Kat Murrell
Visual Art

Art Cargo

The Cargo Space bus rolls into Milwaukee, stopping at UWM's Inova.

By - Sep 12th, 2014 02:02 pm
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Sperandio - Cargo Space

Christopher Sperandio stands beside the bus, Cargo Space.

The phrase “cargo space” suggests plenty of room to haul a good many things. The exhibition Cargo Space at Inova contains miscellany in a musing on the process and function of an artist residency, and the ways place and transport can influence creativity. Bringing together artists from Milwaukee and Chicago, and complemented by a companion exhibition at A + D Gallery in Chicago, this exhibition is both hermetic and an open display of visual and performative practices.

The artists at the head of the project are Christopher Sperandio and Simon Grennan, based in Houston, Texas, and north Wales, respectively. Sperandio has traveled from the Walker Center in Minneapolis to The Poor Farm, an artist outpost in Manawa, Wisconsin, and most recently to Milwaukee and Chicago in the bus dubbed Cargo Space. It is a 27-foot long behemoth decorated with jagged teeth on the front bumper and graffiti-style characters and designs on its sides. Along the way Sperandio has been joined by artists working collaboratively on this exhibition and project. The bus is a mobile living room and art lab, a clever space decorated with a lightly modernist touch, enhanced by its functional nature as a rolling home away from home. The ephemera picked up while on the road finds its way into the Inova exhibition in the form of toll receipts and other bits of traveling detritus that decorate a wall like a vertical sketchpad.

There are elements in the exhibition which are overtly changeable and experimental, yet others that appear highly finished. John Sparagana‘s elegantly shimmering, mosaic-like panels glisten under the gallery lights. Up close the forms dissolve into waves of varying hues but stand further back and the forms take shape: a man’s eyes and forehead, and a grisaille scene of walking figures shrouded in muted light and fog behind a screen of echoing diamond shapes.

An installation view of the exhibition, Cargo Space.

An installation view of the exhibition, Cargo Space.

While Sparagana’s works on the walls are relatively static, one of the more mutable installations delves into the interactive processes of contemporary life. Shana McCaw and Brent Budsberg’s TEA: Transitory Experiment in Association riffs on the friends-of-friends social networks built in the online world. Artists were invited to an initial tea gathering, and then suggested friends of theirs to become the guests at a second. The ripples of connection widen as the social network expands.

In performance-based works such as McCaw and Budsberg’s, few physical artifacts may remain as remnants of the artwork, which is based in the moments of interaction. It is a concept that underlies a few projects in this exhibition, in addition to the significance of dialogue in art making. The online art podcast Bad At

Sports is given a nod with a luminous neon sign, a signifier of ongoing aesthetic conversations. One area of the gallery is arranged with chairs in a circle while a video plays the debates surrounding the development of exhibition. The curatorial process by which an exhibition comes to life is one form of creativity, but to find a point of left-field inspiration, check out the instruction books created by Judith Brotman, made individually for each artist involved. Her pithy statements range from practical advice to metaphorical suggestions and existential questions.

Cargo Space, as an exhibition and a project, is open ended. The handwritten gallery signs note that the show itself is subject to change during its run. It is potentially as pliable as any work in an artist’s studio. Viewers desiring direct, fully manifest statements in art may find themselves nonplussed, but the objective of the show is less about finish and resolution, and more about invention and fluidity.

Cargo Space continues through September 20 at Inova (2155 N. Prospect Avenue).

Cargo Space Gallery


Erich Mercker: Painter of Industry has opened at the Grohmann Museum.

Erich Mercker: Painter of Industry has opened at the Grohmann Museum.

The Grohmann Museum presents an exhibition on the work of industrial painter Erich Mercker. Note that “industrial” refers not to materials but to his imagery: visual investigations of the raw smokey, brawny atmospheres of train yards, factories and other locations that often fall outside the purview of conventional beauty. Mercker’s oeuvre includes landscape painting as well, explored in a new book by MSOE associate professor, Dr. Patrick Jung. Jung curates this show which seeks a new view and higher profile for Mercker, whose work harkens back to academic tradition mixed with the veracity of realism.

In Riverwest, the Jazz Gallery opened Chain Reaction on September 6. Revisiting this concept for the second year, the art on view is the result of collaboration between artists who initiate a piece and then hand it over to other artists for additional touches. Fifteen artists are included in this exhibition which embraces mixed media, painting, photography, assemblage and more in a spirit of community and invention.




New work by Mark Mulhern is on view at Tory Folliard Gallery.

New work by Mark Mulhern is on view at Tory Folliard Gallery.

Mark Mulhern: New Works

Cathy Martin: This and That 

Tory Folliard Gallery

233 N. Milwaukee Street

Opening reception 5-7:30pm

Tory Folliard Gallery opens two new painting exhibitions with an artist reception on Friday evening. Mark Mulhern’s new works extend the subtle touch characteristic of his oil canvases, and explore the imagery of garden parties and French street markets. Self-taught artist Cathy Martin exhibits acrylic work picturing the landscape and scenery of western Wisconsin. Both exhibitions continue through October 11.


Usable Space Live AV 

Usable Space

1950B S. Hilbert Street

Reception begins at 7pm, screening at 8pm

Usable Space comes alive with video and sound, mixing audio and visual artists for an intriguing interactive evening. Participants include Damali Abrams, Kiki Anderson, Peter Barrickman, Larry Carlson, Richard Galling, Evan Gruzis, Tim Kloss, Didier LePlae, Xav LePlae, Kim Miller, Randy Russell, and Steve Strupp. 



Romano Johnson, Tina Turner, 2014

Romano Johnson, Tina Turner, 2014

Summer Art Orgy 

Portrait Society Gallery

Marshall Building, Fifth Floor

207 E. Buffalo Street

Thursday-Saturday noon to 5pm

It’s the last day to catch this triple-bill of strong exhibitions. Bid a fond farewell to summer and these solo shows: Romano Johnson’s Silver Art Bible of glittering pop culture icons and motorcycles, Skully Gustafson’s enveloping room-sized installation The Juice, and Erik Moore’s evocative black-and-white Half Human photographs.

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