Gallery Night Spring 2011, Studio 420b

With significant inspiration present, growing an idea requires little space. Mark David Gray curator and resident artist of splashing new Studio 420b whips up his creative gumbo with this recipe. Born of a workspace less than 300 square feet, the gallery’s loosely carved and ample surface area now allows for nooks amenable to his artistic companions.

The raw and utilitarian stance of Studio 420b suits the theme of its current installation New Work. Adding intrigue to the theme, concrete floors hoist a sign proclaiming “All Hail Marx and Lennon” scribed in sharp-edged block letters emphasized with a profile portrait of the late John Lennon designed in pastels. It happens that one of the gallery’s artists is a Marx, Lindsay Marx.


A 50 times removed cousin of those other great Marx, using oil on canvas, Lindsay Marx explains her impressions of moments suspended by photography in the 1960’s. Her paintings adjust our perspective close enough to see the profoundness of mundanely human dramas beckoning attention, drowned out by the turmoil typically associated with the era of social change. Layering color tones, motifs, concepts and patterns, pictures of moments transform into paranormal events revealing unseen forces acting at that moment. Employing the same technique, other works divine the thoughts of the central subject matter. Exquisite, modest and sometimes eerie, Marx evokes all three with appreciated intent; nothing here perceived as weird for weird’s sake.

The World is a Marble

Perforating the main wall space, a series of small geometrically identical frames house intricately drafted illustrations by Sean Bodley. Having even the negative spaces amazingly formulated solely from strokes of a pen, Bodley demonstrates the art of constructing worlds on a fantastic scale. Glancing at craggy cliffs appearing inches tall you may notice minute human forms that, from their point-of-view, immediately and epically magnify everything around them to Grand Teton scale. Admittedly, Bodley relishes the fantasy genre brought mainstream by the Lord of the Rings motion picture trilogy. Executing with marksman precision, Bodley charts detailed maps of places existing somewhere between Milwaukee that place Atreyu tried to save, and River Styx. Expressing interest in the fantasy genre’s friendliest format, one of Bodley’s artistic channels transmits his current work in an illustrated novel entitled Guardians of Gaia.

Fighting Faux

Too busy settling the West or snatching what they could by guile or force, turn of the century rugged individuals had little time for art, unless they were making “Wanted” posters. Mark David Gray pays tribute to the period of settlement and gunslingers with several of his pieces currently covering Studio 420b walls. Ruddy sepia tones infuse age and subdued neon highlights kick pop appeal into visual renderings that pluck Teddy Roosevelt out of historical archives and place him into new contemporary interpretations. Bigger than the dimensions of the canvas that carries them, several of Gray’s precise works idolize the former President in an endearing but kindly mocking fashion. Others works more straight forward, do plain old justice to the man and the legend. Lacking remissness, Gray offers additional odes to other men or legends fitting the phonetic description “Marx” or “Lennon” for further ponder.

Treading a rare path, Gray’s serious demeanor betrays his engaging and open mind and manner; a mastermind behind a space that is truly hospitable to creativity. Milwaukee is fast going the way of “scenes”, yet here people come as they are, and work as they are. Through its atmosphere, Studio 420b takes the bit out of the mouth of being an artist. In the process, truly phenomenal art ferments.

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