In the fifth exhibition organized under the CultureJam MKE moniker — Revolution! — the ability of local artists to address hot-button topics is clearly undiminished.
This courage is one of the strengths of the work of CultureJam. The project is headed by artist and curator Jeff Redmon, a leader in the art community and an advocate for the ability of visual culture to resonate with our most strongly held beliefs, dreams and feelings.
The more than 35 artists in the exhibition — many of whom have created new work just for show — explore a multitude of ideas. The timeliness of their art offers an added feeling of currency, bringing the visual arts into the larger public dialogue about what is going on.
Many address U.S. politics
In the days before the 2016 election, there was hopefulness as well as anxiety and apprehension about what was to come. Artists like Marc Tasman, who combines eloquent drawings with Leonard Cohen lyrics, and Dara Larson with her dramatically spiraling, black-and-white “Twisted Revolution,” capture these sentiments.
The transgressions made on the Standing Rock Sioux tribal land in North Dakota and the struggles of protest are represented in Valeria Tatera’s “Good to the Last Drop: Water, Oil and Blood.“ Vials of water, oil and blood represent the triumvirate of liquids coursing through this conflict. Water and blood are essential to life and stand to be sullied by the specter of oil and environmental catastrophe.
Pete Railand, in collaboration with The Coalition of Justice, presents a strong series of banners created for Dontre Day 2016. This was a commemoration of the second anniversary of the death of Dontre Hamilton, who shot by a Milwaukee police officer in Red Arrow Park. There are calls for peace and unity, but also a reminder of the plights that affect sometimes unseen members of the community. One banner reads, “I can’t sleep” and underneath is a stark graphic of a metal park bench. This is not a place where one can find easy rest, especially for people most disenfranchised. For the more fortunate, can we sleep so well or will we be awakened by awareness?
These questions — and a probing for truth and action — lie beneath the surface of many of the works in the exhibit.
Eric Koester’s striking images in “The Secret Ingredients of Everything” speak forcefully. Placed over a light box, images of workers in a meat processing plant dismember chickens, a dirty hand holds a large lump of coal and a row of three skulls are a memento mori of our fragile human selves. It is not a pretty picture, but it is a true one. Koester draws together the commercialized death that permeates our food supply, the exploitation of a workforce in a harrowing environment, and our nonsensical reliance on unsustainable natural resources. These “secret ingredients” are everywhere, whether or not we notice them.
Earlier CultureJam MKE exhibitions — Truth Be Told (2015), Guns and Money (2015), and Easily Discarded (2014) — were similarity provocative, but were only single night events. In this exhibition, a longer run-time offers the public greater opportunity to experience these ideas, mulling over their meaning and the way visual art is immediately impactful but can remain indelibly in memory after it is encountered.
Revolution! continues through Dec. 17 at RedLine Milwaukee, 1422 N. Fourth Street.
‘Heads or Tails’ and Della Wells’ ‘Alice’s Tea Party’: Two new exhibitions
Portrait Society Gallery, 207 E. Buffalo St., Fifth Floor, Opening reception 6–8 p.m. Exhibitions continue through Dec. 23
Artist Della Wells will present her room-sized installation, “Alice’s Tea Party and Other Musings of a Little Colored Girl,” which incorporates 150 hand-painted fabric dolls, ranging from diminutive to monumental, and reflect on her stories of personal history and family memories. Heads or Tails is a ceramics survey, which features artists working in experimental modes, plus the work of well-established ceramicist Claire Loder of Bath, England.
Chords and Colors: Milwaukee’s Music and Art Spectacle
Turner Hall Ballroom, 1034 N. Fourth St., 6 p.m.
This benefit concert for Islands of Brilliance, a nonprofit supporting activities for young people on the autism spectrum, brings together an array of Milwaukee’s creative talent. Rusty Pelicans, Midwest Death Rattle, Nineteen Thirteen and more will be joined onstage by artists creating work on the spot. The visuals will be supplied by Pamela M. Anderson, Dwellephant, Jeff Redmon, Melissa Dorn Richards and others.