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Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Milwaukee Artists Tackle Transitory Nature of Art and Life

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A pair of exhibitions opening this July portrays the transitory nature of art and, indeed, life. Inova/Kenilworth gallery presents the retrospective "Roy Staab: Four Seasons/Four Corners" while Walker's Point Center for the Arts (WPCA) features young artists in "Regan Golden and Jennifer Harris: Decorative Directive."

Accompanied by an opening reception on July 10, from 6 to 9 p.m., the Staab retrospective offers selections from the artist's four decades of works on paper interspersed with videos and photographs from his site-specific environmental installations. Staab, though sometimes unrecognized in Milwaukee, has a prestigious international reputation for his renowned artwork.

The gallery commissioned a pair of works for this retrospective: an indoor installation on view in the East Gallery and a nearby outdoor work, which incorporates assistance from the Urban Ecology Center's Teen Leaders, to be unveiled Aug. 18. Staab's ephemeral installations leave no permanent trace, encourage environmental awareness and espouse connections between minimalism and the "Earth Art" movement from the '60s and '70s.

Staab, a vibrant artist approaching 70, eventually settled in Milwaukee. He continues to contribute to Milwaukee's creative community, participating in public programming and events hosted by UW-Milwaukee, including the Artists Now! lecture series that aims to inspire future generations.

An opening reception from 5 to 9 p.m. on July 24 at WPCA introduces Golden and Harris, who were adjunct art professors at UW-Milwaukee, as they explore the transitory qualities of paper and functional objects. Both artists contrast the legacy of feminine traditions and decorative objects through the use of masculine materials: industrial paper and rubber cords.

Golden, whose honors encompass numerous art residencies throughout the country, will apply huge, labor-intensive, 9-foot-long paper cuttings to the wall. Using an X-Acto knife, the material is intentionally cut with a continually duller edge, constructed to fall apart over time.

"Paper looks so fragile, but there's strength underlying the structure," Golden says.

Harris, a recipient of multiple art fellowships, designs large-scale tablecloths and wallpaper constructed from culture's ubiquitous electrical cords, using more than 4,000 feet in one continuous circuit installation. Contrasting masculine and feminine, ornamental and functional, her artwork references how life's formal objects deteriorate into the informal, and how their subsequent rituals (or absence of rituals) now apply to contemporary living.

In each exhibition, whether influenced by an outdoor environment or the indoor conventions of etiquette and decoration, the artwork speaks to the cyclical quality of life, the changing forces employed by nature and society.