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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

'Forward' for Wisconsin Artists?

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I heard a few comments from local artists who entered "Forward 2012: A Survey of Wisconsin Art Now" (through June 3). The biennial juried exhibition at the Charles Allis Art Museum was juried via JPEGs, which is OK, but this year the artists who made the cut did not bring their work in for additional jurying. The exhibition was culled from 250-plus entries. Sixty works got the nod from Lena Vigna, curator of exhibitions at the Racine Art Museum.

Thankfully, a minimum of works was exhibited in the Great Hall, where the vast space and glare from the east-facing windows cause big problems. Floor two generally serves both artists and viewers quite well, though the award-winners left lots to be desired. The exceptions to that latter statement are Small Books of Pets and Small Books of Pests by Stephanie Copoulos-Selle, The Gathering by Edmund Mathews and Yevgeniya Kaganovich's intriguingly wicked Double Mouth Pieces. Katheryn Corbin is a master of clay, and I would certainly have chosen her lyrical 2011 piece, Girl With Crane, along with Tara Bogart's photographic study of the backside of a female's neck. On the day I reviewed the exhibition, Corbin strolled in and I asked her where the "Forward" was in this show. She remarked (tactfully), "Wisconsin has never been a cutting-edge art state, which isn't to say that artists in the state don't produce beautiful work." We were joined by Madison painter Jeff Stern, whose October Corn, a smartly rendered oil, didn't win a prize, though I swear I heard dry stalks rattling in a Wisconsin wind. Corbin and I agreed that beauty is not in the eye of the beholder, but rather, in the eye of the educated beholder.

The Grand Prize went to an over-the-top cut paper assemblage, Michael Velliquette's Babooma, complete with a pair of sculpted paper horns. Unfortunately, there wasn't a prize for an object that would rock a Ralph Lauren cabin interior. Did I mention that Philip Krejcarek's marvelous black-and-white photograph knocked me out?
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