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Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2010

Uneven Quality in Inova’s Fellowships Exhibit

Art Review

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“In art, man reveals himself and not his objects.” This quote by 1913 Nobel Prize winner Rabindranath Tagore demonstrates a philosophy that resonates with art from all eras, ancient and contemporary. Works of art reveal ideas from one person’s mind and elicit subjective responses from viewers.

This concept triggered thoughts on the Peck School of the Arts’ “Greater Milwaukee Foundation’s Mary L. Nohl Fund Fellowships for Individual Artists in 2009” at Inova. This annual exhibition features the four fellowship winners from last year’s cycle, Peter Barrickman, Kim Miller, Harvey Opgenorth and John Riepenhoff.

Barrickman’s paintings have found their way to galleries across the country and London’s Tate Modern. In the exhibition catalog, Barrickman’s painting Lodger displays a witty, intriguing composition in a colorful palette. In the exhibition, Barrickman’s mixed-media with graphite drawing Sleep Again possesses similar expertise in black and white, though a collaged border with additional drawings that surround the picture detracted from the image’s integrity.

Vermont College MFA graduate Kim Miller offers a grand-scale wall hanging featuring stuffed velvet and satin hands that surround a video screen. Titled Liza’s Fosse Hands, fabric hands ornament a screen arranged in angels’ wings while white-gloved hands dance across the black screen—a playful juxtaposition in real and virtual objects. However, Miller’s Marshmallow Architecture book was merely photocopied. A more professional, elegant presentation could have further elevated the ideas and the artist.

Opgenorth’s sculpture Night High Man placesa black-clad figure on a beam that blends into the ceiling’s background, an optical illusion that does a nice job of relating his artistic vision. Another installation, Objet Trouvé: Accidental Awareness,features a series of found road signs damaged by errant vehicles. It’s similar to objects and ideas employed by master 20th-century artists such as Marcel Duchamp in the Dada art movement.

Several drawings by Riepenhoff, including Oliver Sweet Drawing the Artist,capitalize on a repeated theme. He presents charming images that represent caricatures more than actual portraits.

A collaborative video effort by the four artists, titled Shiny Lakes,is less than compelling, especially after screening the films by the 2008 Nohl Fellowship winners.

A quartet of fascinating portraits introduces each artist on a gallery wall at Inova. Overall, however, the uneven quality is unusual for an exhibition of this stature. If the artists had revealed the best of themselves through each piece of art, as Tagore believed artists could do, the exhibit would have been more enlightening.

(The exhibition continues through Dec. 12 with events and lectures planned at Inova on Thursday evenings throughout November.)