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Friday, March 11, 2011

Ten Years, Multiple Successes for Milwaukee Art Museum

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Ten years have passed since the dedication of the Milwaukee Art Museum's Santiago Calatrava Quadracci Pavilion. During this decade over 3,000 prints have been purchased for the museum's permanent collection, several specifically by the Contemporary Print Society, a MAM support group celebrating their 20th anniversary. The current exhibition "Framing the Decade: Acquisitions of Prints and Drawings 2001-2011" commemorates these two events by highlighting approximately 60 prints from this distinguished period.

Mounted in the museum's mezzanine Koss Gallery, the prints exhibited in chronological order begin with the 16th-century Old Masters, and then proceed into the 21st century. The artist's names read similar to an art history text: Jacques Callot, Helen Frankenthaler, Paul Gauguin, Kathe Kollwitz, Ernst Kirchner, Paul Klee, Gustav Klimt, Emil Nolde, Picasso, Rembrandt and Egon Schiele. Each work on paper reflects a precious quality like a jewel chosen from the MAM's treasures by Assistant Curator of Prints and Drawings Mary Weaver Chapin.

To the right of the exhibition's entrance view Claude Mellan's engraving The Sudarium (1649), a sorrowful image portraying Christ's head wearing a crown of thorns using only one continuous line. Magnifying lenses provided by the museum help the viewer study this masterpiece. Entering into another gallery section, Henri Riviere's color woodcut represents the Japanese influence over 19th–century European printmaking in his Burial Procession With Umbrella (1891), a poignant scene from a Parisian Street.

On an East wall two Picasso's were gleaned from the Vollard Suite printed in 1939, a pair from a series of 100. The MAM's duo from 1933 depicts a centaur, artist self-portrait, and the artist's model Marie-Therese to express Picasso's proclivity for believing creativity undoubtedly united with sexuality.

A rectangular gallery near the end of the exhibition displays the German Expressionists, part of an expansive collection at the MAM. A delicate favorite by Gustav Klimt offers a study in sensitive and spontaneous simplicity. Klimt's graphite drawing Young Girl With Baggy Trousers (1917) uses merely fine lines to detail her costume and emotions to perfection.

Plan on spending time throughout the gallery to explore every print and then notice the exhibit in the mezzanine, works on paper exclusively purchased by the Contemporary Print Society. This includes Jane Hammond's Love Laughs (2006), a hand cut and colored print on bark paper while Warrington Colescott's Sunday Service (2001) honors a Packer win over the Chicago Bears. An event prophetically repeated in this important season after ten years. This exquisite print exhibition superbly demonstrates how profoundly art connects to historical culture. (Exhibition continues until April 3.)
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