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Art Education

Slow Art–Kirchner’s Street at Schöneberg City Park

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Street at Schöneberg City Park, 1912-13. Oil on canvas. Gift of Mrs. Harry Lynde Bradley. Photo credit Larry Sanders
Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Street at Schöneberg City Park, 1912-13. Oil on canvas. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Mrs. Harry Lynde Bradley. Photo by Larry Sanders.

Have you ever looked at a work of art for a half-hour straight?

In college, one of my favorite art history professors required that we spend at least a half-hour sitting in front of the work of art we were researching and sketch it, getting intimate with the figures, setting, lines and brushstrokes within it, and immersing ourselves in the choices the artist made. While looking for forty-five minutes at Kirchner’s Street at Schöneberg City Park, that was exactly what I did.

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20th and 21st Century Design Art Art News Collection

From the Collection—Toshiko Takaezu

Oil of the Earth

The ceramic artist Toshiko Takaezu generously gave the Milwaukee Art Museum ten of her fine art vessels in 2006.

Today I was nonchalantly compiling information on her life in preparation for a potential display of those vessels, when I was suddenly saddened to read of her recent death on March 9, 2011. In Toshiko Takaezu’s obituary in the New York Times, she is credited with helping “to elevate ceramics from the production of functional vessels to a fine art.”

As one often does when encountered with the loss of either someone close or someone distant but admired (like an artist), I ran through my bank of fond memories.

Categories
Art Curatorial

From the Collection—Kem Weber’s Airline Chair

"Airline" Armchair

This chair is one of my favorite designs of the 20th century. Period.

So sleek, yet soft! So comfortable, yet efficient!

When contemplating a move to Milwaukee to accept my current position, I made a short list of things I loved: “Lake Michigan. Calatrava-designed building. Beer culture. Kem Weber’s Airline chair.”

And now here I am, lucky enough to work every day in a building with “Airline” chair, the perfect type of museum object that looks stunning and can tell stories about its time and place. The Milwaukee Art Museum purchased the chair in 2001, and it is currently on view in the 20th-century Design Gallery (Gallery #30) on the Museum’s main level.

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Art

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.

Categories
Art Behind the Scenes Exhibitions

Wright Changes to the 20th-century Design Gallery

Milwaukee Art Museum 20th-Century Design gallery. Before changes (above) and after (below).

When you visit the Museum’s Frank Lloyd Wright: Organic Architecture for the 21st Century exhibition, you’ll notice that in addition to a trove of architectural drawings from the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, the installation includes drawings and furniture from the Museum’s permanent collection.

In the “Commissioned Houses” section, alongside stunning drawings of Wright’s homes for specific clients, the Museum’s George Mann Niedecken Combination Daybed/Writing Desk/ Lamp sits grandly on a center pedestal. Designed for Wright’s Irving House in Illinois, the desk is reunited with an Irving House lamp on loan from a private collection. In the exhibition’s section on “Enlightened Workspaces” the Desk (on long term loan to the Museum) designed for the S. C. Johnson Company building in Racine is on view along side site plans, presentation renderings, and models.

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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.

Categories
Art Curatorial

From the Collection–Ettore Sottsass’ “Carlton” Bookcase

Ettore Sottsass, "Carlton" Bookcase/Room Divider, 1981. Milwaukee Art Museum, Centennial Gift of Gilbert and J. Dorothy Palay. Photo by John R. Glembin.

Postmodern design is a difficult thing to pin down or describe concisely. It refers to all manner of playful, ornamented, subversive, and/or heady things. The aesthetic is often likened to 1980s popular objects like Swatch wristwatches, but the designer’s meaning often runs much deeper.

For instance, Ettore Sottsass’s Carlton bookcase (1981) doesn’t immediately convey its rich meaning. When we first see it standing boldly outside the 20th-century Design gallery at the Museum, we see that it is brightly colored. We think it seems impractical for book storage. We might find the stick figure silly. Why is this a design classic? Why is it so important that the Museum keeps it on view?

Maybe because Carlton breaks a lot of rules? It is shockingly unconventional for a bookcase.

Categories
Art

To be an artist at Yale in 1964…

View of Chuck Close painting of Nancy Graves from standing in front of Graves' "Object Disguised 4 Times”, Milwaukee Art Museum Gallery #27

One of the highlights for visitors to the Milwaukee Art Museums is Chuck Close’s 1968 portrait of Nancy Graves, with its incredible, photo-realistic virtuosity and its huge scale amplifying every facial imperfection in a disquieting, surreal way.

Visitors may not realize that the subject of the painting, Nancy Graves, was a celebrated artist in her own right.

Best known for her early sculptures of highly realistic camels (in a conceit that turned the museum into the zoo), she later incorporated banal objects like children’s toys into Alexander Calder’s and David Smith’s high modernist language of constructed sculpture. Graves was also a painter, and one of her paintings, Object Disguised 4 Times, 1982, is on view in the new installation of the contemporary art galleries.

Categories
Art Curatorial Library/Archives

“How much is that Braque in the window?”

Mrs. Harry L. Bradley

In response to a recent research request, I stumbled upon a Milwaukee Journal article titled “How Much Is That Braque in the Window?” Who could resist a title like that? I had to read on.

The article, dated January 4, 1959, follows the fascinating Bradley family and their passion for collecting art—a passion that began in 1950 with their first purchase. While traveling in New York for business, Mrs. Harry L. Bradley recalled, “I was walking along 57th St. … and suddenly there was a painting in a window that, for the first time, I thought I might buy. … It turned out to be a Braque and the price was a shocker.” The Bradleys talked it over and decided to go ahead with the purchase. And so, a world-class art collection was born.

Categories
Art Curatorial

A Time When Modern Was “Degenerate”

This past weekend, I was proud to present a paper at the American Ceramic Circle’s annual symposium on an exhibition topic I’m developing. I spoke about a German designer named Grete Marks who made radical and beautiful ceramics—designs that the Nazi government called “degenerate.”