- Views & Opinions
Usually, the Haggerty Museum of Art focuses on two, maybe three exhibitions at a given time. This season, there are six eclectic shows going on concurrently.
Two of the major shows are widely divergent from each other, but both function as exercises in deep examination.
One exhibition features work by Gendron Jensen, an artist now in his mid-70s, but represented by drawings done between January 1969 and March 1970.
Jenson found himself fascinated by minutiae of the natural world as he hiked about the rural landscape in the northern Midwest. He was captivated by objects that for him were like relics — the skull of a raccoon, a grasshopper leg, a wisp of dandelion seed.
The drawings originated as small sketches, but over time grew in size — the pieces on view measure 60 x 72 inches. According to the exhibition text, it was necessary for Jensen to source special paper to make these pieces.
Done in pencil, the drawings sometimes approach ghostliness, the tones so lightly rendered. In others, deep graphite hues create spacious shadows as we peer into the recessed spaces of nuts, shells or bone.
Jensen encourages himself, and by association the viewer, to look into these small, hidden places of nature in a meditation on the elemental nature of life. Animals and plants that once lived as part of the earth represent a continuum.
The exhibition is called Series on Resurrection in Nature, a title that may imply an eternal quality captured in these drawings. The pieces themselves have a new life, as they have not been shown together in about 50 years.
Looking at the drawings up close, it seems Jensen interprets the world through the modulated play of light and shadow. There are few outright contour lines. Surfaces and textures are instead demarcated through various methods of shading, or by reserving the natural color of the paper to create highlights.
One of the most striking pieces is “ad corraccoon, No. 16,” done in March 1970. Jensen notes that it was the last in the series and serves as something of a summary of the project. He points out that the drawing, despite its huge size, depicts the sinus cavity in the skull of a raccoon, which is actually about the size of a dime. Jensen’s conception enlarges it and shapes it like a massive heart.
He says, “It, for me, is the poise of diver, about to plunge noiselessly into something of a heart of this matter.”
His statement suggests a beginning, rather than an endpoint, akin to the notion of resurrection as a new start.
Contemplating the difference between what exists now versus what was or what could be is part of Kirsten Leenaars: (Re)Housing the American Dream.
Leenaars is an associate professor at the Art Institute of Chicago and works in a way that could be construed as an artistic facilitator in this project.
Over the course of two weeks, she worked with kids around age 12 who attend school on Milwaukee’s Near West Side, asking them to consider aspects of community, housing and the ideas that swirl around the notion of the American Dream.
The exhibition centers around a three-channel video titled (Re)Housing the American Dream in which we see the kids playing, laughing, building a house out of cardboard and transporting it down a street. They also hold placards with hashtags related to another project, (Re)Constitution, #12yearolds.
This latter work is represented in the gallery and refers to aspects of today’s social and political climate. The hashtags include #beagoodperson, #nomoreseparatefamilies, #youcanmarrywhoyouwant and #trumpfreezone.
The video “We the People” includes interviews and poignant moments arise when these young people discuss immigration, ideas of home and their answers to the question of why there are abandoned and blighted houses in the city.
The kids tell where they live, a swath of the city from the North Side to Bay View. Several have arrived in the United States during the past year or so, coming from countries in Africa or Asia. They are striving to adjust to this new American culture.
In the video “New and Definitely Improved,” the kids build small models and present their idea of a dream home, ostensibly framing their presentation as a sort of infomercial. There are some curious and broad things that happen — not uniformly but enough to give pause.
The kids who grew up in America have a distinct idea of what an infomercial is — that it is meant to be persuasive and even over the top in hyperbolic language. Some of their dream homes have things like multiple bedrooms far away, so as to deal with annoying siblings, or an Olympic-sized pool (on the third floor), so friends who enjoy swimming can come over. A number of the kids from other countries, however, mention only a single bedroom in their dream home and often flowers and gardens. While this is no extensive or scientific survey, it is enough to ruminate on the various ways the American Dream may be understood, even from the developing voices of youth.
RedLine Milwaukee, 1422 N. Fourth St.
Opening reception, 6–10 p.m.
Exhibition continues through Dec. 17
More than 30 artists come together in this exhibition with work about change, revolution, justice and truth. This is the fifth one organized by CultureJam MKE, following powerful past exhibitions like Truth Be Told and Guns and Money. This stands out as a show in which provocative art and artists speak with powerful voices.
More than 50 venues will feature art exhibitions, spanning spaces from downtown to Bay View. Established galleries as well as pop-up sites are part of the event, with works in all mediums by artists of many styles. See historicthirdward.org for more information.
Charles Allis Art Museum
1801 N. Prospect Ave.
Opening reception, 6–8 p.m.
Exhibition continues through Feb. 19.
This biennial survey of contemporary Wisconsin art opens with a reception and remarks from jurors Susan Barnett and Brent Budsberg. Work by 46 artists will fill the rooms of this historic mansion, offering a view into the current work being produced in our state.