MOWA is pleased to announce the opening of its new location—MOWA | DTN—inside Wisconsin’s first-of-its-kind arts hotel, Saint Kate. MOWA’s inaugural exhibition, simply titled Downtown, will consider the vibrant historic traditions of Milwaukee’s core as well as the social realities that characterize its urban environment.
Earlier this year, MOWA invited ten artists who live or work in Milwaukee—Mark Brautigam, Brema Brema, Adam Carr, Portia Cobb, Mark Klassen, David Lenz, Jessica Meuninck-Ganger, Lon Michels, Keith Nelson, and Nathaniel Stern—to create a visual conversation about Milwaukee as a city of the twenty-first century. The results are an exciting visual cacophony of diverse views and interpretations.
Three artists, Brautigam, Brema, and Carr, use photography to challenge traditional notions of the iconic and the social hierarchy of architecture. Brautigam finds merit in the city’s crosswalks and abandoned railroad lines while Carr’s charming vignettes of local neighborhoods disrupt established hierarchies when they are presented as postcards of mainstream tourist attractions. Brema, the youngest artist in the exhibition at twenty-two, takes the most radical and unexpected view of Milwaukee in drone photographs of spectacularly lit night scenes that are immediately recognizable as both somewhere and nowhere.
Klassen and Nelson find meaning in the banal and uncertainties of urban living. Klassen’s strangely sterile and disconcerting sculptures of ordinary objects raise questions about artifice. Nelson likewise draws inspiration from the humble, recalibrating curbside trash with the mindset of a modernist.
Michels’s large-scale sculpture of “downtown” women whimsically celebrates femininity while slyly confronting gender biases in the city’s traditional bastions of power.
Printmaker Meuninck-Ganger and digital artist Stern have combined media to create an installation of “moving images on paper.” Their unexpected combinations explore distinctions between static and moving elements in three downtown neighborhoods. Images of cars, people, streets, and signs ebb and flow to reframe our understanding of their relationships to each other and to their surrounding communities.
Cobb and Lenz each focus on the racial challenges and inequities of Milwaukee’s communities. As a filmmaker who has worked in the city for almost thirty years, Cobb examines her own early years in the city as well as changing relationships as seen through the politics of place and identity. Lenz’s hyperrealistic paintings similarly confer stature and commanding presence on individuals who live on the periphery and otherwise go unnoticed.
Image: Photograph by Brema Brema