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Drew Malcom of Brooklyn, NY works with acrylic on panels.

In Arts & Entertainment

Liz Bachhuber's utilize concepts of bird's nests and kitchen utensils.

In Arts & Entertainment

Peter Barrickman is one of several Wisconsin artists in Friday's show.

Jensen sculpts the artist's economy with "Big, Big Bangs/ Small, Small Bucks"

Its true good art is priceless. But truthfully, if you want to own it, there's a cost. So, to make ownership just a touch easier for you, Dean Jensen of the Dean Jensen Gallery, is highlighting some affordable artists and hoping to turn the art world economy on its head this winter.

This Friday, the gallery opens "Big, Big Bangs/ Small, Small Bucks: An Exhibition for the Post-Bust Economy." Unlike any gallery showing Jensen has done before, this show combines over 100 works from nearly 40 artists. The show is the largest in the gallery's history and takes an old approach during new economic times to cut prices and pump up selection.

"In a sense, it figures to be visually schizophrenic, but perhaps no more so than a typical Whitney Biennial. About all that we insisted on it accepting work for the show was that works have a certain hipness or contemporaneity. That opened the show up to almost anything, so long as the work radiated smartness and visual resonance," Jensen explains.

Works are priced for no more than $750; with several works priced at $200 or $300. For a gallery, historically showing high-end, renowned artists whose works sell for a minimum of $1000 this show is a huge shift.

"What's surprising about the show is that quite a few of the artists are of "almost famous" status, with credits that include shows in tony galleries in NY and elsewhere, works in important museum collections, and reviews of the exhibitions in major art periodicals," Jensen explains.

Jensen decided to take a creative approach to December's show when a showing for an international photographer fell through and Jensen was left with deciding how to approach the turning economic state.

"I made the decision then that rather than concede complete to the economic meltdown, I would take my cue from it," Jensen says. "I decided to see if I could organize a show of contemporary art works that had great visual and intellectual punch, but were almost unspeakably modest in price. My great surprise was how the artists responded to the idea."

The artist list is heavy on Milwaukee and Wisconsin names. Peter Barrickman, Santiago Cucullu, Paul Druecke, Amanda Tollefson, Lynn Tomaszewski and Scott Espeseth are just a few of the many accomplished Wisconsin artists to lend works to the show.

"While I long admired the work of many of the artists who will be represented, their work somehow didn't seem to fit into any of our earlier shows. Most the shows here have tended to focus on single artists or, sometimes, two or three artists whose work tends to investigate similar concerns," Jensen explains. ""Big, Big Bangs/ Small, Small Bucks" though, is going to be unlike any we've ever presented here."

Kyle Fitzpatrick, Karen Laudon and Bradley Warsh return to the gallery after showing in Jensen's May 2008 show "Not All Black and White."

Despite the concentration of Wisconsin artists, artists from throughout the United States, Germany, France and Japan were eager to participate in Jensen's show. Many of them, understanding the restrictions Jensen wanted on price, lowered prices of works to fit the show's requirements.

"Big, Big Bangs/ Small, Small Bucks" opens this Friday, December 5 at the Dean Jensen Gallery. All of the showcased works can be viewed on Jensen's online catalogue but stop in opening night beginning at 6 p.m. to see the real live work.


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