Michelle Grabner

  • Santiago Cucullu

    Santiago Calatrava’s Quadracci Pavilion, completed in 2001, is the architectural antithesis to the Milwaukee Art Museum’s original Eero Saarinen building. Skeletal and dazzling white, Calatrava’s expansion flaunts its pièce de résistance: the Burke brise soleil, a series of steel rods forming two massive fins engineered to raise and lower like the wings of a bird. Connecting Calatrava’s gracile landmark to Saarinen’s blocky mass are two long and narrow enclosed walkways, also designed by Calatrava, that are used as exhibition spaces. It is in one of these, the seemingly endless west galleria,

  • Goofy Burns Jail, 1995, oil on canvas, 48 x 38".
    picks July 29, 2008

    T. L. Solien

    Over the past twenty-five years, T. L. Solien has given pictorial form to the mawkishness of human erring. This harrowing and self-deprecating feat is elegantly demonstrated in this survey exhibition, comprising image-laden canvases and a selection of works on paper. Madison-based Solien has become adept at composing impeccable, doleful narratives founded on a basic lexicon of signs, symbols, and tropes that range from the exotic to the mundane. Coloring-book kittens, fish heads, self-portraits, three-eyed ghosts, and Norwegian oxen secure their roles as metaphors in Solien’s disquieting orbit

  • “Olympus Manger,” Scene II, 2008, mixed-media installation in two parts, 12 x 24 x 16' each.
    picks June 22, 2008

    Kelly Kaczynski

    For this exhibition, the five large bay doors of the Hyde Park Art Center open onto a theater that is latent with cataclysmic shift. Two stages, each supporting an approximate rendition of Vladimir Tatlin’s Monument to the Third International, 1919, face off in a modernist showdown with uncertain consequences. These mountainous pylons, constructed from building-grade materials (lumber, luan, drywall expanding foam), mirror one another from their individual platforms. But unlike the sturdy (if cursory) towers, the stages’ surfaces present a more refined wood surface, beneath which a large-scale

  • Michael Banicki, Town Rating: 151st–200th of 6140, 2006, acrylic on canvas, 48 x 48".
    picks May 01, 2008

    “Indexical Frontiers”

    “How do people have so much free time?” asks INOVA curator Nicholas Frank in the essay accompanying his exhibition “Indexical Frontiers.” It is an artless question concerning a genuine present-day riddle, and to illustrate it, Frank offers three artists whose work is all-consuming, obsessive, and teetering on the edge of pathology. Michael Banicki, Annabel Daou, and Renato Umali employ indexing, itemizing, listing, and recording to process, rank, and aestheticize the world around them.

    Banicki has dedicated much of his life to “regarding” the towns of America. The result is a complex grid system

  • France, 1961, black-and-white photograph, 3 1/2 x 3 1/2".
    picks April 03, 2008

    “Ed Ruscha and Photography”

    Mounting a teeming collection of Ed Ruscha’s photographic work in the Art Institute’s snug subterranean photo galleries may initially seem counterintuitive, given the artist’s eminence as an American Pop icon. Yet this intimate, relaxed space happens to be an ideal environment for examining the more than ninety original and infrequently showcased prints included in this exhibition. These cozy galleries are also conducive to a leisurely thumbing-through of Ruscha’s more familiar photographic books from the 1960s and 1970s. “Ed Ruscha and Photography” was organized by Sylvia Wolf for the Whitney

  • Both works: Brian Kennon, Untitled, 2007.
    picks March 07, 2008

    “Gaping Hole Found in Universe”

    Last August, astronomers at the University of Minnesota announced they had found an enormous hole in our universe that spans a billion light years and is devoid of all cosmic material, including gases, stars, galaxies, even the “dark” (or unseen) matter that supposedly makes up the majority of the cosmos. Liliya L. R. Williams, an associate astronomy professor at the university, said of the finding: “What we’ve found is not normal, based on either observational studies or on computer simulations of the large-scale evolution of the universe.” Enter “Gaping Hole Found in Universe,” an exhibition

  • Wild Pitch, 2008, painted wood, metal hardware, found metal objects, fabric, baseball glove, and baseballs, 90 x 75 x 55".
    picks February 27, 2008

    Jason Meadows

    Beckoning visitors from the back wall of Jason Meadows’s exhibition are several stenciled disembodied heads resembling the iconic farmer’s wife in Grant Wood’s American Gothic, which stare gauntly from their canvas support into a gallery annexed by four brawny and bizarre sculptures. The only painting in the exhibition, Hysteria (all works 2008), summons the same nineteenth-century Middle American values as the four emblematic objects. A family of hogs, a baseball player, a supersize old-fashioned microscope, and a weather vane are what Meadows has fastidiously fashioned out of old and new

  • Sunburn (spitting off the balcony), 2006, oil on linen, 60 x 72".
    picks January 16, 2008

    Richard Hawkins

    It makes sense that an institution in Amsterdam originated Richard Hawkins’s first retrospective. The liberal beliefs, social tolerance, and general promiscuity that characterize popular images of the city likewise distinguish the Los Angeles–based artist’s own permissive practice, which swings from abstract paintings to collages and from haunted-house sculptures to a series of narrative paintings depicting sexually ambiguous men whom Hawkins refers to as “hallucinations from a Viagra overdose.” With the exception of the collages, which impeccably convey the fluidness of his imagination and

  • Himmelsrichtungen I (Cardinal Points I), 1976, acrylic on aluminum in four parts, each 10 1/2 x 8 1/4 x 1/8".
    picks January 03, 2008

    Blinky Palermo

    In 1962, Peter Heisterkamp came to Düsseldorf to study at the Kunstakademie. It was there, under the tutelage of Joseph Beuys, that Heisterkamp became Blinky Palermo, supposedly on account of his resemblance to the American boxing manager of the same name. Given that the lore of the academy looms large in Düsseldorf, organizing a comprehensive overview of the work of one of its famed students in order to commemorate the fortieth anniversary of the city’s Kunsthalle and Kunstverein at their Grabbeplatz location seems only natural. Comprising a significant selection of works that includes paintings

  • Sara VanDerBeek, Medusa, 2007, digital C-print, 40 x 30".
    picks November 06, 2007

    “I Am Eyebeam”

    Although not on the checklist, James Welling, Dara Birnbaum, Silvia Kolbowski, Louise Lawler, and Victor Burgin are palpably present in “I Am Eyebeam,” curated by Melanie Schiff and Lorelei Stewart. While it is difficult to detect “Pictures”-style representational critique in the work amassed here, the twelve participating artists seem aesthetically drawn to their Conceptualist forebears. This strong collection of work displays the artists’ preference for the darkroom over the computer desktop, appropriation over subjective narrative, and a constructivist visual language over transcendental

  • Don Majkowski: Sunday, September 20th, 1992, 2007, thirty laminated panels, 33' x 12' x 2".
    picks October 25, 2007

    Tim Laun

    Wisconsinites bleed Green Bay Packers green and gold, so an exhibition extolling the football team’s legendary quarterback Brett Favre is a foregone curatorial decision for Madison’s contemporary-art venue. The oldest name in the NFL and the only franchise that is publicly owned, the Packers inspirit a fan base that is loyal and devout. Artist Tim Laun is an indisputable Packer devotee, yet his exhibition, comprising five framed lithographs, a thirty-three-foot-long graphic mural, and a large-scale model of a cyclorama accompanied by a digital photograph, deploys a rarified visual vocabulary

  • Lolipop, 2007, oil on found painting, 16 x 12".
    picks October 06, 2007

    Peter Schuyff

    Peter Schuyff is more than a contemporary surrealist—the psychological discomfiture that ensues when he shamelessly superimposes his now-archetypal abstract ideograms over a distinct visual field or genre-painting image is only a humorous subtext. His practice—comprising preposterous visual juxtapositions—is grounded in critical strategies of interference. Perhaps out of favor in today’s more sentimental cultural milieu, poststructuralism and its deferral of meaning remain salient topics for many artists. Still, an analysis of Schuyff’s work in terms of surrealism is not erroneous. Addressing