Art Collection Contemporary Curatorial

Can I walk on it?

Carl Andre (American, b. 1935) 144 Pieces of Zinc, 1967 Zinc plates each plate: 12 x 12 x 3/8 in. (30.48 x 30.48 x 0.95 cm) Purchase, National Endowment for the Arts Matching Funds M1969.22 Photo credit Larry Sanders © Carl Andre/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY
Carl Andre (American, b. 1935), 144 Pieces of Zinc, 1967. Zinc plates;
each plate: 12 x 12 x 3/8 in. Milwaukee Art Museum, Purchase, National Endowment for the Arts Matching Funds M1969.22.
Photo by Larry Sanders.
© Carl Andre/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY


Carl Andre’s 144 Pieces of Zinc is one of the few artworks in the Museum’s Collection that is meant to be experienced physically, and that visitors may touch.  The artist felt that the qualities inherent in the material were the most important aspect of his work, and that they were meant to be discovered through touch.

Imagine 144 Pieces of Zinc wasn’t in a museum, but, say, come upon in a hardware store surrounded by a bunch of home improvement tiles.   You don’t have to imagine.  The Tate Museum did it.  They installed their collection’s 144 Magnesium Square on the floor in a hardware store in Liverpool, England, and then asked residents of Liverpool what they thought about seeing the minimalist work in a non-art context.

As you see in the video, people have strong feelings about this sort of thing…

Art Behind the Scenes Curatorial Exhibitions

Being an Intern: It’s not only Makin’ Copies

Prancing Horse with Head Turned, Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220 CE), detail.
Prancing Horse with Head Turned, Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220 CE), detail. James E. Conley, Jr. Collection. Photo by the author.

In 2005, as a senior Art History major at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, I worked as an intern for the Museum’s Curatorial Department in Earlier European Art. Working under the expert intern-wrangling leadership of Catherine Sawinski, Assistant Curator of Earlier European Art, I industriously contributed my research (compiling artist biographies for the 2006 Biedermeier: The Invention of Simplicity exhibition) and customer service (answering public inquiries) skills to the greater cause of making the Milwaukee Art Museum run.

Breaking my daily routine, Laurie Winters (now the Museum’s Director of Exhibitions) and Mary Weaver Chapin (now the Museum’s Associate Curator of Prints & Drawings) asked me if I could go to Chicago with Mary for the day to help with a cataloging project.  We would be visiting an Asian art collection to inventory, measure, and photograph all the objects.

As an intern, I was thrilled with this great opportunity, but I had no idea that this material would reappear in my life 6 years later!

Art Art News

Do you like America’s Next Top Model?

Sacrifice PAINTINGS Brown, Iona Rozeal American, b. 1966 2007 Mixed media on framed panel 52 x 38 in. Purchase, with funds from African American Art Alliance and Contemporary Art Society M2007.60
iona rozeal brown (American, b. 1966), sacrifice, 2007. Acrylic and paper on framed panel, 52 x 38 in. (132.08 x 96.52 cm). Milwaukee Art Museum, Purchase, with funds from African American Art Alliance and Contemporary Art Society M2007.60. Photo credit John R. Glembin. © iona rozeal brown

So do I.

Which is why I was excited to learn that an artist in the Museum’s permanent collection, iona rozeal brown, is collaborating on a project with America’s Next Top Model (ANTM) guest star Benny Ninja. Ninja is a master of “vogueing” and dramatic posing; his style of dance influenced the iconic Madonna Vogue video.

This past weekend in New York City iona rozeal brown, along with Benny Ninja and Javier Ninja (“House of Ninja”), presented a preview of a Kabuki- and voguing- inspired performance work called the battle of yestermore, which has been commissioned for the Performa 11 Biennial this November 1-20.

You can see an image of a costume designed for brown’s upcoming performance here.

Art Art News Collection Contemporary Curatorial Prints and Drawings

From the Collection–Fab 5 Freddy (Told Me Everybody’s Fly)

Fab 5 Freddy (American, b. 1959), Untitled, 1986. Ink and oil pastel on paper. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Susan L. Strande, M1992.57.

A new exhibition Art in the Streets is on view April 17 to August 8, 2011 at the Museum of Contemporary Art (Los Angeles). The exhibition is the first major U.S. museum survey of graffiti and street art and it features an artist in the Milwaukee Art Museum’s permanent collection: Fred “Fab 5 Freddy” Braithwaite.

Early on the hip hop scene in Brooklyn, graffiti artist, close friend of Jean-Michel Basquiat, fan of Andy Warhol, and host of “Yo! MTV Raps”, Fab 5 Freddy is a pioneer of the street art genre.

Art Events

Oh, I do love having dirt to dish.

You Grown GirlOn Friday, April 1st (no, this isn’t an April Fools’ joke!) the Museum will have Gayla Trail, urban gardener and creator of, give a talk titled DIY Dirt to Dish: Growing Great Grub with Limited Resources.  The lecture is at 7pm in Lubar Auditorium and is offered as part of the Museum’s very popular “Art in Bloom” weekend.

This is the lecture for those of us that love to grow our own… fruits, veggies, herbs, whatever.. with or without a backyard (or any yard!)  Gayla will be on hand to answer your toughest questions. If you’re an enthusiastic noob, like me, or you’ve been troweling away for decades, she’ll have something valuable to share about getting the most out of that $5.00 bag of dirt you bought at the garden center. 


What is that big, orange thing, anyway?

Mark di Suvero (American, b. China, 1933) The Calling, 1981-82 painted steel height: 40 ft (1219.2 cm) Bluff Park, Milwaukee, Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, Gift of Anonymous Donor through Milwaukee Art Museum M1981.305 © Mark di Suvero; Courtesy of Spacetime C.C.
Mark di Suvero (American, b. China, 1933), The Calling, 1981-82. Painted steel. Height: 40 ft. Bluff Park, Milwaukee, Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, Gift of Anonymous Donor through Milwaukee Art Museum M1981.305. © Mark di Suvero; Courtesy of Spacetime C.C. Photo by Mel Buchanan.

Many people don’t know that The Calling by Mark di Suvero (the orange sunburst sculpture that sits at the lake end of Wisconsin Avenue) has been part of the Milwaukee Art Museum’s permanent collection since the sculpture’s creation in 1981.

The Calling has attracted a lot of attention and inspired quite a bit of dialogue by Milwaukeeans over the years, including here in an 2006 article that answers the question “Will they Move the Orange Sculpture”.

I’ve found that people either love it or they hate it, as summarized in this 2007 Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel article.

Recently the United States government indicated on which side of that line they stand: they awarded artist Mark di Suvero the National Medal for the Arts. You can read more about the awards at the National Endowment for the Arts website.

Art Events

Art and Lego

LEGO® model of Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater (1934), co-developed and designed by architect Adam Reed Tucker. Available online from the Milwaukee Art Museum Store.

Tomorrow’s “MAM After Dark: Mr. Wright” will celebrate Frank Lloyd Wright: Organic Architecture for the 21st Century. There will be great music, tours of the exhibition, and a twenty by twenty foot Lego pit, hosted by the American Institute of Architects (AIA). I can’t contain my excitement!

I’ll be in there in the Lego pit, building Frank Lloyd Wright inspired buildings, happily looking up like a two-year-old at the larger-than-life Robert Therrien table and chairs in Windhover Hall.

In my Lego-mania, I discovered online that I’m not alone. Notably, in the fall of 2005 the Liverpool Museum’s Walker Art Gallery had an exhibition by The Little Artists (John Cake and Darren Neave) who built their own miniature exhibition of modern and contemporary art made out of Lego bricks.

Education Museum Buildings

Art inspired by technology

The Museum's Kohl’s Art Generation Studio doors. Frosted at left, clear at right!

The Kohl’s Art Generation Studio has some very nifty doors.  They appear to be frosted glass, until you flip a light switch and *click* they are clear.  How do they work?!? Here is a full scientific explanation, thanks to the Department of Engineering at the University of Cambridge.

Art Art News

Milton Rogovin—“Photography could be an instrument of social change”

Milton Rogovin (American, 1909–2011), from Buffalo's Lower West Side Revisited series, 1972-1992. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Suzanne and Richard Pieper. M1999.217.1-.3-.243.1-.3

Photographer and social documentarian Milton Rogovin passed away last week at 101. His legacy can be found in his photographs of the underprivileged in the United States, enlightening us and provoking our compassion. His strong drive to explore social inequality led him to political strife and changed his life forever.

The Milwaukee Art Museum held an exhibition of Mr. Rogovin’s photographs in 2001. If you would like to see images of his work and learn more, the exhibition website can be viewed online.

Art Art News

Wafaa Bilal wants to do what?!

Wafaa Bilal's "Bar at the Folies Bergère (after Manet)" in the Milwaukee Art Museum's Impressionism gallery. Image from the artist's website

I love that the Milwaukee Art Museum doesn’t shy away from controversial contemporary artists.  You might remember a work in the Museum’s Collection Galleries by Wafaa Bilal and Shawn Lawson that was temporarily installed in the Museum’s Impressionism Gallery in 2007: the Bar at the Folies Bergère (after Manet). Here is the Museum’s 2007 press release “Viewers Enter a Masterpiece in New Installation”. You can see photographs and a video of the Bilal piece on the artist’s website.

In the latest news, Mr. Bilal is now on to a new project that involves having a video camera surgically implanted into the back of his head!  You can read about it in the ArtsBeat blog here and here in The Art Law Blog post.