Some friends and I rode down to Walker's Point to check out some visual art last saturday.
We hit up White Whale Collective, the Borg Ward, and Spackle Gallery.
First stop: The White Whale Collective's 'Mountains and Anthills'. Some great work here, my favorite stop of the day. A large format pen and ink drawing by Kathleen Nelson reaches out to you as you enter the space. This woman's body as fantastical landscape rendered in beautiful black ink on rough paper gives the impression of an imagined alternative anatomy for the human body, with patterns layered over the form inviting your eye inward, to mysterious caverns created of spider web lines. Marcus Wichman's photos of exterior landscapes carefully superimposed on bare industrial interiors create visually compelling and uniquely stated commentary on urban sprawl and big-box development. But, Julia Schilling and Emily Siegel Belknap's work stand out above these and the others. Belknap's installation of a miniature wood stick fence and thin threat horizon line around the perimiter of a small room evokes the peace and comfort of the beach, while maintaining a distance through miniturization that allows us to imagine when such things will no longer be available. Julia Schilling's limited use of materials (blue ink, sheet metal, paper) create a wonderful cold formal and uninviting landscape. My favorite peice in the gallery is a sheet of metal, etched with a complex topographical map, then the blueprint of a house. This is covered in blue ink, sometimes etched away sometimes filling the grooves, and accompanied by a smaller peice with stencil cut out letters that morph into ameboa-like shapes defined by the contours of the map as they bridge the gap between the two peices and then invade the house blueprint throught he windows and door. The way this explores the relationships between domesticity, landscape, cartography and the world of platonic forms expressed through overlapping letters forming garbled text intrigues me.
After having some raspberry ginger ale with the friendly hosts at White Whale, we walked a block down to the Borg Ward. I love this place. A punk rock venue that also houses a serious art gallery, i hope they can keep it alive because the cross-medium synergy in such an accessible DIY space is inspiring.
The Borg Ward's Juried Sculpture Show is a mixed bag. There are some amazing conceptual works in mediums and processes i've heard of but haven't quite seen, especially not locally. Some less conceptual but beautifully crafted work, and some stuff that didn't really interest me at all. Madeline McGrath's soap slabs with photographic images of city streets pressed or printed or i'm not really sure how they got on there, were covered with beads of condensation that slowly wore off the image. I like to think this was intentionally planned for the humid weekend in the un-climate-controlled space, and not a happy accident, because the result was delicate, site-specific, temporary, and conceptually perfect. Viewers could see the process of gentrification degrading a unique and interesting neighborhood, replacing it with bland, clean whiteness. Other interesting conceptual works include Erin Garber Pearson's sculptures of ornamental manufactured forms sprouting with grass or hair. These works provoke a re-evaluation of these definitions. Is the sod in the music box any less artificial than the cast iron composing the box? How about the song the box plays? Another peice involving the manufacture of natural materials is the delicate and beautiful "Collar" by Ashley Morgan. The bones of a dozen or so small animals have been glued together to form a fragile sloping collar.
We left the borg ward and pedaled down to Bayview to see what Spackle had to offer. 'Peculiar Creatures, Charming Beasts' is a collection of small paintings drawings and collages from two artists, Delaney Jane Larson, from New York, and Spackle member Tara Klamrowski. Both artists create small two dimensional works that feature adorably pathetic figures as their subjects. Larson's collages and drawings evoke edward gory, but include cut out eyes from playing cards as a recognizable sign for the viewers. The peices lack the restraint and ambiguity that make Gory's work so timeless and interesting, replacing it instead with a heavy dollop of precious frowns and outright sadness (as opposed to a more interesting apathy or ennui). Klamrowski's paintings make this mistake even moreso. This work is very nice, and much more easily saleable than the large format and conceptual work at the other galleries. If you want to buy something cute to hang on your wall at NYC art gallery prices, swing by Spackle, but if you wanna see Milwaukee artists striding out toward the boundaries of artistic expression, do not miss the shows at the White Whale Collective or Borg Ward.
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