Monday, Jan. 20, 2014

Three New Exhibitions: "Certificates of Presence," "A Culture of Evil," "Alter Egos"

By Tyler Friedman
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When it comes to visual arts, Milwaukee’s cup runneth over. MKEart is here to wipe up the overflow. These recently opened shows are all well worth a visit.

“Certificates of Presence: Vivian Maier, Livija Patikne, J. Lindemann”

Portrait Society Gallery, 207 E. Buffalo Street, Fifth Floor, Marshall Building

Photography fans are in for a rare treat. There’s simply too much to be said about “Certificates of Presence,” so I will restrict myself to discussing one of the three artists on display and will simply point you to the gallery’s website where you can read more about the exhibition.

The show is the first Wisconsin showing of the stunning street photography of Vivian Maier, whose recent recognition is richly deserved and sadly too late for the artist to enjoy. Maier (1926-2009) lived an unassuming life, working for many years as a nanny just across the pond in Chicago. No one was the wiser that she spent her off time committing to film fleeting moments in the lives of Chicago’s diverse inhabitants. The photos are by turns funny, touching, mysterious, and nostalgia-inducing. Maier left about 100,000 negatives, an overwhelming majority (ca. 90,000!) of which have yet to be developed and thus have not been seen since Maier peered through her viewfinder and exposed her film to an influx of light. The happenstance purchase of her negatives at an auction in 2007 finally brought light to this great cultural treasure. The photographs are on display until March 8 and are not to be missed. 

“A Culture of Evil”

Northwestern Mutual Visual Art Department Gallery @ Cardinal Stritch University, 6801 N. Yates Rd.

The problem of evil has plagued philosophers for - quite literally - thousands of years. Saints Augustine and Aquinas both spilled much sacred sweat vindicating God’s omnibenevolence in the face of the existence of evil. After the pronouncement of the so-called death of God in the 19th century, thinkers have focused less on formulating theodicies than on locating the source of evil in secular sources such as social structures.

“A Culture of Evil,” the new exhibition by Sarah Nitschke and Robin Assner, has resonances with Hannah Arendt’s famous diagnosis of the “banality of evil.” In a variety of mediums, Nitschke and Assner explore how it is that ostensibly good, everyday folk come to commit evil or, through non-action, become complicit in such acts. The exhibition runs until March 9 and can be viewed Mondays through Saturdays from 12:00 p.m. until 4:00 p.m.

“Alter Egos”

Hot*Pop, 201 N. Water St.

Hot*Pop is a gallery and art boutique specializing in gift-worthy goods for the quirky people in your life. Custom pins, stickers of personified cartoon bodily organs and child-sized Harem pants are just a few of the oddities you’ll find in the Third Ward establishment. Donald Topp’s show “Alter Egos” is a Pop Art romp focusing on cultural icons who have, at one time or another, appealed to the pleasure center of our collective unconscious. Fans of Warhol, Lichtenstein, and the history of pop culture are sure to find the art to their liking. “Alter Egos” is on view until March 14.

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