of violence on our lives.
Conversation, by Jason Hackett, is a physical and visual puzzle. A couple, dressed in circa-1800 style with ambiguously romantic expressions, pause during a walk, their figures painted on the pale, empty surface of a sweetly Rococo-inspired vase. On the other side of the vase is a harsh red wall bordered by sculpted skulls, behind which lurk dark forms like weapons and hands. Is there mayhem of some kind behind all the nicety?
Violence rises to the surface in “The Price of Freedom,” an exhibition on view at Walker’s Point Center for the Arts through March 22. Curated by Matthew Isaacson and Stefanie Kirkland, the exhibition proposes to address issues of gun control in America. While it is a charged, complicated, and emotional question, the aftereffect of gun usage is the aspect most prominently addressed. Overt visual references to weapons figure in most of the pieces from the nine artists in the exhibition. Skulls and skeletons as harbingers of mortality are also prevalent, still potent symbols of mortality.
The exhibition title asks a pointed question about the tensions between guns and freedom. But the works in the show meander far beyond this debate and broaden into metaphors of war, suffering, and the capacity for wanton human destruction. Richard Notkin notes the echo chamber of history’s misery in The Endless Irony of It All, a relief sculpture of body parts, bombs, barbed wire, and a visual quotation of the overhead light and the screaming horse from Picasso’s Guernica. Allan Rosenbaum’s Ghost Town is a pockmarked city in the crosshairs of twin guns. Call it warfare in America, or Aleppo, or Cairo.
One other defining parameter of the exhibition is the material of the art. In preparation for the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts conference happening in Milwaukee March 19-22, the pieces on view are sculptural ceramics. It adds an interesting note, as the handling of the surfaces generally retains the imprint of the artists’ hands, something soft, formed and fired, modeled earth shaped for representational means.
Yet, while these common factors draw the show together, the result isn’t so much a critique of the complex questions of gun control and freedom as a collection of statements on destruction and tragedy, rendered in three-dimensional form.
Yoshinaga Kawamura’s solo exhibition, “Exploration of Material,” also at the Walker’s Point center, is the antithesis of “The Price of Freedom.” Kawamura’s four sculptures create a weightless world of light and shadow. In the dim gallery lights, a low platform is lit from within and covered by plates of porcelain that radiate translucently. Looking down at their rough surfaces is a little like flying over strange terrain at night. This feeling is echoed by the three wall pieces of similar material and style. Tiny fissures and crags decorate their surfaces. The sense of scale here is ambiguous: we could be viewing a wild, larger landscape, or the intimate details of a mysterious, small surface. Kawamura creates art without imagery, only texture and pattern, stripped down for discreet, wordless mediation.
The photography of Paul Matzner rounds out the current showings with a featured member exhibition at Walker’s Point. Full disclosure: I was the juror who selected his work, and it is pleasing to see more of his black-and-white street photography with candid views of New York City. He captures unexpected views with mystery and humor, such as the off-the-cuff shot of two commuters in the subway, both engrossed in their respective texting. One is in the foreground, the other in the background, in close public proximity but locked in private worlds. Wouldn’t it be ironic if they were texting each other.
The Price of Freedom and Yoshinaga Kawamura: Exploration of Material continue through March 22. A curator and artist talk will take place on Friday, March 21 at 6:30 pm. Featured Member Exhibition: Paul Matzner continues through April 5. Walker’s Point Center for the Arts is located at 839 S. 5th Street.
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 21
12800 N. Lake Shore Drive, Mequon
Opening reception 5:30 to 9pm
Admission: $5 to benefit children’s and outreach programs
Over 40 works will be on view, addressing issues of the environment and sustainability. Awards will be presented for Best in Show, People’s Choice, and Sustainability, which is directed at works using recycled or repurposed materials. The opening will also include music, refreshments, a farmer’s market and silent auction.
Schlueter Art Gallery
Center for Arts and Performance
Wisconsin Lutheran College
8800 W. Bluemound Road, Wauwatosa
Reception 6 to 8pm
Exhibition continues through April 11
Numerous artists have been involved in the selection process for the Pfister’s Artist in Residence program, and this exhibition brings together many of the finalists of past years, including Pamela Anderson, Albin Erhart, Tonia Klein, John Kowalcyzk, Brandon Minga, Kate Pfeiffer, Steve Ohlrich, and Anthony Suminski. Past winners of the award, Timothy Westbrook and Stephanie Barenz, will also have work on view.
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 22
3720 N. Fratney Street
3707 N. Richards Street
7-11pm, both locations
The Nut Factory (really, it is a former nut factory) has long been the site of many artists’ studios. This open house features two locations where artists make work, and the evening offers a lively chance to meander through creative work spaces.
At the Nut Factory, check out Greg Klassen with guests Tom, Angel, and Angel Jr. from Milwaukee Hotdog Co.; Shana McCaw and Brent Budsberg with guests Tim Stoelting, Eriks Johnson, Jenna Knapp, Stacy Dahl, Amanda Stein, Ayla Boyle, Zach Hill, and Caitlin Rooney; Josh Rickun/Proper Eyewear; Arthur Thrall; Todd Mrozinski and Renee Bebeau with guests Michael Kautzer/FRAME Aquarium, Anja Notanja and Stacy La Point; and Annushka Peck and Melissa Emerson-Froebe with guest Kim Miller.
At the Toy Factory, see Thea Kovak/Lost Playground Studio; Lynn Tomaszewski; Jessica Laub; C. Matthew Luther; Robin Luther; Rob Meinecke; Santiago Cucullu/Ching Suru; and guests Kristina Rolander, Emily Litjens, Chuck Quarino, and John Kowalczyk.