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Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Art in the Open

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   Our long summer days present an opportunity to experience art en plein air, where light and shadow add a sensuous dimension to artwork and create a subtle context through which it can be interpreted.

  This concept can be seen in the “Focus on Figures” exhibit at the GrohmannMuseum, located on the campus of the Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE). The museum’s “Rooftop Grand Opening” features a dozen 9-foot-high sculptures that replicate smaller bronze statues from the permanent “Man at Work” collection. Each of these figures depicts a laborer toiling at industrial work and delineates the perimeter of the green garden space.

  While the smaller bronzes were cast monochromatically and exhibited in the enclosed rotunda, their larger counterparts’ colored patinas and enamels showcase elements of the human form and clothing to create visual interest in an outdoor setting. Several of the statues, including The Railroad Worker, The Steel Worker and The Old Miner,portray men hoisting anvils or foundry ladles. A sculpture cast after a bronze by Constantin-Emile Meunier (1831-1905), titled Female Mine Worker, honors women who contributed to agricultural and industrial production.

  In addition to the oversized sculptures, six life-size figures will pay tribute to everyday work and create an extraordinary vision set against Milwaukee’s skyline. Also being unveiled is the new 12-by-24-foot mural by industrial realist H.D. Tylle, painted with special pigment uniquely formulated for the outdoor elements. The mural is based on one of the MSOE collection’s oldest paintings—dating from the 1600s—and documents a rural river valley used for mining.

  The rooftop sculpture garden’s “Focus on Figures” will be open free of charge July 25, from 5 to 9 p.m., and Saturday, July 26, from 12 to 5 p.m., which coincides with summer Gallery Night and Day. Milwaukee sculptor Tom Queoff hosts a workshop on the “lost wax” method of constructing a sculpture from 6 to 8 p.m. on Friday, July 25.

  The WoodsonArt Museum in Wausau recently renewed its sculpture garden with six new abstract sculptures by Maryland public artist Wendy Ross, a graduate of UW-Madison. Her welded steel structures have been commissioned for the U.S. Supreme Court and U.S. Capitol, as well as the National Park Service. This intriguing exhibit, “Hidden Designs: Sculpture by Wendy Ross,” offers another opportunity to explore art in the open air.

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