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Monday, June 7, 2010

Warrington Colescott Retrospective at MAM

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Sitting in the Calatrava over a cup of coffee before he views his extensive retrospective at the Milwaukee Art Museum (MAM), Warrington Colescott explains the inspiration for the narratives in his innovative prints. With an expression that exemplifies the sparkling wit displayed in his images, Colescott smiles and says, “I draw on my life experiences, trouble—that’s what I use for material.”

Colescott’s personal narratives cover some 60 years in the MAM exhibition titled “Warrington Colescott: Cabaret, Comedy & Satire” (June 10 through Sept. 26).

Mary Weaver Chapin, MAM associate curator of prints and drawings, and Colescott formed an extraordinary collaboration to produce the retrospective. They carefully selected about 100 prints over a four-year process.

The wide-ranging retrospective includes Colescott’s 1948 Lady at Leisure and 2008 Mardi Gras at the Gay Ball from his “Suite Louisiana” series.New Orleans became a second home of sorts for Colescott and his wife, artist Frances Myers. The city’s quirky lifestyles, both during the day and at night, often filter through Colescott’s mind. A series from The Big Easy concurrently appears at the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA) in “Sweet Suite Louisiana,” a tribute to Colescott’s Creole heritage.

Cut print plates with a superb use of white space feature intense images that draw the eye into every corner to examine each mark Colescott makes. By applying numerous techniques and mediums, including found prints, crayon, pastel and pen, Colescott invents his own continually evolving process.

To document Colescott’s illustrious career, Chapin authored The Prints of Warrington Colescott: A Catalogue Raisonné, 1948-2008,which elaborates on the artist’s life and more than 350 prints. The elegant catalog not only transforms Colescott’s work into a reference book for printmaking, but also records his pointed views on society, which will resonate far beyond the retrospective.

This exhibition encapsulates Colescott’s bawdy, biting and very humorous commentary. He’s already planning a new image for “Suite Louisiana” on the recent Gulf oil disaster. This will allow him to revisit a November 1986 print, Leak,which satirized a spill from a pipeline.

Colescott’s mind and hands constantly create, and as Chapin comments, “Warrington doesn’t play by the rules… His curiosity and intellect are too wild.”

An opening reception from 5:30-8 p.m. June 10 includes a lecture by Colescott at 6:15 p.m. The museum also plans a lecture and book signing on July 8 at 5:30 p.m. Additional programming for all ages will incorporate Colescott’s art into the MAM’s summer schedule.

In an effort to promote the art of drawing, Bucketworks (706 S. Fifth St.) hosts DrawCamp on Saturday, June 12. Registration for the daylong event begins at 9 a.m. A party is planned for celebrating the day’s seminars and experiences at 9 p.m. The organization asks for donations of $10 or more, with a portion of the proceeds to benefit ArtWorks for Milwaukee. To register online, visit www.drawcamp.org.

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