The Pfister Hotel Press Coverage

Gallery Night & Day recommendations

From beast-inspired tattoos to brightly colored model trains, from folk art dolls with stories to tell to a feminist impersonation of Barbara Bush, the lineup of exhibitions for the summer Gallery Night & Day is not lacking for originality.

The quarterly, citywide art crawl is Friday evening and Saturday during the day. Of the scores of shows you have to choose from, here are a select few I recommend.

“The Beast Within”
Tory Folliard Gallery, 233 N. Milwaukee St.

If one thinks of tattoos as a sort of “psychic armor,” as artist Fred Stonehouse suggests, then why do animals capture the imaginations of so many tattoo lovers and tattoo artists? Why is it that dragons, eagles and horses slither, soar and gallop across biceps and backs? The artists who are drawn to the language of tattoos probably have something to say on the matter, says Stonehouse, who’s curated an exhibit around the question called “The Beast Within.”

Stonehouse, who usually is on the walls rather than in the curator seat, is one of our state’s more fascinating and devilish artists — and minds. The show he’s put together includes work and artists he knows well. I would be shocked if it was not a raucous, mind-blowing affair and perhaps the place to be on Gallery Night, with so many of the artists in attendance. Who wouldn’t want to meet Fred’s friends? (Friday 11 to 9 p.m., Saturday 11 to 4 p.m.)

“Waste Not”
Portrait Society Gallery, 207 E. Buffalo St.

Wisconsin is considered a “hot bed” of both self-taught art, hand-built environments and a certain inventiveness with reclaimed materials. With this in mind, gallery owner Deb Brehmer has put together a show of five artists, two who are largely unknown.

“Is it our isolation, our respect for the idiosyncratic and handmade, or the long hours of solitude during winter months that foster this condition of invention?” Brehmer asks in her gallery statement. “Who knows? But it is an unassailable truth that the state breeds artists who productively and often privately work outside of conventional, professional systems.”

As a bit of an aside, there are also a couple of Bernard Gilardi works that Deb shared with me in recent days that feel so poignant and timely to our moment, as we grapple with the meaning of George Zimmerman’s acquittal and the words of President Barack Obama last week. Look for them. You’ll know them when you see them. Friday 5 to 9 p.m. and Saturday noon to 5 p.m.

Stephanie Barenz
Pfister Hotel, 424 E. Wisconsin Ave.

Since a beloved professor shared it with her a decade ago, Stephanie Barenz has always had this quote from Rainer Maria Rilke pinned up in her art studios: “One ought to wait and gather a sense and sweetness a whole life long and a long life, if possible, and then, quite at the end, one might perhaps be able to write ten lines that were good. For verses are not, as people imagine, simply feelings (those one has early enough) — they are experiences.” These days, Barenz’s studio is at the Pfister Hotel, where she is the artist in residence. She’s having what Rilke called essential “unexpected meetings,” conversations with hotel guests and people she’s getting to know at the hotel. These things have fueled a deeply personal and expansive painting, “Gathering Sense and Sweetness” that is about a sense of home that has little to do with a place with walls or an address. (Friday 6 to 9 p.m., Saturday throughout the day.)

“Aberrance and Artifice”
Haggerty Museum of Art, 13th & Clybourn streets

The term “grotesque” these days tends to refer to something, well, pretty gross. In truth, the meaning of the word has not always been so simple and so fixed. As an artistic idea and the history of art, in fact, it’s been pretty mutable. The nearly 30 works of art in this show, including photographs, paintings, drawings and sculpture, are by contemporary artists who plumb the depths of the grotesque. Through these works, the complexities — the distortions, fascinations, dread, desire, earthiness, immateriality and humor — are rooted out. The work is from the Norton Collection at the Haggerty, drawn together by collectors Peter and Eileen Norton. The show is one of a series of exhibitions that will close after this weekend. (Friday 10 to 9 p.m., Saturday 10 to 4:30 p.m.)

“Mighline Phase I”
Sensorium, 326 N. Water St., 2nd Floor

Inspired by the High Line in New York — an elevated park on an old rail spur that allows people to experience the city from a different perspective — artist Michael Kautzer is constructing an architectural installation in this gallery. And he’s bringing his model trains, which promise to become an exercise in shifting color and shape. (Friday 5 to 9 p.m.)

Martha Wilson and Steve Rowell
Inova, 2155 N. Prospect Ave.

Inova is hosting a major survey for Martha Wilson, a performance artist and feminist whose work explores the role of women in society with incredible humor, poignancy and authenticity. Wilson also was the founding director of Franklin Furnace, a New York-based venue for progressive and avant-garde art practices. A sampling of artifacts from groundbreaking Franklin Furnace projects is on view. Also up is a new video and sound installation by Steve Rowell. (Friday 5 to 9 p.m., Saturday noon to 5 p.m.)

MARN Mentors Exhibition
Vanguard Sculpture Services, 3374 W. Hopkins St.

The Milwaukee Artist Resource Network has for years been pairing established artists and emerging ones, to engage in a yearlong dialogue and mentorship. It’s one of the best things MARN does. The year culminates in an exhibition featuring work by both mentors and their protégés. Friday 5 to 9 p.m., Saturday 10 to 4 p.m.

Walker’s Point Center for the Arts, 839 N. 5th St.

This is a diverse group exhibition featuring video artists from around the country who explore human gesture and the ways we communicate. The show closes after the weekend. Friday 5 to 9 p.m., Saturday noon to 5 p.m.

“Urban(wood) Encounter”
Design Within Reach, 167 N. Broadway.
Come and see furniture fashioned from wood recovered in the urban environment. The furniture show, organized by Wudeward Urban Forest Products, presents environmentally friendly objects by local designers. Friday 5 to 9 p.m., Saturday 10 to 5 p.m.

“We are one, we are many (Somos uno, somos muchos)”
Arts@Large, 908 S. 5th St.
The diversity of Latino art are on display in this exhibit, which includes sculpture, multimedia work, photograph and installation. Student-created work includes shadow boxes that tell the story of immigration and video and audio stories for community members. Friday 5 to 8pm, Saturday 11 to 4pm.

Empty Bowls Exhibit
Pop-Up Gallery, 225 E. St. Paul Ave.

Alterra Coffee is coming to the Third Ward and offering up its not-yet-open cafe to celebrate Milwaukee Empty Bowls, an organization that combats hunger by raising funds for food pantries and meal programs in the area. The non-profit group will show work by 15 of its favorite artists, including Stephanie Bartz, Melissa Dorn Richards, Klaus Zunker, Jean Smaglik Wells and Kendal Poster. (Friday 5 to 9 p.m.)

“Remarkable Women” exhibit
Peltz Gallery, 1119 E. Knapp St.

The idea of an exhibition dedicated entirely to the work of women seems downright old fashioned today, but the “Remarkable Women” exhibit at the Peltz Gallery is such a tradition that it would be sad to see it go. The showcase of female artists, now in its 24th year, will be the first without the gallery’s own remarkable woman, former owner Cissie Peltz, who passed away earlier this year. For the first time, work by the late gallerist, who was an illustrator and cartoonist, will be up on the walls, too. Of the other work on view, I loved the colorful textile sculptures by Sonji Hunt, which seem to engage with Anne Kingsbury’s nearby self-portrait as a juggler. A series of folk art dolls made from painted muslin fabric and found notions by Della Wells, each with its own handwritten “story” attached, sit together on a shelf. Evelyn Patricia Terry contributed mixed-media collages from her series “Playing the Race Card.” A lovely painting by Carol Pylant stuns over the mantel, a place of honor in this de facto memorial exhibit. (Friday 6 to 9:30 p.m., Saturday 11 to 4 p.m.)

Habitat for Humanity ReStore, 420 S. 1st St.

Teaming up with Native Dogg and Friends of the MADACC, this new shop will exhibit dog beds handmade from repurposed materials. At least a quarter of the materials come right from the ReStore, in fact. Plus, pet-friendly event will be host to furry chums who can peruse the cushy beds. Sometimes you just need to scratch someone’s ears in the midst of Gallery Night. Purchases benefit Habitat for Humanity. Friday 5 to 9 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m.  to 4 p.m.

“Question Bridge”
Milwaukee Art Museum, 700 N. Art Museum Drive

It was just a week ago that President Barack Obama gave an unexpected speech about being black in America. As the U.S. public wrestled with the meaning of George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the shooting of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin, Obama spoke both expansively and personally about race. He said Trayvon Martin could have been him 35 years ago. He talked about being followed in a store. He talked about hearing car doors lock as he crossed a street. As it turns out, the Milwaukee Art Museum’s slate of summer shows seem to have stumbled squarely into the heart of American social debate. I’d especially recommend “Question Bridge,” which feels as connected to our political moment as anything I’ve seen at the museum in a while. Part art project, part documentary film innovation, it is a remarkably constructed and honest dialogue about what it means to be a black man in America today. You’ll also want to see “Wisconsin 30” and the feature show “30 Americans.” (Saturday 10 to 5 p.m. General admission applies.)

April 2021