Catherine Jozwik
Visual Art

Patterns for the People

Frank Juarez Gallery presents two artists who are all about the journey, not the destination.

By - Apr 25th, 2019 05:36 pm
"Dual Nature.” Photo courtesy of The Frank Juarez Gallery.

“Dual Nature.” Photo courtesy of The Frank Juarez Gallery.

“Dual Nature,” the current exhibit at the Frank Juarez Gallery, melds the meditative symmetry of the natural world with the exactness of science, mathematics and technology in a series of patterned pieces.

The exhbition, on display through May 11, features 16 works by acrylic painter Tony Conrad and 2D artist Clint Fulkerson. Both artists have chosen to focus on their creative journey rather than the end results.

For Conrad, a painter who cites psychedelic rock music, Persian tiles, and Tibetan Buddhism among his influences, the act of painting itself soothes the spirit. “Like meditation, painting occupies the mind and yet it invites a search for something beyond itself. Surpassing the physical limitations of the painted surface, my work searches for a place where chaos and harmony coexist,” he writes on his website,

Conrad, who earned an MFA in painting and drawing from UW-Milwaukee, often incorporates hash marks in his numbered acrylic paintings named, appropriately, “Composition” or “Study.” The artist overlaps criss-cross patterns with horizontal lines, often incorporating squares, triangles, rectangles and diamond shapes.

“The obsessive nature of reinventing the hash mark is therapeutic as it oscillates between order and disorder,” writes Conrad, a Visiting Assistant Professor of Art at Lawrence University and a recipient of the Lawrence Rathsack Scholarship and Frederick R. Layton Fellowship.

His abstract pieces also explore color harmony. Cool blues and calming greens are paired with fiery reds and cheerful yellows, warm browns, and neutral grays, allowing audiences to draw on memories associated with these colors. One painting, with a square of light and royal-blue hash marks set against a tan background, brings to mind a sandy beach with calm water on a clear blue day. Conrad’s “Study #7,” (one of several framed paintings on paper) with turquoise triangles, blaze orange vertical lines, and gray-green zigzags, is reminiscent of graphic fonts and clothing from the late 1980s or early 1990s.

The other half of the show features Portland, Maine-based artist Clint Fulkerson, and seven mesmerizing “Striated Disk” black ink drawings on stark white paper which appear to be based on tree rings. Like the Magic Eye pictures that were so popular 25 years ago, Fulkerson’s circular, carefully-lined drawings are dizzying optical illusions, containing flower petals, spirals, ovals, and what appear to be large and small sonic waves. Besides nature, the artist is inspired by science, math and technology (his work has appeared in Google and Facebook offices and is part of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s collection).

Like Conrad, Fulkerson, who holds a B.A. in metal smithing from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, employs mindfulness techniques in his art. “As I work, I force myself to slow down and consider each moment in the present,” he writes in his artist’s statement. “I am a conduit through which the forces of nature flow, and the artwork is a record.”

Perfectionism and unrealistic expectations can easily impede an artist’s progress, and erode any passion and enjoyment they once had for the activity. To Fulkerson and Conrad, renouncing control when it comes to artwork leads to a richer and almost transcendental experience.

“Dual Nature” Gallery

“Dual Nature,” works by Tony Conrad and Clint Fulkerson, are on exhibit at the Frank Juarez Gallery, 207 E. Buffalo St. #600, through May 11.

If you think stories like this are important, become a member of Urban Milwaukee and help support real independent journalism. Plus you get some cool added benefits, all detailed here.

Leave a Reply

You must be an Urban Milwaukee member to leave a comment. Membership, which includes a host of perks, including an ad-free website, tickets to marquee events like Summerfest, the Wisconsin State Fair and the Florentine Opera, a better photo browser and access to members-only, behind-the-scenes tours, starts at $9/month. Learn more.

Join now and cancel anytime.

If you are an existing member, sign-in to leave a comment.

Have questions? Need to report an error? Contact Us