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Monday, Nov. 12, 2012

Portrait Society Relaunched (With Style)

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The newly shaped Portrait Society Gallery (PSG), in the Third Ward’s Marshall Building, opened Nov. 9. Six-plus months is a long time to walk around in dusty debris, but the gallery is up and running and proprietor Debra Brehmer has launched it with style. UW-Milwaukee and MIAD art students will cheer at their opportunities to exhibit in one of the smarter galleries in town. A conceptualist by nature, Brehmer has carried her vision forward from the days when she owned Art Muscle magazine.

Fans of her fifth-floor PSG will still browse three gallery spaces—united, not divided—in the 1,000-square-foot, seamless redo, and they will surely endorse her selection of artists. It’s a reunion of sorts, bringing together old and new self-portraits by J. Shimon and J. Lindemann. Barbara Ciurej and Lindsay Lochman, another photographic team, add the history of the natural by pairing portrait busts of women with cyanotype overlays of plant forms. Nicholas Grider, in collaboration with PSG, presents “word photographs.” As a writer, I am keenly interested in his images, i.e. how words grow into writing and how writing grows into images. A selection of “vintage” portraits, unearthed by Brehmer, will complement Grider’s portion of the exhibition.

I remember seeing the work of Shimon & Lindemann, as well as the work of Ciurej & Lochman, in the pages of Art Muscle 15 years ago. Standing in this updated space is an earthy experience, for it strongly suggests new growing out of old, in much the same way that PSG has grown. It’s a sentimental journey well taken.

Brehmer’s master’s degree in art history has shaped her sensitivity to the concepts driving art. In turn, the concepts create credibility and nurture artists. Both a discerning curator and proprietor, as well as a supporter and a host with a keen sense of “the most,” she also understands the business of art. Did I mention that the gallery sheltering Shimon & Lindemann’s photographs will feature a tipi in which you are invited to sit?

The enriching exhibition moves into 2013 before closing on Jan. 5. PSG calls it a GRAND re-opening. Yes.