A Celebration of All Things Cultural, Artistic, and Entertaining in Madison
May 28, 2010
Stating the Obvious
I’ve always appreciated how humble Madison is as a city. It’s a beautiful place filled with smart, talented, forward-thinking people, yet it continually exudes a down-to-earth vibe.
But sometimes I worry that an unintended side effect to this aversion to boasting is that people might not know about all the great things happening in the city and state.
If anyone is second-guessing Wisconsin’s talent, they should visit the latest exhibition at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. Wisconsin Triennial is the museum’s twelfth survey of artists from around the state. Forty-two individuals and two pairs are represented in the exhibition, which is held throughout MMoCA.
What connects the large array of work, of course, is that it’s all made by Wisconsin artists. But it veers off—seemingly in every possible direction—from here, offering an appealing diversity of styles, media, size, tone and subject matter.
Milwaukee artist Jason S. Yi’s Legend of the White Snake is visible from State Street. Made of PVC tubing and connectors, it’s a complex web-like mass that demands attention—from outside or within the gallery. Just as intriguing are four shadow box works hanging nearby. Made by Martha Glowacki of Sauk City, the boxes are filled with skeletons, old photographs and text that suggest histories and narratives.
As with Glowacki's art, I wanted to learn more about the stories behind two hyper-realistic graphite drawings by Madisonian Melissa Cooke. Rendered on large sheets of paper, these selections from her series You Know Me Better Than I Know Myself feature slightly tortured faces. They make you want to investigate them from afar, then close up and back away again. You want to take in everything from all angles to make sure you don’t miss something.
Also delving into the psyche are photographs by Green Bay artist Sarah Pearl Detweiler. From her series Sometimes We Just Don’t Feel Like Ourselves, the images show a woman and man (the artist and her husband) wearing the same clothes—a tacky tracksuit, a tight-fitting animal-print top and band uniforms [pictured above]. It’s amusing to see their differing reactions to the costumes and the effect the clothes seem to have on their personas.
Milwaukee artist Marc Tasman uses photography as well, but for long-term documentation. Ten Years and One Day Every Day on Polaroids, July 24, 1999–July 24, 2009 is an installation of 4,949 Polaroid self-portraits Tasman took over a ten-year span [pictured at right]. One feels almost stunned thinking about the time commitment involved in such a project—and a similar feeling is evoked seeing the photographs en masse.
It’s also impressive to think about the effort involved in creating Power Tower, a work made of cut cardstock, gator board and glue by Michael Velliquette of Madison. The artist hand-cut, rolled, bent and layered colorful pieces of paper to form a work that explodes in pattern and structure as is crawls up a wall of the museum.
The exhibition also includes a variety of video works, including the installation Love Disorder by Bruce Charlesworth of Milwaukee. When you walk into a small room, you see the artist’s face projected on an enormous screen. He welcomes you, compliments you and eventually makes you feel a little creeped out. When you move away, he starts insulting you, until you finally walk away feeling started and jolted.
MMoCA’s curator of education Sheri Castelnuovo, director Stephen Fleischman and curator of exhibitions Jane Simon chose the works featured in this year’s Wisconsin Triennial. In a statement about the show, Simon said, “As a whole, the exhibition is a testament to the dedication and sophistication of artists currently working in the state.”
With a series of accompanying lectures and gallery talks (find a schedule here), as well as some new touches like a cell-phone audio tour and an exhibition blog, it’s a major exhibition. If you’re going to see one show at MMoCA this year, make this one it.
And then brag to everyone you know that all the fantastic art you saw came from Wisconsin.
Wisconsin Triennial runs through August 15 at MMoCA. For more information, visit mmoca.org.
Photos courtesy of MMoCA.