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Artwatch

Things that go bump in the night. That would be sculpture and that’s what I am thinking about this week. The Alexander Calder and Contemporary Art show at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago left me with a revelation: We have moved far away from the natty categorical divisions of painting, sculpture, photography, craft, etc., and the ensuing mix-and-match mélange of current art practice allows for surprising and sometimes gloriously fresh juxtapositions.

However, the Calder show was a sculpture show harkening back to those old-fashioned categories. And indeed, I found homey comfort in the focus. (As I say this, I realize it could be argued that the essence of Calder’s work was the blurring of two and three-dimensional distinctions. But that’s for a longer discussion).

One huge space held 50 or more of the master’s sculptures, mobiles and staybiles, while another huge space across the hall provided stylistic echoes from seven current artists. This is a great show in the thoughts it presses forward as it pits Calder’s swooping lyrical restraint and his balancing of simple shapes with the equivocal contemporary gestures that utilize a heavier vocabulary of excess, refuse and recycled waste.

Jason Middlebrook’s 4,000-pound mobile of scavenged wooden things hangs from the hallway ceiling between the two rooms, reminding us that, yes, this is a show about mass, weight and balance. It closes Oct. 17. Go see it.

In Milwaukee, we have a new sculpture seated on the lakefront at the end of Capitol Drive in Shorewood. It is by Jaume Plensa, the Spanish artist who did the Crown Fountain in Chicago’s Millennium Park. “Spillover II” is from his series of meditative, seated figures composed of steel letters that form an open “skin.” You can see through the figure as it sits on its concrete pedestal looking timelessly over the bluff at our grand lake.

I think it is a good choice for the location: not too imposing, peacefully relevant to the site and a marker for the park. While it is a shame to block even an inch of that vista, this sculpture might actually help us see the view better, just as the framing devices that the other Spaniard up the block, Santiago Calatrava, used in his windows help us notice details by gently guiding our sight lines.

And last, the Milwaukee guerrilla group that promotes temporary sculpture will launch its new series of interventions with the real world between 27th and 35th streets on Capitol Drive beginning Oct. 2. There is a reception at 2 p.m. on Sat., Oct. 2, at Vanguard Sculpture, 3374 W. Hopkins and it is free. At 3:30 p.m. there is a tour of the projects with the artists, who include Marly Gisser, Sarah Luther, Colin Matthes, Marla Sanvick and Paula Schulze.

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