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Monday, May 17, 2010

Art at Dean Jensen, Tory Folliard Worth Another Look

Art Review

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Exceptional art often deserves more than one viewing. For examples in Milwaukee, look no further than the exhibits at two of the city’s most respected galleries, Dean Jensen Gallery and Tory Folliard Gallery.

Dean Jensen Gallery currently offers new work by photographer Sonja Thomsen in the exhibition “Re: Current” (through May 29). The displayed photographs represent Thomsen’s work from her 2008 residency at the Hermitage Artist Retreat located on Florida’s Gulf Coast.

Thomsen, her art as elegant as ever, creates masterful nature prints through otherworldly scenes. Thomsen’s new series, “Proscenium,” features 12 interrelated images, each framed by a drawn curtain that puts the coastline, shore and sky on a stage. Light and shadow change in each picture in accordance with the time of day, as natural drama unfolds in serene, still scenes.

A large-scale photograph titled Henry poignantly refers to the passage of time by capturing one day’s messages written in chalk on a blackboard. The photograph catches fleeting events: bridge, pinochle, golf and, appropriately for a picture about the cycle of time, the fact that “Henry Mastie died today 10 a.m. with his family by his side. Funeral is Fri.”

In the Historic Third Ward, Tory Folliard Gallery presents “Dennis Nechvatal: New Paintings and Drawings” (through May 29). Nechvatal, a well-established painter, mesmerizes viewers with his acrylic images and metalwork.

Nechvatal’s Face/Mask #1 (80 Mask Series) attaches 80 small, hand-cut and hand-formed tin masks to a wooden panel. The abstract face markings on each mask display individual, primal energy. When the painting is viewed from a distance, another personality emerges from behind the masks. The large-scale hidden portrait is vaguely unnerving, with its pensive pair of lips and piercing eyes that stare directly at the viewer. Mysterious and modern, Nechvatal’s face series stretches the imagination.

The artist’s landscapes and still lifes vividly recreate surrealistic idealism, the paintings attuned to nature’s peaceful presence. Nechvatal’s numbered “Landscape Study” seriesreveals this notion with delicate details provided by every stroke of the brush.

Thomsen and Nechvatal may work in different mediums, but they both demonstrate sophisticated, creative concepts that are worthy of multiple viewings.

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