Milwaukee Art Museum

A Day at the Milwaukee Art Museum

Milwaukee Art Museum

One of the fun things about exploring new cities is seeing their art museums. We had one day in wonderful Milwaukee where we sampled their best coffee, the Domes at Mitchell Park, the Harley Davidson Museum and the architecturally amazing Milwaukee Art Museum.

Here are some of the highlights of the latter. You can see my preference for abstraction using fiber and mixed materials in these choices.

I’ll say more about that once you have had a chance to see these four pieces.

-Cornelia Parker-

Cornelia Parker is a British sculptor and installation artist whose 1999 installation Edge of  England is constructed from chalk, wire and wire mesh. Parker’s work often feature household objects that have been broken and reimagined into new abstract structures. 

 

Portrait Cornelia Parker
Edge of England by Cornelia Parker
Edge of England (detail) by Cornelia Parker
Come Out #5 by Glenn Ligon
Portrait Glenn Ligon
Come Out #5 (detail) by Glenn Ligon

-Glen Legion-

Glenn Ligon is an African-American conceptual artist whose work explores race, language, desire, sexuality, and identity. His monumental 2014 silkscreen on canvas piece Come Out #5 took up a whole wall of the museum. This text-based piece was inspired by the 1966 spoken-word piece by composer Steve Reich, who was in turn influenced by the Harlem race riot of 1964. The layers of the text Come Out become so dense that the piece morphs into abstraction.

Glenn Ligion Website

 

-Robert Morris-

American sculptor Robert Morris was an important and controversial figure in the Minimalist movement. His sculptures, performances and critical writing explored facets of conceptual art and ideas about ephemerality. His spare 1970 piece Untitled is composed of industrial felt that hangs gracefully on the wall.

Robert Morris Artworks

Untitled by Robert Morris
Portrait Robert Morris
Morris Obituary
Inni-Che-ru-he (Stone Wall) by Truman Lowe
Portrait Truman Lowe

-Truman Lowe-

Truman Lowe was an American Ho-Chunk sculptor and installation artist known for large site-specific installation pieces utilizing natural materials. Like many contemporary Native American artists, Lowe’s art tells stories about the Winnebago people and his relationship to the environment. Inni-che-ru-he (Stone Wall) from his Canyon series is a massive and delicate installation made with chalk on paper and willow branches.

Each of these pieces excites me. They all refer to the grid, even if they are breaking it like Cornelia Parker and Robert Morris. These artists are all using humble or industrial materials in innovative ways. They gravitate towards a pared down or stark statement. And all of these pieces are large, breath-taking and elegant. 

And let me not forget to say that they were all hung in the soaring, winged, Milwaukee Art Museum, completed in 2001 by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, featuring a moveable sunscreen, with a 217-foot (66-metre) span.

Although it wasn’t initially on my radar, Milwaukee is an outstanding cultural destination and the Museum was a gem. 

Japanese Bamboo Art

Breath by Honma Kazuaki, 1968

JAPANESE BAMBOO ART

I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art just to see this exhibition, a collection of Japanese bamboo objects from the Abbey Collection. The show included a wide range of traditional basket forms as well as current work made by six artists designated Living National Treasures, who all evolved from bamboo lineages dating back to the nineteenth century.

It was fascinating to see how the conventional basket forms morphed into exciting abstract contemporary sculpture and installation. Most of these artists apprenticed with bamboo masters for 5 – 10 years and then developed their own distinctive styles.

Flowing Water by Honma Kazuaki, 1983

In many cases, the artists had day jobs in textiles, the flower trades and in one case as a gas station attendant until their work became recognized. Uematsu Chikuyu is a perfectionist who only produces one piece per year.

The most breath-taking artwork was an enormous installation by Tanabe Chikuunsai IV. Click on the link below to see a time-lapse video of the building of this incredibly inspiring piece.

One of the artists summarized the artist’s life: “In the vicissitudes of life, we twist and turn, go and return, but always we aspire to move forward.”

 

Installation detail
The Gate by Tanabe Chikuusai IV, 2017

Time Lapse Movie of Installation:

https://www.metmuseum.org/metmedia/video/collections/asian/japanese-bamboo-art-timelapse

More information about the exhibition:

https://www.metmuseum.org/press/exhibitions/2016/japanese-bamboo

 

Lynda Benglis

LYNDA BENGLIS

For years, I have followed and enjoyed the fluid, voluptuous, abstract sculptures of Lynda Benglis. In the summer of 2016, I visited the new Museum of the Baroque/Museo Internacional del Barroco in Puebla, Mexico wanting to see the soaring design by the famous Japanese Architect Toyo Ito.  Imagine my surprise as I walked into the contemporary wing and encountered a spectacular show by Lynda Benglis!

This major exhibition, titled Cuerpos, Materia y Alma, is her first show in Latin America. While the museum sports an enormous collection of baroque paintings, furniture and decoration, the inclusion of Benglis’s work in the contemporary wing makes abundant sense since her sculptures are often gaudy and sparkling, influenced in part by the Mardi Gras culture of her Louisiana childhood. Using latex, polyurethane and other industrial materials, Benglis has always been on the cutting edge of experimental materials. Her lifelong interest in forms that echo the body and sexuality are in evidence in every decade of her work.

It was a treat to see her work in Mexico and be reminded that being outrageous and daring is courageous and helps us to push our boundaries and imaginations.

 

 

Additional resources about Lynda Benglis:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/13/arts/design/13benglis.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lynda_Benglis

http://www.cheimread.com/artists/lynda-benglis

Video about her show at the Museum of the Baroque

https://youtu.be/kAbR4pXpWoI

Artist Talk

https://youtu.be/33Fay9DOzZM

 

Magnetic Fields

MAGNETIC FIELDS: Expanding American Abstraction 1960s to Today

Kemper Museum of  Contemporary Art, Kansas City, KS

 

Whenever I travel, I try to tuck in visits to galleries and museums that nourish me creatively. While we were visiting family this summer, we hopped across the US starting in California, then Missouri and finally in North Carolina. I caught a gem of a show in Kansas city while we were visiting my friend and colleague Catherine Armbrust (http://360xochiquetzal.com/catherine-armbrust/)  Catherine teaches fibers at the University of Missouri Columbia during the academic year and a summer fibers class at University of Missouri Kansas City.

We went to the Kemper Museum, a treasure trove of contemporary art, where we saw Magnetic Fields, a terrific overview of artwork by black female artists who have dedicated their careers to non-representational abstraction. Erin Dziedzic and Melissa Messina curated this visionary show with work by both well-known and little known artists.

One of the exhibiting artists, Howardena Pindell, summed up the organizing philosophy of this distinct collection by saying, “We must evolve a new language which empowers us and does not cause us to participate in our own disenfranchisement.” The artists were from the US and Europe and the worked ranged from conventional painting to contemporary installation and mixed media.

https://www.kemperart.org/exhibitions/magnetic-fields-expanding-american-abstraction-1960s-today