The House of Cards Project


UWM-Milwaukee Peck School of the Arts students (left to right) Anna Emerson, Paul Manley, and Jessica Schubkegel installing the House of Cards spiral. Photo: Ray Chi.

In the early 1950s, designers Charles and Ray Eames painstakingly arranging penny cars, pencils, pills, and papers to photograph for their House of Cards construction set. They probably never imagined that decades later, thousands of children and adults in the Milwaukee region would meticulously decorate their own House of Cards, let alone that these cards would be installed together in a towering spiral at the Milwaukee Art Museum in conjunction with the exhibition Serious Play: Design in Midcentury America. Continue reading

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Remembering Joe Ketner

Joseph D. Ketner II, who was chief curator at the Museum from 2005 to 2008 (when David Gordon was the director), died earlier this month after a battle with cancer. Many of you may have seen the article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel by Mary Louise Schumacher.

Joe_topThough I did not know Joe personally, he left an indelible imprint on this institution: he enriched our collection with works by Sol LeWitt, Nam June Paik, and Amy Sillman, among others, and brought to Milwaukee ambitious exhibitions on Bruce Nauman, Francis Bacon, and Andy Warhol.

Prior to his tenure at the Museum, Joe, a specialist in modern and contemporary art, was the Henry and Lois Foster Director at the Rose Art Museum, at Brandeis University, and director of the Washington University Gallery of Art, in St. Louis. For the past ten years, he was the Lois and Henry Foster Chair of Contemporary Art Theory and Practice at Emerson College, in Boston.

We are the institution we are because of the people who paved the way before us, and it is an honor to count Joe Ketner among the Museum’s distinguished leaders.

For those who wish to pay their respects, the family has requested that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Joseph D. Ketner II Memorial Fund to benefit Emerson Urban Arts.


Marcelle Polednik, PhD
Donna and Donald Baumgartner Director

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“My Adopted State”: Arthur Carrara in Wisconsin

Arthur Carrara in his studio, Kettle Moraine, Wisconsin, ca. 1964. Published in Recent Works: 1960-1965 (1965). Photo by John Cornwall/Arthur Carrara.

Architect and designer Arthur A. Carrara (American, 1914–1995) was born in Chicago and worked in locations across the world, from Buffalo, New York to the Philippines. But for Carrara, Wisconsin felt like home; in his 1964 retrospective catalog he fondly described Wisconsin as “my adopted state.”[1] Over the course of his multifaceted career, Carrara worked repeatedly in Wisconsin—creating homes for private clients, designing exhibitions at the Milwaukee Art Center, and eventually building a studio for himself in the state’s Kettle Moraine region. Continue reading

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Curating Ho-Chunk Objects in Mrs. M.—–’s Cabinet at the Milwaukee Art Museum

Egg basket (circa 1900).

Egg basket (circa 1900).

Ho-Chunk presence and their arts contributed to the development of Wisconsin Dells tourism—and to the material and aesthetic culture of the state. While Ho-Chunk representation is not always considered by tourists beyond stereotypical art for the trade, there is still a long and well-documented history of Ho-Chunk material life in the Wisconsin Dells area. The Ho-Chunk objects currently on exhibition in Mrs. M.—–’s Cabinet, are not the expected souvenirs of the Wisconsin Dells trade, but give a glimpse into the unfamiliar Ho-Chunk objects made and used in the Dells in the late 19th century.

In the exhibition Photographing Nature’s Cathedrals: Carleton E. Watkins, Eadweard Muybridge, and H.H. Bennett, an image by Henry Hamilton Bennett illustrates the acknowledgement of the unseen Native American presence within the Wisconsin Dells landscape. Looking out from Black Hawk’s Cave is one example of Bennett labeling his photographs with fictional place names and after real historical figures. Bennett used the Sauk Chief’s name in an effort to sell a romanticized American Indian legend to tourists.  Continue reading

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Playful Design, Serious Message: Learning & Play in the 1970s

A selection of educational products from the 1970s, recently installed in MAM’s 20th- and 21st- Century Design Galleries, tells the story of two pressing issues in the United States during the period through the lens of design for children.

Kent Dickinson (American, active 1970s), manufactured by Odlot Game Company (United States, active 1970s), Metradoms: a Game of Metric Dominos, 1976. Plastic and paper. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Daniel Ostroff M2017.28. Photo by John R. Glembin.

Kent Dickinson (American, active 1970s), manufactured by Odlot Game Company (United States, active 1970s), Metradoms: a Game of Metric Dominos, 1976. Plastic and paper. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Daniel Ostroff M2017.28. Photo by John R. Glembin.

First, the issue of metric conversion is represented by the record album Songs of Metric Man and the game Metradoms: A Games of Metric Dominos (a recent addition to MAM’s Design Collection). Both aimed to teach children how to use the metric system in anticipation of “metrification,” or the adoption of metrics as the standard system of measurement in the United States. From our twenty-first-century perspective, this may not seem like a particularly divisive political issue, but in the 1970s, American were divided between those who perceived the shift from feet to meters as step towards greater economic and scientific cooperation with the rest of the world, and those who viewed the system as an unwelcome invasion of foreign customs.

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