A Celebration of All Things Cultural, Artistic, and Entertaining in Madison
Aug 2, 2011
Breaking the Silence
Stillness and quiet might be the first things you notice when you step into the James Watrous Gallery. But examine the latest side-by-side solo exhibitions, open through August 7, and you’ll quickly see some major themes underlie the silence.
Madison artist Lewis Koch’s Bomber, a chance unwinding is an installation of photography, maps and text. Many of the images show the remains of a World War II B-17 bomber that crashed in Wyoming’s Cloud Peak Wilderness in 1943. Pieces of the plane are twisted, charred and scattered about the desolate, rocky terrain—“rubble on rubble,” as a line of text on a gallery wall describes.
Along with these photographs are maps and photographs of wartime: planes in the air, bombs being dropped, a hand marking a map, a target in crosshairs. They’re a flurry of activity, snapshots of the effort, planning and work that go into war.
They’re also a stark contrast to the aftermath of the conflict, the metal debris sitting in Wyoming. Looking at these lonely fragments, it’s hard to imagine the intensity of war. Here, it is an event in the past; time has moved on and so has the landscape, though it’s been touched by war.
Additional wall text illustrates this further when it describes “war (diminished) and nature (remains)” and states “War seems like a small punctuation in the everlasting of it all.”
In Mark Klassen’s Current Work, the Milwaukee artist features an installation of five “windows” decorated with drab, pale gold curtains. The shades are closed, blocking out any view and making the visitor wonder what’s beyond. They create a sad feeling, one that’s coupled with a sense of sterile anonymity.
As curtains hide a person from the outside world, yet don’t offer much physical protection, they’re an ideal symbol for Klassen, who explores ideas of safety, fear and security in his work. As he states in text for the show, “There is perhaps some disconnect between the reality of being protected and fears of mortality.”
Another interesting component of Klassen’s exhibition is a screen displayed high up. On it, an extremely slow depiction of a car crash simulation plays out: the car hits a wall, air bags deploy, the test dummies’ heads come forward and eventually thrust back. The action is excruciatingly slow; because you know what’s coming, you brace for the impact. And waiting for assumptions to become reality gives time for fear to set in.
Lewis Koch: Bomber, a chance unwinding and Mark Klassen: Current Work are on display at the James Watrous Gallery through August 7. For more information, visit wisconsinacademy.org.
Photo courtesy of the James Watrous Gallery.