Beginning this weekend, the John Michael Kohler Arts Center unveils four collections that expand on the multilayered exhibition "Journeys," with sequenced openings now through March 1. Each of these fascinating presentations represents a mental and artistic sojourn.
Jan. 25: "Kahn and Selesnick: Worlds Discovered" features New York's Nicholas Kahn and Richard Selesnick, who envision mythological journeys loosely based on historical facts. Through monumental panoramic photographs, enhanced by hand-built sets and constructed artifacts, the pair creates fictional worlds that are difficult to discern from reality.
One story, Apollo Prophecies, recalls the excitement of the moon expeditions of the '60s and '70s. Their second creation, Eisbergfreistadt, presents a fictional town that inhabits an iceberg in the post-World War I era, and is based on an event in 1923, when an iceberg struck the Baltic seaport of Lubeck. These works provide imaginative adventures while evoking contemporary issues relating to the environment and economics.
Jan. 25: "Ilija: Journeys in the Imagination" presents the Serbian artist Ilija Basicevic-Bosilj. Ilija, born in 1895, began painting at the age of 61. His more traditional paintings and drawings, whether in oil, watercolor or gouache, provided him with an escape from his war-torn, economically deprived existence. Floating figures and animals depicting safety and happiness while surrounded by real-life tragedies create a refuge for both the artist and the viewer with images that still resonate in 2009.
Feb. 15: The Kohler center's largest exhibit in the main gallery, "All Over the Map," presents more than 90 works of art that focus on cartography through historical representations by 23 national, contemporary artists. In collaboration with the American Geographical Society Library at UW-Milwaukee, the exhibition features illuminated maps with gold leaf from the 1500s to contemporary sculptures, paintings and drawings, including pieces by Mark Lombardi, Dawn Gavin and the Kohler Center's Amy Chaloupka. The artworks modify the traditional map to chart both real and fantastical places while also experimenting with "mind maps" representing emotional journeys. As curator Jennifer Jankauskas explains, "This exhibition explodes the idea of what a map is and how it's used."
March 1: "Martin & Muñoz: Wayward Bound" showcases a unique collection of large-scale snow globes that portray tiny travelers in frozen terrains, often in distress, representing the mental travails of the human condition.
March 8: The Kohler center hosts a grand reception for the "Journeys" exhibits that includes gallery talks by the three curators and a special visit by Ilija's granddaughter, Ivana Basicevic, who arrives from Poland to speak about her grandfather's collection. As part of the exhibition's educational programming, participating artists will conduct workshops from March 8 through May 2. For more information, call (920) 458-6144.