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Monday, June 4, 2012

Pure Talent on Display at Erickson Gallery

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Elaine Erickson Gallery is on floor one of the Marshall Building, 207 E. Buffalo St. Erickson has certainly seen changes in the business of selling art. As Peter Schjeldahl notes in the May 7, 2012, issue of The New Yorker ("All Is Fairs"), "a spiritual gulf steadily widens between the people who buy art and those who only love it."

In the era when discreet relationships were forged between artist and dealers, money was seldom mentioned, but now big money buys art to impress others of their kind, and it includes bragging rights. The enormous fairs (for example, those in London, Paris, Miami, etc.) hold center ring in the art-circus world where Milwaukee is not a player.

Erickson recently got caught in the fair fray, with plans to take selected paintings by a local artist to "Next Art Chicago," where a 300-square-foot booth would set her back $8,000, a mere pittance compared to $80,000-plus elsewhere. Alas, the once grandest of all fairs was canceled because of increased competition.

That said, the fundamentals of creativity are alive and well locally. From June 8-July 12, Wisconsin-based painters Tom Hoffman and William Hughes will exhibit at the Erickson Gallery with Illinois-based painter Karl Jahnke. The exhibition, aptly titled "Three Men," prompts me to say that fairs come and go, but pure talent is here to stay. This trio has plenty of it (a mix of abstraction, surrealism and, in the case of Hoffman, a touch of magic realism of the fairy-tale kind, more Brothers Grimm than Disney). Elysium #2, a landscape blasted with flaming color, left me wondering if I was in the midst of a nuclear blast guided by demons, or perhaps out for a stroll among creepy hills and dales. When it comes to strong social commentary, Jahnke is heavy on storm and stress. And Hughes, well, he's a wonderful abstractionist in the mode of atmosphere and meandering brushwork where beautiful edges meet infinity.

Will this be one of the better exhibitions of the summer of 2012? Yes.    
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