Friday, January 7, 2011

Trip to Milwaukee Art Museum

So the first outing of my newish born niece was a day at the Milwaukee Art Museum this week.  The family is starting her early on her field trips and culture excursions!  My brother and sister-in-law are already reading to her even though she is just a month old! The Milwaukee Art Museum is one of my favorites.  My friend, the Englishman, (carpenter by day, painter by night) was surprised that of all the places to see American painters would be Milwaukee!  He stated this because his visit to LACMA-Los Angeles was met with the contemporary wing closed and a visit to Art Institute of Chicago was met with too much impressionist work in its permanent collection! Lots of people that think they know Wisconsin still seem to belittle Milwaukee and its arts and culture.  One friend recently poo-poo'd it saying that it's Madison that's the cultural seat of Wisconsin, the Berkley of the Midwest so to speak.  Hate to say it, but that idea is as old as the last century.  Welcome to the 21st century Wisconsin...Milwaukee has a lot going for it!
Back to the field trip--I saw all that I wanted to see!

Took a look at the main exhibition, European Design Since 1985: Shaping the New Century and immediately got in trouble for taking photographs sans flash but the guard still stopped me-- I guess they have a catalog to sell in the gift shop.  The categories and curation was a lot of fun but the sound in the gallery was hushed white noise of a dinner party- a complete contrast to last year when the same gallery hosted the last decade of Andy Warhol's work, it was packed and sounded like a party!  I always think that museums shouldn't be seen as places of the holy and should be a very welcome public space!  My brother noticed the plaque of one chair -Knotted Chair by Marcel Wanders from 1996--its commentary striking a chord with the statement "now one of the most important chairs in the past two decades"--pretty powerful statement--powerful to bring on the giggles!
Also overheard in that gallery was "look at that lamp"--it was a bird wing lamp--woman responded "I couldn't have that, I have cats!"
Since I have been wanting to make work/sculpture out of blown out tires on the side of the interstate, I was extremely interested in the work of Chakaia Booker.  Her work welcomed you from the underground heated parking lot, so much so that my sister-in-law walked over the line on the floor to keep a boundary around the art---and she wanted to touch it.  Viscerally you could still smell the rubber/petrol smell of the media and it was fun to see when chose to use black or silver screws... Striking installation in the white halls of the Santiago Calatrava designed edition of the museum.  
We also hit the permanent collection and took a look at the Walk-In Infinity Chamber by Stanley Landsman.  Like the Extreme Angles and work at the Hammer, this work plays on your senses because it does give the illusion of infinity.  Very interactive in that you have to put on boots/cloth covers on your shoes to even walk in it--it's a dimmed room that feels like through the looking glass or the wardrobe into  Narnia or the movie 2001!
Lastly, this entrance is my favorite of any museum I regularly visit!  The view is of Lake Michigan and in the summer, visitors see the sailboats glide by on the horizon line and in the winter one sees the frozen tundra and harsh nature, framed by the same white starkness of the grand hall again designed by Santiago Calatrava.  This visit, there was an installation-Under the Table (1994) by LA artist Robert Therrien.  Inspired by images he took under a table, he later created this ten foot high table and chairs.  My brother said we'd get an idea of what the niece was seeing but he also knocked on the table--and was reprimanded by the guard--who we chatted with and was very nice--talking about how he must me in guard hell in an installation that one can walk through and begs to be touched.  We related to him my cousin's experience at the Dallas Museum of Art where there was a work with many mobile type sculptures dropped down from the ceiling--she was there when a 3 yr old ran through the middle and the guard was trying to fish the unruly toddler out!  Our Milwaukee Museum guard told me I gave him nightmares with that story!So glad the baby loved it and the new parents were able to get out and about and I was able see the art and share it with my family!

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