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Art Curatorial Exhibitions

John J. Reiss: Artist, Designer, and Collector

John J. Reiss, photographed for Wisconsin Architect, January 1968
John J. Reiss, photographed for Wisconsin Architect, January 1968

Milwaukee has been home to many talented designers over the years, but they often fly under the radar. A designer’s main concern is to convey a message or idea on behalf of a client; one’s identity is secondary, but a talented designer finds a way to stand out.

John J. Reiss is one such designer. He was born in Milwaukee in 1922, and while he spent some time in New York, Milwaukee was ultimately where he made his home and his mark. As a design associate for the Milwaukee Art Center (now the Milwaukee Art Museum), he created many of the exhibition catalogues, invitations, and advertisements in the 1950s, ‘60s, and ‘70s. However, he won recognition on a national and international level as well.

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Art Curatorial

And All That Jazz!

What did socialites in Milwaukee read during the jazz age of the late 1920s?

Well, naturally, everyone was reading The Modern Milwaukeean!

The magazine circulated from September of 1928 through the spring of 1930 and billed itself as the key publication for keeping up with the latest technological trends and everything modern. It proposed modernity as a way of life, but what really set The Modern Milwaukeean apart was its modern graphic design.

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Art Curatorial

A bit of Milwaukee in the Saarinen Archives at Yale

Milwaukee Art Center, Saarinen building, 1957. Milwaukee Art Museum, Institutional Archives.
Milwaukee County War Memorial Building, Eero Saarinen, 1957. Milwaukee Art Museum, Institutional Archives.

If you’ve visited the Museum recently, you know that we take our 125th anniversary seriously. There was cake for “Barbara Brown Lee Day” on May 2, there are three celebratory exhibitions, including a glamorous salon-style rehang of Gallery 10, and an upcoming publication about the roots of the Milwaukee Art Museum in Layton’s Legacy: An Historic American Art Collection.

An anniversary is an excuse to celebrate and an opportunity to engage the community. It is also a chance for us to dig into our history and learn more about our past.

Research is never done!

For my part, when I was in New England this winter, I made a research diversion to Yale University to delve into their Eero Saarinen Archives to find information we could use about the design, inspiration, and creation of the Milwaukee County War Memorial Center.

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Art Curatorial

New Installation of George Mann Niedecken objects

Installation shot of Museum's lower level George Mann Niedecken installation. Photo by the author.
Installation shot of Museum’s lower level George Mann Niedecken installation. Photo by the author.

Milwaukee in the early 1900s was a wealthy city known for its manufacturing—including beer, leather, steam engines, and metal machinery.

Milwaukee’s industrialists brought cutting-edge technology to their businesses, and a few brought cutting-edge design into their homes.

For a new look, they could turn to interior architect George Mann Niedecken (American, 1878–1945), who revolutionized the upper-class homes in Milwaukee with a step forward from the cluttered interiors of the Victorian era.

The Museum collection has a wealth of drawings, objects, and archival information about our hometown designer that famously collaborated with Frank Lloyd Wright.

Recently, to honor the addition of several fantastic new artworks to the Museum’s Niedecken collection, a new installation was put together on the Museum’s lower level.

What’s the story?