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Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2011

Haggerty Museum Probes Milwaukee's Art Tendencies

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Trying to determine current tendencies in art may seem as hopeless as Bob Newhart's TV psychologist juggling a fractious gaggle of contemporary artists. But "Current Tendencies II: Artists from Milwaukee," running through Dec. 31 at Marquette University's Haggerty Museum of Art, gives it a go.

A few Milwaukee tendencies do emerge: art that embraces and reinvents traditional media; art that uses a concept as a tool as surely as a paintbrush, a pencil or a computer mouse; art that acknowledges the Midwestern experience while challenging its provincial limits; and art that probes the nostalgic impulse while reassessing history for the sake of the present and future.

Curator Lynne Shumow makes use of the 10 artists' diversity as well as reflective catalog responses from a Marquette University faculty member appropriate to each artist.

"We wanted a wide range of work, including emerging, mid-career and established artists from Milwaukee," Shumow explains.

Julian Correa's installation fairly engulfs the museum entrance with graffiti lettering and imagery spewing, in effect, from a giant 3-D Oldenburgesque paint tube. The bold color bursts and wispy spray-painting coalesce around a spectral, hovering vulture—a warning of the artistic act's vulnerability in an indifferent or uncomprehending culture?

Vulnerability also haunts the disarming installation of comic-book-style drawings by the late Luc Leplae, an ex-physics professor who documented his childhood and life in Nazi-occupied Belgium. The untrained drawing style lacks the overt ominousness of Art Spiegelman's famous graphic novel Maus, but it still speaks to viewers as small faceless humans scurry and chatter as the Holocaust looms.

Among the best artist/essayist pairings is Mark Brautigam and his rust-real Midwest Regionalist photos and visiting professor Larry Watson, renowned for his heartland family novel Montana 1948.
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