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Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2011

UWM's Energizing 'Milwaukee: A City Intersected'

Art Review

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The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee opens the school year at the Union Art Gallery by honoring its hometown. The exhibition "Milwaukee: A City Intersected" features more than 20 artists using a variety of media, including a soaring, futuristic, two-story mural painted by members of TRUE Skool. Artists Zen Castillo, Jasmine Barmore and Josh Thompson viewed the exhibition as an opportunity to fulfill TRUE Skool's mission of "using the cultural arts to educate and empower youth to become leaders for positive change in their community."

Other artists express their impressions of Milwaukee through paintings, photographs, prints and installations. These complex, contemporary visions project a positive vibe onto the city through conceptual and representational art.

Mike Fredrickson's oil painting Frank at Axels looks squarely into the eyes of his subject, as Frank stands at a counter surrounded by bottled paraphernalia. The portrait directs the viewer's gaze toward the heart of the working city, as does Fredrickson's painting Prophet, featuring the face of an African-American man.

In remembrance of his urban upbringing, Chantala Kommanivanh combines unlikely materials such as caulk and house paint with graffiti techniques. Dancing With Mother relays a powerful message of memory in this colorful and explosive wall-sized image.

The exhibition invites viewers to take a fresh look at Milwaukee, exposing fascinating stories of buildings, byways and people. While every metropolitan area divides itself into invisible borders delineated by culture and economics, ethnicities and neighborhoods, politics and philosophies, commonalities do exist. One leaves the exhibition energized to discover these revitalizing Milwaukee experiences.

"Milwaukee: A City Intersected" continues through Sept. 16.