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Monday, Dec. 10, 2012

From Magazine to Gallery

‘Artbook: The Show’ at Greymatter

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Greymatter is a keenly intelligent place and does not rely on sprawling exhibitions to make a statement. It simply can't, as it is one of the smallest art galleries in the city. With the curatorial acumen of directors Zina Mussmann and Rachel Quirk, the compact space concentrates the viewing experience.

After completing their MFA degrees, Mussmann and Quirk returned to Milwaukee and were quite impressed by a magazine with ambitious scope and small size called Artbook, curated and published by Carrie Ann Seymour. Artbook is a gem featuring different work in each issue by an array of Milwaukee-area artists. This free publication is available around town at various outlets, such as coffee shops, but takes on a larger form in the current exhibition at Greymatter Gallery called “Artbook: The Show.”

Ten artists who have been featured in Artbook are gathered together, each allotted about 32 inches of wall space. This underlying organization makes for a sharp arrangement, as no single artist dominates (though the pieces vary in size and materials). William Zuback shows an intriguing series of black-and-white nudes tinged with red. These pieces have a rather painterly quality, but are a combination of photographs (which Zuback is most known for) and a wax-based medium called encaustic. Bridget Griffith Evans displays a series of edgy canvases that are just a few inches in size, but laden with psychological intensity in tiny figures. Also showing small-scale pieces is Scott Johnson with his MKE Peaks series. His photographs capture rooflines of ordinary homes and rows of houses, but with the deft compositions and saturated, surreal colors, they take on monumental qualities not commonly associated with such quotidian architecture.

Other artists work in larger scale and incorporate intriguing mixed media elements. Representing John Kowalczyk is a trio of paintings whose red, black and white surface patterns are made of various materials, including paint, ink, silkscreen and collaged paper. They have fantastic visual rhythm, and interestingly, each is related by title to a winter theme. In the triangular shards and spiky patterns, he catches dazzling winter light and biting, sharp wind.

James "Jimbot" Demski also takes a mixed media approach, often with a bit of dystopian humor stirred in. Numbering the Seas is a clever seascape where a toothy giant whale spouts and glides. The watery deep is made of flat, blue, ruler-like sticks with pointed tops painted like whitecaps. Numbers appear in cryptic forms and trail out of the whale's tail. It is alternately foreboding and friendly, channeling the thought of the sea as vast and awesome, yet a resource that can be depleted.

Artbook: The Show
is a condensed look at artists who have been part of the publication, but note that the exhibition is not a display of art in the current edition. It is quite worth your while to stop by and see these works in their physical presence.

Artbook: The Show continues through Jan. 5 at Greymatter Gallery and Studio, located on the 2nd floor of the Marshall Building at 207 E. Buffalo St. The gallery is open on Saturdays, noon-4 p.m. and by appointment.
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