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Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013

Shimon And Lindemann’s Knowing Exhibit at Kohler Arts

A Sense for Wisconsin

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There is more to Wisconsin than beer, sausages, dairy and farmland, but all too often we fail to transcend the easy stereotypes. Thankfully, the John Michael Kohler Arts Center’s latest exhibition works to do just that.

Artists J. Shimon and J. Lindemann’s “We Go from Where We Know” (up through Feb. 23) uses sculpture, photography, paintings and found objects to create a vivid sense of place. Theirs is a Wisconsin full of affection and nostalgia, but also melancholy, gloom and a strain of dark humor.

When you enter the space you’re met with a 1949 Nash automobile parked in the middle of the gallery with concrete corncobs spilling out of its dilapidated door. Here the industrial and the natural come together in an arresting introduction to the show’s melding of Wisconsin’s many identities.

Surrounding the car, two walls in the gallery display head-to-toe portraits of people from throughout the state. The life-size pictures show the faces of artists, farmers, dog-enthusiasts and fastidious dressers in a way reminiscent of times when people would pose for black-and-white photographs. But the portraits show how different the people of Wisconsin can be, each with his/her own style and connection to the state.

The exhibit also includes a series of postcard-sized drawings, inspired in part by Michael Lesy’s 1973 non-fiction book Wisconsin Death Trip, with images of darkly funny vignettes of rural Wisconsin life. Lindemann and Shimon use a suspended, tent-like forest scene, teardrop sculptures, photographs of small-town Wisconsin and abstract paintings to add further complexity to the scene.

The final images you come to are a series of actual postcards from cities across Wisconsin. They are quaint and picturesque depictions of forests, farms and stacks of cheese wheels, but as part of an exhibit with the mission of exploring the complexity of our state, the cards seem both charmingly old fashioned and drastically simplistic.

Guests are invited to write stories of Wisconsin on provided postcards and add them to the display in hopes that real memories help this vision of Wisconsin come to life.

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