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Friday, Oct. 7, 2011

The Nohl Show

Surreal and Straightforward

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The windows outside the Inova/Kenilworth exhibition space glisten strangely, attracting pedestrians and, most likely, small insects. Square gold patterns look like stained glass, but their surface is gooey, and the honey that is their main ingredient slowly drips down the pane.

It is the first work visitors see in the Mary L. Nohl Fund Fellowship Exhibition. Now in its eighth year, this event showcases the work of artists who received fellowship grants the preceding year. 
Three jurors selected this year's group from 136 applications.

The aforementioned window installation is Ashley Morgan's Stained Window (honeybee)
, and is just one of several works in the show that embrace nontraditional materials to make provocative art. Morgan describes her work as "romantic," but crisply avoids sentimentality.  In another piece, for example, X's and O's—those sweet shorthand's for love—are cut deeply into delicate molding; affection is rendered with repetitive muscle.

Paul Drueke stretches art making into places where the main event exists outside the gallery. Official-looking placards, normally used for making grand proclamations, are empty voids to be filled. Holding court on the gallery floor are potted flowers that simulate flowers anonymously sent to high-profile Milwaukee art people. These gallery objects are aliases, corresponding to actions in the world outside.

Video figures prominently in this group of Nohl Fellows. For Neil Gravander, this is not a passive practice. Gear heads with affection for technology circa 1986 will salivate when confronted with the array of screens and knobs they can twiddle, turn, and switch. Roughly hewn wooden signs are hieroglyphics describing all the things to play with in this AV clubhouse-laboratory.


Chris James Thompson employs video in a way that is anything but play. Interrogation with Patrick Kennedy
recreates the small room where the atrocities of serial killer Jeffery Dahmer came to light. The world condenses to a small, sterile room, complete with metal table and an open pack of smokes.

Surrealist strangeness is alive and well in the work of two time-based media artists. Filmmaker Sarah Buccheri unfolds the bizarre nature of doors, and of boats traveling the icy Antarctic, and makes the weird events of the 2005 plane crash in Riverwest even more unworldly. 
Brent Coughenour's big screens of In Search of Lost Time are high-tension melodramas.  Overblown close-ups of faces, accompanied by swelling orchestras, magnify raised eyebrows and tensed mouths like islands of de-contextualized gravitas. On this scale it becomes farce; it's difficult not to laugh just a little.

Waldek Dynerman's Inventory
is a fantasy wonderland.  It suggests an artist's studio, but feels more like entering an artist's brain. Mannequins hang around, and the walls are decorated with slathers of paint, accompanied by body parts, flowers, and phalluses. Have a seat on a chair sporting human feet and wheels. It's not quite a psychotherapist's couch, but can get you there all the same. Come on in.

The Nohl Fellowship Exhibition continues at Inova/Kenilworth (2155 N. Prospect Avenue) through Dec. 4.