2011 Mary L. Nohl Fellows
“Artists need movements, movements need artists,” observes Nicolas Lampert, who divided his fellowship year among five projects, four of which involved collaborations with organizations or individuals. He attended a printmaking workshop with Enrique Chagoya at the Anderson Ranch Arts Center in Colorado; worked with Iraq Veteran's Against the War (IVAW) on an ongoing print project entitled War is Trauma; and he and Raoul Deal continued to develop Watershed: Art, Activism, and Community Engagement, a project they launched in 2009 (the latest manifestation was a large blackboard drawing created by Lampert, Deal, Lane Hall, and Lisa Moline that was installed at EyeBeam in New York City). Xandra Eden, one of the jurors who selected Lampert for the fellowship, included a broadside about immigrant rights he made with Dan S. Wang in her exhibition, Zone of Contention: The US/Mexico Border, at the Weatherspoon Art Museum at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
For this exhibition, Lampert has collaborated with Paul Kjelland on a new series of prints and commemorative athletic uniforms that celebrate the history of the Milwaukee Commandos, a group of young black men who worked alongside Father James Groppi in the fair housing struggles of the mid-1960s. The Commandos were most visible protecting demonstrators as they crossed the 16th Street Viaduct (the “Mason-Dixon line”) and into Milwaukee’s nearly all-white south side neighborhoods, demanding an end to segregated schools and neighborhoods, police brutality, and job discrimination. For Lampert, the jerseys place the radical past on the body and invite conversation about the Commandos’ history and the injustices they struggled against. Dylan Miner, in his catalogue essay, notes that “Lampert creates an authentic and socially just counter-history,” connecting past struggles to the recent Wisconsin Uprising.
Nicolas Lampert is an artist and writer whose work focuses on themes of social justice and ecology. His work is in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Milwaukee Art Museum, the Oakland Museum of California, the Library of Congress, the Center for the Study of Political Graphics, Los Angeles, and the New York Public Library, among others. Lampert is part of the Justseeds Artist's Cooperative and has worked as an artist with the Rain Forest Action Network, Tamms Year Ten, and Iraq Veterans Against the War. His first book, A People’s Art History of the United States, will be published by The New Press in 2013.
Barbara Hammer, in her catalogue essay, describes Brad Lichtenstein as a compassionate filmmaker: “there is visible heart behind every shot.” When the United States economy crashed, Lichtenstein went looking for a story that would allow him to explore this question: Is it possible to rebuild our economy without sacrificing the middle class promise of America? The closing of the century-old General Motors plant in Janesville, Wisconsin presented the perfect opportunity--a solid middle class community faced with a dire existential threat, and a range of characters who engaged with his guiding question in different ways. As Goes Janesville, Lichtenstein would argue, is not a polemic. He empathizes with each of his characters; he asks lots of questions; and he strives to give audiences the freedom to challenge their own assumptions, political or otherwise. His hope is that in these polarized times the film “will encourage audiences to find ways to engage with civic life in their communities.” As Hammer concludes, “This is responsible, ethically rich documentary filmmaking that treats the viewers as well as the subjects with respect and dignity.”
As Goes Janesville will screen at the Milwaukee Film Festival and the UWM Union Theatre during the run of the exhibition; in the gallery, Lichtenstein will screen a compilation of excerpts from Janesville as well his earlier films; Almost Home (2006); Caught in the Crossfire (2002); Ghosts of Attica (2001); Safe: Inside A Battered Women's Shelter (2001); Local News: Grace Under Pressure (2001); Andre's Lives (1998); and With God On Our Side (1996).
Brad Lichtenstein is an award-winning filmmaker and president of 371 Productions, a company that creates media and technology projects about a range of social issues. Lichtenstein was inspired to devote himself to the common good by John Lewis, the civil rights leader whose congressional campaign he worked on as a high school senior in 1986.
“This has been an explosive and pivotal year of new endeavors,” declares Sonja Thomsen. She travelled to Iceland for her first international museum show; produced her first collaborative public art project in Milwaukee; participated in the birth of a collective; and relaunched her website to more accurately reflect the recent direction of her work. The fellowship award enabled her to hire studio assistants and expand into a second workspace, making it possible to investigate larger-scaled projects and three-dimensional works. Thomsen brings several of these new experiments into the gallery for the Nohl exhibition. Her first foray into sculpture, trace of possibility, is a steel and polycarbonate structure covered in silvery, reflective vinyl that stands 14 feet tall. It is placed in relation to witness, a large photograph on vinyl, and can be entered, like a mirrored cave, or circumambulated. Two new works, nexus, a changing series of archival pigment prints resting on an 8-foot wooden shelf, and vessel, nine small white-on-white still lifes on vinyl displayed with a larger, figurative image, some of its emulsion peeled away, attest to Thomsen’s belief in “the power of the sequence to carry content” and her related interest in installation. Britt Salvesen, writing in the catalogue, identifies trace of possibility as the pivotal work in Thomsen’s exhibition, functioning “metaphorically as a translation of the expansive landscapes she shot in Iceland, and as an imagined interior of the vessels she shot in the studio.” Salvesen notes that for Thomsen, “temporality is an artistic medium and a conceptual space….While time is the declared motif, even obsession, of many contemporary photographers, it is rare that an artist can get at its paradoxical nature, as if setting the clock to wind in both directions, or conjuring an hourglass to trickle sand upward and downward. Sonja Thomsen, in her exploratory, empathetic work, manages something like this.”
Sonja Thomsen was born in Chicago in 1978. She received a BA from Kenyon College in 2000 and an MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute in 2004. Exhibitions include the Reykjavik Museum of Photography, Iceland; Catherine Edelman Gallery, Chicago; the New Mexico Art Museum, Santa Fe; Silverstein Photography, New York; the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art; Cynthia Reeves Gallery, New York; David Weinberg Gallery, Chicago; Silver Eye Center for Photography, Pittsburgh; and the Haggerty Museum of Art, Milwaukee.
AMERICAN FANTASY CLASSICS
David Robbins, writing in the catalogue, locates American Fantasy Classics (a collective made up of Brittany Ellenz, Liza Pflughoft, Alec Regan and Oliver Sweet) within the long history of fabrication—and particularly in the period since conceptual art elevated “a de-emphasis of the artist’s hand, heretofore only implied, to an intentional component of the work.” It was only a matter of time, he continues, before artists “began taking this more expansive definition of fabrication as a basis for their own artistic practice.” AFC describes their medium as “other people’s ideas, as a starting point. Through collaboration we arrive at something new for us and for the artist as well. Both parties get to a place we wouldn’t get to otherwise.” Their production model, which Robbins characterizes as crossbreeding “a commercial ‘bus-stop bench-ad American business thing’ with a community-minded, DIY optimism and the experimental ethos of an artist-run gallery,” is meant to raise questions about today’s art world, the survival of young artists, and the fabricator’s role.
For the Nohl exhibition, AFC has created an immersive mixed media installation, The Streets of New Milwaukee. They see this project as the continuation of an approach to artmaking—informed by collaboration and platforming--that they’ve learned in Milwaukee. “The Streets is a way to synthesize the bits of culture that led us to this point--the institutions, art, and pop that provided us with the opportunity to imagine—and to acknowledge the youthful optimism inherent in our style. It is physical science fiction, as well as a venue for artists to explore their own projects in a fictional context born of the swirling miasma of our collective fears and insecurities about the future, our relationship to the past, and the process of building a functioning production model based on the reality of the present.” The Streets of New Milwaukee is also the “congealed essence of AFC's swan song.” In the summer of 2012, after nearly two years of “arduous collaboration, trial and cross-contamination,” their clubhouse, living quarters, studios and gallery headquarters at 631 East Center Street were destroyed by fire.
American Fantasy Classics will activate their installation three times during the exhibition (at the opening, on November 8 and on November 29) by presenting Nite Life with a host of collaborators and special guests. You will be able to walk The Streets of New Milwaukee and experience all that the Nite Life has to offer: arts and entertainment, architecture, cuisine, nightclubs, dancing, education, cinema and friendship.
American Fantasy Classics was established in early 2011. Since its inception, AFC has worked with artists locally and internationally, encouraging ambitious experimentation by dedicating its resources as collaborators, organizers and fabricators. AFC has chosen a multivalent role within the art experience--part artist, part curator, part gallery, part studio—recognizing that a fractured, segregated hierarchy does not serve their purposes when tangible commercial opportunities are scarce. They prefer a wholistic, collaborative approach to creating and exhibiting artwork in their self-made, non-commercial sphere.
“Paint is expensive,” Richard Galling notes, and if you have more money for paint, you have the freedom to experiment. He has been doing just that this year, developing work for exhibitions in Chicago, Los Angeles and San Diego. At Inova, Galling will be exhibiting a series of recent paintings. Through process and reference, his work posits a consideration of the contemporary by way of “abstract painting.” Mechanical marks and patterns, derived from stenciling, masks, and paint released from squeeze bottles, are combined with casual and incidental gestures of the hand. This “painted” vocabulary makes reference to signifiers drawn from the history of Modernist painting. In application, these signs are repeatedly overlaid, effectively striking-through what is beneath. Functioning as cancellation that reveals a trace of the referent below, layers of thinly applied paint allow for a continuous interference of interchangeable painted information. This amalgamation presents a painted mark as a nullified residue suspended on and within a surface of paint and canvas.
Michelle Grabner, in her catalogue essay, notes that although Galling constructs “a vocabulary of familiar signifiers that nod to twentieth-century abstraction and ‘80s graphic design…in combination, these signs de-historicize both their modern and postmodern moorings.” She goes on to fold Galling into David Joselit’s theory of contemporary painting as travesty, of wearing other painters: “If Galling wears a painter, that painter would be an aggregate of Milton Avery, Sam Francis, Sigmar Polke, and David Row.”
Richard Galling is an artist, music producer, and DJ. He received his BFA from Art Center College of Design, Los Angeles and his MFA from Yale University, New Haven. He has exhibited at Autonomie, D-Block, Commonspace, The John Riepenhoff Experience at Pepin Moore, The William Grant Still Art Center, Compact Space Gallery, and the University of California, Irvine Room Gallery (Los Angeles); LVL3, Peregrine Program, and Ebermoore (Chicago); The Green Gallery East and CENTER (Milwaukee); The Green Gallery at 47 Canal (New York); Double Break (San Diego); Andi Campognone Projects (Pomona, California); and Bentley Projects (Phoenix, Arizona). He has had work featured in the Flagstop Alternative Art Fair in Torrence, California; the MDW Fair, Chicago; and NADA, Miami. Galling teaches at the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design.
Hans Gindlesberger examines how contemporary society constructs and represents concepts of place. Partial Architectures, a collection of archival pigment prints, cyanotypes, and laser-etched negatives displayed on a light box, began with a roll of film shot by Gindlesberger’s grandfather in Germany during World War II. His grandfather returned to America with it, undeveloped, in 1943, and it sat untouched until his death in 2011. When Hans had it developed, the frames revealed only a black fog, the evidence of exposure to light and time. Gindlesberger turned next to a small number of his grandfather’s surviving photographs showing the remnants of buildings leveled by Allied bombings. Referencing these images, he drew a set of architectural diagrams that imagined the fallen portions of the buildings. Binding together photographic and architectural processes, he re-inscribed his diagrams into the blank space of the found negatives, printed them as cyanotype blueprints, and then physically manifested them as objects through a rapid-prototyping process. These scale models were re-photographed and composited into images of the German landscape significant to both national and familial history. “The models loom in these final composites,” writes Carl Bogner in his catalogue essay, “apparitionally: monuments but somehow offhanded, memorials not to the fallen or otherwise forgotten but to recollections lost. Their presence, like the processes behind them, compensatory and, therefore, self-consciously, necessarily, poignantly, excessive. They testify to acts of generation, of reconstruction, from a field leveled by time. They can be measured only on the scales of absurdity and desire and grief.” Gindlesberger sees these “partial and speculative architectures” in dialogue with both the generational loss of familial memory and the German obligation to remember its history.
Gindlesberger’s projects span photography, video, and installation and have been shown widely in exhibitions, festivals, and screenings, including; Galleri Image, Aarhus, Denmark; Gallery 44, Toronto; Jen Bekman Projects, New York; Voies Off Photography Festival, Arles, France; and the International Symposium on Electronic Art, Albuquerque, among others. Gindlesberger is an assistant professor of digital imaging in the School of Visual Arts at Virginia Tech. He earned his MFA in photography from the State University of New York at Buffalo in 2006. Partial Architectures was the first project he completed outside the United States, and it enabled him to expand his research into the areas of architecture, digital fabrication, and historical photographic processes.
SARAH GAIL LUTHER
Sarah Gail Luther is a cross-pollinator. She brings the outdoors indoors, carries a bit of something from one place to another, encourages people to step out of their familiar spaces and discover new ones. She has spent the year exploring hundreds of abandoned plots all over Milwaukee, looking for five pieces of land that have a particular feel, interest, or beauty. She then created field guides for each piece of abandoned land. These guides present bits of that parcel’s history, its surrounding neighborhood, and points of interest or curiosity; Luther goes on to speculate how it could be used as a public space. These field guides, and a cubic foot of soil and plant material from each site, will be on view at Inova. Nearby is a flower cart she built, filled with bouquets of flowers picked in each location. On Saturdays she will take the cart out and distribute bouquets from a specific plot in a carefully chosen public location (for instance, the bouquets from 20th and Hampton will be distributed at Bayshore Mall). Each geographical pairing, she notes, “crosses an invisible Milwaukee boundary line.” Using the flower cart to attract visitors at these public places, she will hand out flowers and field guides, suggesting that they use the map to explore the abandoned site and neighborhood. Luther’s interest in things, like nature, that ignore manmade borders and “encroach uniquely in different places” extends to two more gallery installations: one a series of power lines and the other a postal service where visitors can write postcards that Luther will post.
Shannon Stratton acknowledges, in her catalogue essay, that contemporary artists, like Luther, who take up experience as the subject of their practice are subject to certain dangers: “Perhaps any artist who seeks to redirect the attentions of her audiences towards the everyday and the overlooked and away from the virtuoso craft of the specialist is making a fool’s bargain. Or maybe it is a question of how gently she maneuvers our viewfinder so as to trigger wonder itself as the subject not just of art, but of life. Luther returns her [audience] to the world and gently suggests they go in search of their own discoveries…Just look where you weren’t looking, but were always looking, and you’ll find something rare….Perhaps Luther’s strategy, to step away and release an audience back into the world, is a fool’s bargain. Or perhaps it’s a necessary palette cleanser; a reminder that experience is all around us--sometimes we just have it on mute.”
Sarah Gail Luther was born in Milwaukee, and is devoted to creating work that expands her knowledge of her city. She’s worked with IN:SITE, a Milwaukee-based temporary public art organization, for three years. Other public art projects include The Amplifier, a pop-up community center funded by the Wisconsin Arts Board and located in Milwaukee’s Silver City neighborhood. Luther has exhibited work at The Green Gallery, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design in Milwaukee; La Esquina Gallery, Crossroads Gallery, and Dolphin Gallery in Kansas City; and the Transformer Gallery in Washington, D.C. She has lectured on public art and performance at the Art Institute of Chicago, MIAD and UWM.