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Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2010

Wisconsin Printmaking Royalty at Wustum Museum

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The cozy galleries in Racine’s Wustum Museum of Fine Arts (2519 Northwestern Ave.) provide a perfect backdrop for the museum’s current printmaking exhibition. Cleverly titled “Someday My Prints Will Come: Wisconsin Printmakers in RAM’s Collection,” the extensive exhibition occupies the foyer, first floor, and majority of the second-floor galleries, with more than 45 works on paper that span from Works Progress Administration art projects in the 1930s to contemporary abstract prints.

These artworks selected from the Racine Art Museum’s archives impressively demonstrate the contributions, expertise and variety that Wisconsin artists impart to this medium. Etchings and lithographs executed by Schomer Lichtner highlight his loose and free markings, as observed in Cows and Blossoms, each dated 1938. Frank Utpatel’s woodcuts and wood engravings focus on more evocative and sensuous lines, depicted in Rural Scene (1942), a farm landscape where a reclining woman relaxes with her cat.

Ten Warrington Colescott prints occupy a second-floor gallery and complement his immense repertoire on display at the Milwaukee Art Museum (MAM). His extraordinary printmaking skills delight in two versions of the Life and Times of Professor Freud (1989). A large color drypoint monoprint illuminates the print process when mounted next to the finished colored etching. Hung on an opposite wall, Colescott’s First Thanksgiving (1973) presents a raucous and risqué vision of the November holiday deliciously bathed in hazy autumn purples and golden hues.

The exhibition boasts work from Robert Burkert, John Colt, JoAnna Poehlmann, Frances Myers, John Wilde and many other familiar names in Wisconsin and throughout the Midwest. This understated presentation allows plenty of physical and visual space in which to fully appreciate every image. Take particular notice of Ken A. Kerslake’s two etchings on the second floor.

“My Prints Will Come” offers an inviting opportunity to explore works on paper, either as a complement to the MAM exhibition or as a singular pleasure enjoyed on its own. This understated, elegant exhibition at the Wustum, which continues through Nov. 27, underscores the prolific and prodigious talent of Wisconsin printmakers.

My sincere apologies to the Portrait Society Gallery for the miscommunication that one of the participants in the “Real Photo Postcard Survey” exhibition had passed on. This proved to be misinformation. Nevertheless, the exhibition remains a striking testament to transient moments in time.

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