Mirroring the image of a seasoned Olde World guild craftsman’s workshop, a studio space exudes consummate attention to detail. Jars and wooden vessels store troves of pens, like scaled-down silos stuffed full. Straight edges and obscure stencils of great variety each have their place, arranged meticulously.
Tiling the tables and walls, the flourishing offspring of Nick Ludwig’s utensils have qualities expected from a currency mint engraver’s plate, a preciseness however rendered only with ink and a small metal sprocket as a stencil guide.
Ludwig’s designs each spiral from a vertex with mathematical symmetry of natures order, as curved structures radiate with his discretion for line and complementary pigment. Fanning out, each petal-like appendage has a main color fill. The final touches of texture are given with a sensitively graded cross-hatch, channeling folk stories and wisdom centuries old.
Ludwig shares a 1st floor studio space with several artists at the Hide House. Bay View Gallery Night is tonight from 5p to 10p.
In the undergrowth of the Hide House, creative spores germinate in a first floor alcove, a respite for a few recent MIAD products. Spring Gallery Night in Milwaukee gave them a chance to showcase their toils, carving dedicated display space into sections for each studio mate’s work. Bay View Gallery Night may prove more of a debutant dinner party.
One wall stood out. Sparse and drained, outlines of a horse’s head vaguely pressed against the art paper’s surface. Other mammalian taxidermy busts stuck to the wall as well. The strokes appear once over and the chosen colors contrast muted purple shades adjacent to white. Why do I like these? Maybe the concept? Tegan Andrich has conjured these images as game hunter would aim, fire, kill, lop off a trophies head, stuff and mount it on a wall, brutal and decisive.
Another of Andrich’s paintings, braced over the canvas stretcher bars, holds a large format. Loosely defined, the composition’s meticulous figurative themes finish craggy, defining the outermost edges sometimes with a blur of paint. The center-most portions of the painting render blindness, conspicuously possessing a subtle and thoughtful wash.
Searching for a reference in Andrich’s work to an art movement, led me to Dee Ferris, a cagey contemporary artist in the UK. A now defunct indie art mag Under/Current had one of the only early written reviews out there of Ferris’s work. A exceedingly well-composed critique by Yannis Tsitsovits suggested a possible stylistic answer, a Russian literary device: ostranenie.
Bay View Gallery Night runs tomorrow at various locations through out Bay View including the Hide House.
The full blown quakes shaking the current discourse surrounding Niki Johnson’s Eggs Benedict, reached me as a mere tremor aftershock, a rumor of spectacular occurrence. I witnessed the aftermath of Johnson’s creatively seismic work during the day session of Gallery Night Spring 2013. Astounded, I expected to like the piece not to have my afternoon taken over by it.
Debra Brehmer, gladly spending some time with her patrons, candidly observed of Johnson’s piece a quality indescribably awe inspiring, a gestalt nearly impossible to render in contemporary art. Brehmer, Portrait Society Gallery’s Director, profoundly noted that the weaving technique Johnson used to ensnare Pope Benedict’s image mimics fine needle point work made so often from women’s hands; an irony for a woman’s craft to have created an irreverent iconic reference to an institution women have been so systematically subjugated within.
Depending on which side of Eggs Benedict pedestal display you approach from, you either feel duped or immediately captured. The portrait’s verso is exposed, revealing the tied medial regions and exposed openings of the many contraceptives. They are so carefully secured on the wire grid, in appearance, sloppy and awkward with no semblance of the intended likeness; a vestige of the personal made uncomfortably public. This window into Johnson’s artistic process demystifies the piece’s craft work, increasing its power.
Eggs Benedict by Niki Johnson on display at the Portrait Society Gallery, 2013
I stood with a couple hand fulls of people for much longer than you may traditionally imbibe an artwork, contemplating whether on a metaphysical level the Catholic church could oppose condoms as a mere object if not used for a contraceptive. Upon further deliberation, given that the portrait of Pope Emeritus Benedict referenced in Eggs Benedict originates from a group of press photos associated with his now infamous statement that condoms help spread AIDS in Africa, and the unequivocal prohibition of contraceptives of all forms in Catholic dogma, it is absolutely impossible to parse the medium from the message. In fact, in no more certain terms could the adage “The medium is the message” hold true.
The stage of Eggs Benedict will always be heightened by Pope Benedict’s historic resignation, an eerie stroke fate for Niki Johnson. I sincerely hope they meet someday in some realm. Johnson has put Eggs Benedict up for auction, with proceeds going to benefit AIDS research. The opening bid came in at $20 thousand.
Johnson’s Eggs Benedict secures a moment in art history for Milwaukee; the Portrait Society Gallery serving as the vessel to bring this piece into the art world internationally; April 19, 2013 its semi-official first public opening.
Eggs Benedict remains on display at the Portrait Society Gallery through July 28th, Thursday – Saturday 12 noon to 5p. It will join a series of Niki Johnson’s work opening June 6, 2013 entitled Sourcebook: Martha Wilson and MKE.
Breaking in its newly reconfigured space, the Portrait Society Gallery’s latest opening went easy as a Saturday afternoon whistle Friday night at the Marshall Building. At least that’s the way feels when you just get to be one of the many enthused patrons.
An Enclave, Rarified
For several years prior, the Portrait Society’s raw 5th floor space stitched a hallway of individual offices into a quiet cave of high quality, highly focused artistic subject matter. Pieces hung in PSG’s noncontiguous display areas, for you to find. No longer the case, the space and its work now finds you.
Formerly, a plain-old door threshold lead to an makeshift office, slash 1 of 3 dedicated display areas, slash storage closet. The PSG said f-it and removed the entire corner of the hallway, replacing it with a very attractive, skillfully made glass entry way.
Inside they adjusted an interior wall to create a tangible but quaint division between three contiguous display areas, one capitalizing on existing exposed brick that will never get old. Studio lighting added, and action! A polished gallery space to suit the already exquisitely polished curating taste of PSG’s Debra Brehmer.
Viewing the Latest
Now showing at the Portrait Society Gallery, several exhibitors dual traditional photographic exposure techniques against those renegade ones. With Natural History ,Barbara Ciurej and Lindsay Lotham display series of enhanced silhouettes that retain some of the human subjects’ physical facial features and impose on to them others.
Nicholas Grider , in co-artistic display with the Portrait Society, delves into vintage photographic styles compiling a series of family mantle pieces and adding to them contemporary aesthetic appeal.
Taking center display space, with their installation Decay Utopia Decay, having used an oversized DIY camera and an improvised enlarger to muster 30×36 inch cyanotype exposures, hardcore photography virtuosos J. Shimon and J. Lindemann, draw out ambiguous and mysteriously staged photo frames that dramatically convey 15 thousand word statements.
The Portrait Society Gallery’s latest installments hit the wall November 9 and will hang there until January 5, 2013. The Portrait Society Gallery opens to the public Friday thru Sunday, 12 to 5pm, on the 5th floor of the Marshall Building in the Third Ward.
It’s her first, but highly unlikely that it’s her last. Nadia Smale has an art show coming up at Orcanine Abbey this Friday night titled Reincarnation. She has moxie and a proclivity for making cool stuff, as all artists do, with an eye for aesthetic and guts to take chances. How can you blame her? She’s not yet turned 18. Getting a few moments of pre-show reflection,artist and mentor Akua Oladunjoye shares this guest interview with Nadia for Local Trolley.
Akua Oladunjoye for Local Trolley: Thank you Nadia for welcoming this interview! It is a pleasure to sit down with you and hear your thoughts on your first upcoming art show: Reincarnation.
LT: Let’s dive right in. Why “Reincarnation” what does this word mean to you?
Nadia Smale: Everything needs a new start in life. People, art, music… why not it is a new generation.
LT: Did you ever think you would have this opportunity?
NS: It’s something I’ve always wanted. Down the line my first art [school] choice is MIAD. A special lady who was working with me took me to Milwaukee and I fell in love with the east side and saw their gallery and that was what I wanted [wink, wink], to have a show and be a part of their gallery.
LT: How long have you been doing art?
NS: Since kindergarten. It was required throughout elementary, middle and high school. I fell in love with it, that’s all.
LT: what motivates and inspires you to do art?
NS: I think of family members, friends, my cat and Akua who tags me along. My grandfather, dad and sometimes my mom inspire me to do art. My grandfather was a drawer. My dad likes to look at it and my mom thinks she is an artist, haaaa! I sent my dad a picture on his phone and that made me smile.
LT: Has art saved you?
NS: Yes, a lot. I had to keep a journal in school and when I wanted to write nasty things I didn’t. I would draw what I felt instead.
LT: What is your most enjoyable material to work with?
NS: Charcoal, it’s crazy but fun to work with. If it doesn’t work the way you plan it turns into something else. I enjoy that.
LT: What is the most difficult material you have ever worked with so far?
NS: Metal, when working on the metal rose it took a long time. Had to sketch it out then I worked with tin to make the petals using exotic curves, and I had to get the stem right. It took 3 months every day working on it to get it just right.
LT: What is your least favorite material to work with?
NS: Don’t have one, I wanted to get rid of a glass bowl [I made] that my mom has, but she loves it. I like working with all the mediums.
LT: You talked about your favorite bands and musicians, how do they, if at all, influence you and your art?
NS: Skrillex and other musicians can make the sounds flow in your body and you want to move, to take whatever is in your hand a paint brush or whatever and create, like water moving slowly when you actually do it, its maybe crazy just like you really are when you are listening.
LT: Is there something you want to add?
NS: I love doing art every single day, I create even if I am doodling in class. I like the tool in my hand, the smudges it’s life and nothing without it. Architecture, walls, roofs, food is culinary art outside the world everything is made of its own creation that’s what I like and want to do. That’s how I start something that matters… you know art.
Reincarnation, An Art Benefit for Jagged Edges by Nadia Smale opens Friday, October 26th at 6p in the Orcanine Abbey, 1718 N 1st Street, Studio 5N2. Free to the public, but donations are welcome to support Nadia’s pursuit of art education. There will also be a silent auction. Reincarnation is a participating exhibit of Tap the Potential, a series of art exhibitions to raise disability awareness.