Spring Has Sprung
Okay, the weather is grim, but inside the Art Bar is an explosion of “Beautiful Spring” paintings.
Oh Spring, you coy thing. Teasing us with a few meek sprigs of flowers here and there, while covering the skies with rainy clouds. Looking for relief from all that gray? Art Bar has plenty in the form of luscious paintings by Barbara Scharpf and Ann Powell in the exhibition Beautiful Spring!.
Fixated on the motif of flower arrangements, Scharpf takes this traditional subject and recreates it in acrylic paint like decorating a voluptuous cake. Petals and leaves are spooned on, making concave hollows and little peaks that defy gravity, rising up like tiny mountains. Broad scallops connect with ever-so-fine trailing lines that stretch from one detail into another. Curlicues happily bounce forth from the bursting arrangements which seem barely contained by their flower pots. Scharpf builds up her compositions from the background with flat patches of colors, laying a solid ground for such abundance to explode.
A notable exception to the general approach of these works is seen in Scharpf’s painting of birch trees along a woodland path. The fragile, paper-like surface of the tree bark is rendered with thick impasto and short brushstrokes, mixing earthy and pale hues on the surface of the slender trees, decorated in their canopies by golden leaves. The glow of a far-off sun and bright flowers further on the path bring a vibrant buoyancy to the piece, making a lovely visual passage from the relatively shadowy foreground.
Adding counterpoint to the paintings of Scharpf, who has more than a dozen on display, are the handful of works by Ann Powell. They offer an effective contrast, particularly in technique. Powell largely goes for thin, blended layers of color, laid on flatly to create wide landscapes and nature scenes. Sometimes her brush attacks the surface, creating daubs of unblended paint which communicate leaves in trees, but her approach is generally more dreamy. Her painting of a weeping willow over a pond is especially muted, as soft as a hazy summer day. The reflections in the water are deftly calmed down in comparison with the stronger tones of the tree, making for a reflective surface that nothing in that afternoon’s stillness could disturb.
So if you’re finding yourself a little underwhelmed by the rather grim glory of nature when you
step outdoors these days, have a stop at the Art Bar. It’s a great place regardless of season, and this installation may be just what you need to bring some color into your life.
Beautiful Spring! continues through May 11 at Art Bar (722 E. Burleigh Street).
FRIDAY, MAY 2
2725 N. 1st Street
Exhibition reception 5-8pm
Saturday hours 12-5pm
Thirteen artists take on questions about how the practices of the artists’ studio intermingle with the domestic sphere. It’s not just art, it’s a life.
Postcards from Milwaukee
2625 S. Greeley Street
Exhibition reception 5-9pm
This exhibition is inspired by the Postcards from America series and presents the work of 29 art students who look at the city around them with an eye for interpreting life in our own city.
SUNDAY, MAY 4
Milwaukee, TALK: Artist Talk with Timothy Briner
706 S. 5th Street
New York-based photographer Timothy Briner visits Milwaukee for a artist talk in one of the newest gallery spaces. Briner is known for his Boonville project in which he created sharply focused representations of life in six American towns which share the same name, exploring the unique character of each while drawing out elements that suggest a quintessentially American small-town experience.
Uncommon Folk: Traditions in American Art
700 N. Art Museum Drive
Exhibition closes May 4
It’s the last chance to wander and wonder among the approximately 600 pieces of American folk art, embracing everything from sculpture and paintings to duck decoys and canes. It is a fantastic show-and-tell of the Museum’s folk art holdings and contributions from private collectors. For more on this exhibition, see the TCD review, The Outsiders.