Art Gaze: Milwaukee — Argentinian collective Artistas en Cooperativa

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Noella Farias, ”A la espra (Waiting),“ 2012. — PHOTO: Courtesy Dean Jensen Gallery

‘Lejos’

Through Sept. 21

Dean Jensen Gallery is cool and quiet, but the art is not. Brilliant colors shine with energy, but the images they create are often mysterious and surreal.

Co-curated by Milwaukee-based/Argentina-born artist Santiago Cucullu and gallery owner Jensen, the collection of works by members of the Argentinian collective Artistas en Cooperativa is in town for a late summer stay. The show is called Lejos, meaning “far” in Spanish, and it’s geographically apropos for the artists.

The sense of distance is more than physical. The pictures take us deep into a world of dreams and psyche, with lost Edens, lonely mountains and urban cacophony. 

Noella Farias has a talent for stillness. She populates sparse, mountainous landscapes with pensive women. Their youthful appearances are trumped by the knowing maturity of their fixed gazes and distant expressions.

The painting, A la espera (Waiting), is a suspended narrative in which a dour young woman with golden hair, dressed modestly in blue, sits beside a dark, hair-covered figure. The light touch of Farias’ color palette makes the deep blackness of the prone figure unsettling. It lies like a body or a black hole in the earth, making the girl appear a witness to human truths of which we can only guess. 

If there are dramas to decipher, Andrea Cukler’s After the World series seems clear about the end result of the story: desolation. With gorgeously apocalyptic brushwork, her destruction melts the industrial landscape of Buenos Aires’ port under blemished skies. It is post-industrial decay, but also a metaphor for substance lay to waste.

Not all is so sinister. Florencia Fraschina paints somnolent, voluptuous women in tropical lands with flowers so brilliant one can imagine their perfumed scent. Drawing even closer to nature, Balbina Lightowler’s abstract paintings, on clear acetate, physically layer one painting over another, densely working with translucent tones and negative spaces. 

In his catalog remarks, Cucullu writes of how these artists lead us to a new vantage point of physical and psychological place, where we “become more conscious of certain forces in and around us that, while not always entirely seeable, shape who and what we are.” This exhibition offers a vicarious entrance into imagination where unreality is entirely real.

At Dean Jensen Gallery, 759 N. Water St. Visit deanjensengallery.com or call 414-278-7100.

‘Summer Art Orgy’

Through Sept. 13 

If orgy denotes hedonistic abundance, celebration and sensuality, it’s an apt name for this exhibition, one of the strongest presentations at Portrait Society in recent memory. Romano Johnson’s monumental paintings of pop stars like Michael Jackson and Tina Turner glisten with glitter and iconic stature, weaving abstract flatness and pattern with expressive visuals capturing the charisma of their inspirations. Skully Gustafson’s full-room installation brings the viewer into the exuberant world of the artist’s studio in paintings, photographs, sculptures, objects hanging from the ceiling and a small stage that offers an overt invitation to be part of the show. A counterpoint to Gustafson’s extroverted art are Erik Moore’s austere and stunning black-and-white photographs. It may be said that Moore is quite a master of lighting, capturing the nude male physique capped by elaborate animal masks in a mode that suggests satyr-like shamans. This is an exhibition not to be missed. 

At Portrait Society Gallery, Marshall Building, 207 E. Buffalo Street, 5th Floor. Visit portraitsocietygallery.com or call 414-870-9930.

‘Cargo Space’

Through Sept. 20

A converted, decorated bus with grimacing teeth for a bumper and fiercely piercing eyeballs has rolled into town, and with it the new exhibition at Inova. Spearheaded by Christopher Sperandio, Simon Grennan and Duncan MacKenzie, the show is one of a pair simultaneously on view in Milwaukee and Chicago exploring notions of artist residencies. For the non-artist viewer, it is an opening into the experimentation of art-making.

The cavernous Inova space is divided into a series of installations of finished work and ephemera. A handwritten gallery sign announces that “the form of this show isn’t set. Art works will change and/or move during the course of the exhibition.” Like the creative process, it is amorphous and unsettled, but an intriguing conceptual peek into the creative process, both illuminating and disheveled. 

At Inova, 2155 N. Prospect Ave. Call 414-229-5070 or visit uwm.edu/psoa/inova.

‘Summer Dances: Monotypes by Jan Serr’

Through Oct. 8 

Jan Serr began working with monotypes in the early 1980s, and in subsequent decades she’s experimented intensively with this printmaking process. A monotype, most basically put, involves applying some type of medium such as paint to a plate and pressing paper to its surface to transfer the image. Serr’s works are much more elaborate, involving multiple pressings to produce translucent, exquisitely layered colors. Inspired by dancers in performance, her figures are ethereal but strong, figurative but abstract. Her extraordinary color sense offers a memorable visual experience to celebrate the waning summer days. 

At Museum of Wisconsin Art on the Lake at St. John’s on the Lake, 1800 N. Prospect Ave. For more information, visit
wisconsinart.org/MOWAOnTheLake.

‘Unis: The Origin of the Unicorn’ 

Through Sept. 28

Timothy Westbrook is most well-known as a clothing designer and for his appearance on Season 12 of Project Runway. He also is a huge fan of unicorns, which form the basis for this museum-wide installation at the Charles Allis. The exhibition guide takes the visitor through a narrative where the mythology of the unicorn is combined with a fictional history of intrepid explorers seeking this legendary creature in upstate New York. Clothing, drawings, literature, unicorn tchotchkes and an installation of contemporary art linked to the unicorn form is on view, making for a treasure hunt and meditation on the inspirational nature of mythical figures in folklore and pop culture. At Charles Allis Art Museum, 1801 N. Prospect Ave. Ring 414-278-8295 or to charlesallis.org.

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