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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Racine Art Museum, Matt Eskuche Take In the Trash

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One art space in the metro area that is often overlooked is the department store window gallery at the Racine Art Museum (441 Main St.). The windows from the original downtown retail space remained even after the building was renovated to create a unique, expansive gallery for the museum. The window space, though a prime location for public viewing, provides a challenge for artists to fit their works within its dimensions. Racine Art Museum (RAM) Executive Director Bruce Pepich calls it an exercise in “high relief.”

Each year the RAM selects an artist—usually one who works in sculpture—to fill the space with site-specific artwork. On Aug. 6 an artist with Milwaukee ties opens the 2010-2011 window exhibition in “Matt Eskuche: Agristocracy.” Eskuche fashioned an installation from found objects, incorporating consumer leftovers such as disposable bottles, paper coffee cups and plastic lids. Even though Eskuche’s primary medium is glass, he used society’s throwaway excess to construct high-design chandeliers and lighting fixtures for the installation.

The centerpiece includes an immensely long vintage table with claw feet that will be covered with more than 240 pieces of painted glass trash. It examines the consequences of consumerism by exposing modern culture’s discarded objects and causing the public to reflect on what we consider disposable, along with what happens to this vast waste.

“The museum thought Eskuche would enjoy and benefit from working in a public space to create a conversation about what objects we acquire and how we live with them,” Pepich explains.

Eskuche’s artistic training includes studying as a metalsmith and learning age-old glassmaking techniques, which he industriously applies to his installations. Eskuche hosts a gallery walk during the RAM’s Free First Friday event on Aug. 6 at 7 p.m. Later in the year he will participate in the 2010 Camgeran Applied Glass Symposium in Turkey.

Another interesting gallery space exists at the Museum of Wisconsin Art (MWA), which showcases statewide talent in an exhibit series titled “One From Wisconsin.” MWA’s newest exhibition in the series features Milwaukee favorite Fred Stonehouse. The exhibit runs Aug. 4 to Sept. 12 and will present Stonehouse’s new body of work, which incorporates 20-25 intimate portraits that reveal fictitious family lineages. His surreal, witty and satirical portraiture will invent individual legacies that Stonehouse relates to the genre’s historical context. The MWA hosts an artist’s reception on Sept. 5 from 1-4:30 p.m.

Annie B.’s “ArtBeat in the Heat,” a family-friendly art festival, takes place Saturday, July 31, from noon to 10 p.m. in Bay View’s Hide House (2625 S. Greeley St.). The event presents artists’ booths in a day aimed at engaging the city’s youths and showcasing Milwaukee art and music.