Romano Johnson, Michael Jackson the Moonwalk Family, 2021. Glitter and acrylic paint on canvas, 40 x 60 inches.
Michael Gehrke, Kenosha Drive-in, 2010. Archival inkjet print, 16 x 20 inches.
Susan Estelle Kwas, Basking in the Glow of Walking Stick, 2020. Watercolor on handmade paper.
The Yellow Moon Healing God
November 19 - January 8, 2022
Gallery hours: Thursday-Saturday, noon to 5 p.m.
Portrait Society Gallery of Contemporary Art is pleased to present Romano Johnson: The Yellow Moon Healing God, opening with a reception from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, November 19, 2021. This event is free and open to the public. The gallery will also feature adjacent projects by photographer Michael Gehrke and illustrator Susan Estelle Kwas.
This is Madison-based artist Romano Johnson’s second solo exhibition at Portrait Society. His work has also been shown at the Outsider Art Fair in New York City, the Madison Public Library, the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan, and the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. A solo exhibition was presented at the Museum of Wisconsin Art, West Bend, in 2017. His work is in the collections of the Museum of Wisconsin Art and Northwestern Mutual.
The Yellow Moon Healing God features new work created during the past two years. Johnson’s large canvases holds dynamic, active fields of pattern, image and mark making that gain momentum as he works and reworks the surfaces. His use of glitter augments the largess of his subject matter which often features Black pop stars such as Michael Jackson. He also incorporates themes of church and community, representing the influence of his faith.
Mano, as he is known, travels by bus, often with large canvases, from his home to his studio at Artworking in Madison, a nonprofit organization that supports artists with disabilities. The development of his paintings can take years as he revises, rethinks, and add layers until reaching a sense of completion. The titles, written on the backs, change as the paintings evolve. Life affirming exuberance distinguishes Johnson’s work.
The Yellow Moon Healing God will feature one room of church related paintings and two rooms that showcase portraits of Michael Jackson and his family. The filmmaker and videographer, Ted Brusubardis, will debut a music video created for the exhibition.
Michael Gehrke: A Postcard A Week
Portrait Society Gallery, Project Space
November 19 through January 8, 2022
On Sunday, February 11, 2018, artist/photographer Michael Gehrke embarked on a project that continues today. He began sending out a post card every week to 14 art galleries and institutions in Milwaukee, New York, and Chicago, featuring his own photography.
Portrait Society Gallery began receiving these 4 x 6 inch cards about one year ago. One side presents an image and the other the artist’s stamped name. Initially non-plussed by these unsolicited gifts, at some point the sheer commitment of this unknown artist began to garner respect. The gallery eventually started saving the postcards as well as noting Gehrke’s thoughtful formal compositions. As the cards continued to arrive with regularity, a decision was made to offer Michael Gehrke, whoever he was, a show.
A selection of prints from this series and a grid of the actual postcards will be on view in Portrait Society’s Project Space November 19 through January 8.
Gehrke, who lives in Oak Creek, said that in the three years that he has been mailing weekly postcards he has received only one other response from a private museum asking him to stop sending the cards. He initiated the project out of his participation in mail art during the 1970s. According to Gehrke, “Sending postcards is a way to subvert gallery owners who refuse to look at artist's work who they do not already represent.”
Gehrke earned a master’s degree in art at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and later studied visual communications at MATC. He worked as a writer and producer in business communications with clients such as Amoco, Case, Dana, Navistar, and Miller Brewing. He later was employed as a video producer and communications project manager for Case New Holland.
Susan Estelle Kwas
Still a Little Puddled in Dream Melt
Portrait Society Gallery, Viewing Room
November 19 through January 8, 2022
Milwaukee based artist Susan Estelle Kwas’ collection of watercolor paintings was created during the pandemic. Her topsy-turvy, fantastical subject matter contains a sense of wonder, addressing nature while acknowledging global traumas. Portrait Society Gallery is pleased to present her work for the first time.
Susan Estelle Kwas teaches illustration at the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design. She works primarily in water-based media on paper, exploring themes of connectivity to the natural and supernatural worlds.