In Arts & Entertainment

James Nares', whose "Street" was at the museum not long ago, will be featured in a one-man show at Milwaukee Art Museum in 2019. (PHOTO: James Nares)

Art Museum announces 2018-19 slate of exhibitions

The Milwaukee Art Museum has announced its next season of exhibitions, a highlight of which is a John Constable show, which MAM's Josh Depenbrok promises "will be fun as it reveals a mystery about a painting that's been in our collection for more than 75 years."

I'm especially intrigued by the midcentury design exhibition, "Serious Play" and the James Nares show. You may recall his interesting "Street" at the museum recently.

Here is the complete list with descriptions provided by Milwaukee Art Museum:

Constable? A Landscape Rediscovered
Sept. 7, 2018-Feb. 17, 2019

The answers to two art mysteries are an unexpected outcome of this focused exhibition, which is the annual Layton Collection Focus Exhibition. The Museum houses over 30,000 works of art; behind the scenes, staff care for and continue to research all the works that reside within its walls. In focus here is a painting that was ascribed to the great English landscape painter John Constable (1776–1837) when it entered the Layton Art Collection, in 1941. Recent conservation on the painting has brought this attribution into question and occasioned an important rediscovery.

Family Pictures
Sept. 14, 2018-Jan. 20, 2019

Family Pictures traces the ways in which black photographers and artists – including John Edmonds, LaToya Ruby Frazier, Lyle Ashton Harris, Deana Lawson, Lorraine O'Grady, Gordon Parks, Sondra Perry, Ming Smith, and Carrie Mae Weems – have used images of family to challenge and transform artistic and popular images of African American life since the postwar period.

The exhibition takes its inspiration from Roy DeCarava's landmark book from 1955, The Sweet Flypaper of Life. Coming of age in Harlem during the 1940s, DeCarava reacted against what he saw as superficial stereotypes and "sociological" studies of his neighborhood by mostly outsiders. With the aid of a Guggenheim Fellowship, DeCarava set out to create expressive photographs of domestic life in his community. The Sweet Flypaper of Life features 120 of these pictures and text by Langston Hughes; the book is a powerful commentary on issues of family and racism, and on the particular and universal realities of daily existence.

Organized by the Columbus Museum of Art.

Serious Play: Design in Midcentury America

Sept. 28, 2018–Jan. 6, 2019


Serious Play: Design in Midcentury America explores the projects of more than 40 designers who employed playfulness and whimsy within their creations for corporations, domestic interiors and children. The exhibition presents play as a serious form of inspiration, experimentation, and problem-solving. In midcentury America, such playful design occurred against the backdrop of a booming consumer market and as a counterbalance to Cold War-era anxiety. Furniture, toys, textiles, films, posters, ceramics – and several interactive play spaces—are among the objects featured.

Co-organized by the Milwaukee Art Museum and the Denver Art Museum


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The San Quentin Project: Nigel Poor and the Men of San Quentin State Prison

Oct. 18, 2018–March 10, 2019


This exhibition debuts contemporary artist Nigel Poor's (American, b. 1963) San Quentin Project and presents personal narratives about life inside prison through visual documents, photographs, and an acclaimed podcast.

Begun in 2011, The San Quentin Project has evolved from Poor's experience teaching visual literacy at San Quentin for the Prison University Project. Tracing the evolution of her collaborative social practice, from mapping exercises to essays and interviews, the work in this exhibition utilizes storytelling to illuminate and counter common stereotypes the public might have about prison populations.

The project's visual documents – mapping exercises on which the men in Poor's class marked their responses to and narratives about photographic images were made collaboratively by Poor and the men incarcerated at San Quentin. The photographs are from an uncatalogued archive of thousands of 4- by 5-inch negatives made inside the prison from the 1930s to the 1980s that Poor was introduced to in 2012; and the audio, from Ear Hustle, is a podcast featuring stories of life inside prison, shared and produced by those living it.

The San Quentin Project not only invites audiences to consider how images of prisoners have been codified, but also seeks to promote the critical reading of cultural codes and power structures inherent within visual images. Ultimately, the project hopes to raise awareness of the overwhelming benefits arts, humanities and storytelling offer to incarcerated individuals and the communities they will re-enter. A three-day symposium, co-organized with the Haggerty Museum of Art at Marquette University, will envision the role of the arts in criminal justice reform by inviting scholars and artists to Milwaukee to address these issues.

Organized by the Milwaukee Art Museum.

Bouguereau & America
Feb. 15-May 12, 2019


Comprising nearly 50 masterful paintings by the French academic painter William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825–1905), this exhibition explores the artist's remarkable popularity in the United States, particularly from the late 1860s to the early twentieth century.

During this period, owning a painting by the artist was de rigueur for any American who wanted to be seen as a serious collector. The artist's grand canvases brought a sense of classic sophistication to newly formed collections; the paintings persuasively stood in as freshly painted Old Masters for purchasers with newly minted money. Bouguereau painted what appealed to his Gilded Age patrons. As such, his subject matter – chastely sensual maidens, Raphaelesque Madonnas, and impossibly pristine peasant children– mirrors the religious beliefs, sexual mores, social problems and desires of that period. 

In addition to providing a comprehensive survey of the artist's oeuvre as collected in the United States, the project will consider Bouguereau's paintings as unique reflections of the interests of the time. This exhibition will, therefore, be the first to study the artist, whose work forms the backbone of many museum collections, from this unique perspective.

Co-organized by the Milwaukee Art Museum and the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art. The 2019 Layton Feature Exhibition

Sara Cwynar
March 8-July 21, 2019

The work of Sara Cwynar (Canadian, b. 1985) explores the subjects of color and design, both in film and photography, and considers the ways they have operated politically, socially and historically, particularly in the context of how we conceptualize beauty.

Her research-oriented films are meditations on the emotional impact of color, design and popular imagery, and their role in the manifestation of desire for objects and others. In her first US solo museum exhibition, Cwynar presents three of her latest films—Soft Film (2016), Rose Gold (2017), and Cover Girl (2018)—together with a suite of photographs from her ongoing Tracy series. Comprised of studio portraits of Tracy, the artist's friend and muse, this suite of images present the reclining model set against a series of vividly colored backdrops, ranging from red and green fabrics to tarps reminiscent of eye shadow palettes. These images are superimposed with found objects, photographs, and text clippings that visualize the interrelated histories of color and the representation of women.

Co-organized by the Milwaukee Art Museum and the Minneapolis Institute of Art.

Charles Radtke
April 19-Aug. 25, 2019

Charles Radtke is the first retrospective of the work of the renowned furniture maker who lives and works in Cedarburg, Wisconsin. The exhibition features more than 30 examples of the artist's work, including cabinets, tables, and chairs.

Largely self-taught, Radtke (b. 1964) is best known for his attention to detail, exemplified by his meticulous dovetailing, planing, carving, and finishing work, all done by hand rather than machine. He prefers working with native American hardwoods and has harvested much of the wood he's used throughout his career himself.

While rooted in traditional furniture making, Radtke's work has a conceptual component that relates to contemporary sculpture. The artist's ongoing exploration of the function of the cabinet as a container has resulted in the unorthodox features of several of his pieces, such as interiors that are more intricately designed than the exteriors, or hidden compartments in which Radtke has placed something personally meaningful. Radtke's work is represented in several museum collections, including the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the Milwaukee Art Museum.

Organized by the Milwaukee Art Museum.

James Nares: Moves
June 14-Oct. 6, 2019

James Nares: Moves is the first retrospective for the British-born, New York-based artist. Over the course of a career spanning five decades, Nares (b. 1953) has investigated, challenged, and expanded the boundaries of his multiple media, producing significant projects in painting, sculpture, drawing, film, photography and music.

While the artist's single-brushstroke paintings remain the most recognizable and celebrated of his works, the release of STREET, in 2011, brought to the fore a vital aspect of the artist's production: film. Indeed, despite Nares' renown as a painter, film has served as his most steadfast and productive interlocutor and protagonist.

This exhibition will highlight key works and projects from the artist's career and shed light on the connections between them; specifically the exhibition will elucidate the manner in which film informs Nares' explorations of gesture, time, and motion and the multiple facets of his career. Ultimately, James Nares: Moves posits the artist's entire body of work as innately "filmic" or "photographic," revealing a new way to understand the nature of his art making and the significance of his career to postwar art in New York and beyond.

Organized by the Milwaukee Art Museum.


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