Arrangements / Guest Composers / Rural Utopia

Arrangements: Keith Nelson

Guest Composers: Peter Barrickman, Paul Druecke (Chuck Stebelton), Shelleen Greene (Nirmal Raja), Greg Klassen, Bruce Knackert , Michael Mikulay, Jen Price, Graeme Reid, Marla Sanvick, Amanda Tollefson, Shane Walsh (Sean Heiser, Sean Weber)

Rural Utopia: Watercolors from Blotchy Blobs Blog by J. Shimon

April 25 - July 5, 2014

Opening reception: Gallery Night, April 25, 5-9pm.

Fop and Hounds Salon: Thursday May 29, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Hosted by UWM Theatre Department’s Rebecca Holderness and her dog Asher.

Portrait Society is pleased to present an exhibition of object-based collages by Milwaukee artist Keith Nelson. Arrangements features various iterations of Nelson’s long-term investigation of found materials and their relationships once assembled as compositions.

With a preference for surface pattern and texture as well as minimalist shapes, Nelson gathers wood planks, tiles, toilet tank tops, metal plates and panels of linoleum from which he orchestrates linear, layered compositions. Like the Italian artist Morandi, who was fascinated with the tonal rhythms of staged vases and jars in his paintings, Nelson works with a formal vocabulary of shape, color and pattern as he builds works that are equally painterly and sculptural.

He arranges these objects on shelves and also on walls as diptychs. Most recently, he has been making freestanding forms. Nelson refers to his work as “object-based collages.”

This idea of the shelf as a stage or “platform” is being generously expanded in a related exhibition called Guest Composers. Nelson invited eleven individuals (artists, curators, a historian, art preparators and an academic) to participate in his exhibition by curating a shelf. The participants were invited to show their own work or select someone else to occupy their shelf, thus passing the baton of authority over his/her own exhibition and opening it to potential widespread and unedited involvement. While Nelson’s work is succinct, controlled and poised, the Guest Composers will undoubtedly use their curatorial stages in digressive manners.

Participants include: Peter Barrickman, Paul Druecke (Chuck Stebelton), Shelleen Greene (Nirmal Raja), Greg Klassen, Bruce Knackert, Michael Mikulay, Jen Price, Graeme Reid, Marla Sanvick, Amanda Tollefson, Shane Walsh (Sean Heiser, Sean Weber).

The arranging of things in our lives — be it shoes, book shelves, coffee tables, desk tops, pillows or platters of food — is a constant. Even something as minute as the placement of the soap dish, or the means by which one folds and stores dishtowels, becomes a curatorial act of selection, placement and ordering. Rather than what is on the shelves, this show heightens thinking around how it got there and what that means.

In the third gallery, J. Shimon’s beloved watercolor series Rural Utopia from his Blotchy Blob Blog will collectively tell tales of art making, gardening and existing in the Midwestern landscape. A selection of nearly 100 watercolors will be displayed amid homemade planters crafted from acoustic guitar bodies and filled with herb seedlings. It’s spring, after all. Only in these intimate paintings does contemporary art discourse meet gardening implements. Nude figures, representing an idyllic Eden-like fantasy world loosely based on observation, go about making sculptures and music, deconstructing Wisconsin tourist sites, and growing vegetables as commentary on capitalism and contemporary art, in a sweetly humble honoring of the ordinary.

This body of work was recently included in the exhibition “J. Shimon & J. Lindemann: We Go From Where We Know” at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, and has enjoyed a large following on the http://blotchyblobsblog.blogspot.com/.