Monday, October 22, 2007

Some Time in Milwaukee Art City


Some Time in Cudahy
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
I didn't do much gallery hopping this fall Gallery Night, partly because I had my own show to stare at and worry about. Neither us or the other show I did go to was on the official Gallery Night tour, so it was an outsider night for me anyway. I did stop at the Palimino to check out the Old West show, and met curator Jimmy Von Milwaukee, finally, after all these years and found him to be exactly what I expected: a friendly lover of art that isn't always necessarily outsider, but always thought-provoking, and with a lovingly cynical sense of humor. The two artists I came specifically to see, Lemonie Fresh and Chris Ward, did not disappoint. Ward's smallpox quilt was, in its simplicity, a great piece I found myself staring at for quite some time, there's a danger in that warmth. Lemonie Fresh's cowboy and boots paintings (she sold four of them -- three before 6 pm Friday) stared right back at me as I looked. I also spent a long time contemplating Jim Brozek's photography -- he's caught some precise moments (the castration shot had me wincing, but it's still brilliant).

The odd thing about looking at art at the Palimono at 6 pm on a bustling Friday night is that you're sometimes leaning over tables to get the close look this work demands. "Uh, I'm not eavesdropping, I'm just looking at the art," I would tell people as they munched on their tater tots and ribs. Anywhere else, any other theme, this would have been something of a drawback. Here, it seemed to add to the theme, like I was truly in the West at dinnertime. They didn't have "art openings" in Carson City. What art there was was up, and you just assumed it was part of the whole picture. (I have to wonder of the castration shot was placed strategically NOT near the restaurant tables, rather in the bar proper.)

Then I got to the Art Bar to watch people look at and react to my work (which, as I've written before, is a strange thing to me), but to check out the other participants in the show with the "Fear" theme. Waldek Dynerman had a series of creepy faces whose treatment benefited from the occasional ultraviolet light in the bar. Anne Harvey's work I found not so fearful as hauntingly enchanting, to the point where I'm going to scrape up the $$$ to get a print of her "They only glow for me" piece. A popular piece which I also liked very much was Patrick Farrell's untitled, which I'll try to describe, but don't let my mediocre description of it keep you from checking it out yourself. There's simply a portrait of a man, with a knife about to hit his back, but the look on his face leaves you wondering if he knows the knife is coming and he simply doesn't care, or he's just an assured guy who has no clue. Amy Misurelli had some nice works that were flat multimedia, and explored themes that may have instilled fear in some people, but I just thought were cool. Finally, the work of Stephen Somers was flat out disturbing, as art needs to be every now and then. The style was that of a (very adult-oriented) fantasy/middle earth pixies and gnomes and goblins painter, but with a very sexual adult horror twist. A friend staring at the centerpiece work -- a piece called "Deep Throat" which was a combination of a few different female orifices combined with monstrous accoutrements including some seafood -- said it best: "Dude has issues." I'm glad he's working them out through his art.



Beat on the Bass
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
The night ended at Vnuk's, where I only caught a couple of Chief's tunes, but I was truly there to finally see Beatallica anyway. I'm not positive who else is hiding behind the hair, but that was definitely Jeff Hamilton and Tinker up there for sure. Admittedly, I went in with a few doubts -- was this a joke band that was going to fizzle out after the first laugh? Not really. Those Lennon-McCartney songs really can stand up to any treatment you throw at them. The challenge is to add something new, and Beatallica does. They don't just play the songs straight up, simply adding a few more fuzzboxes and Hetfield growls. Beatallica mashes the songs up and together (similar to George Martin's "Love" project), to the point where I found myself thinking of Led Zeppelin tunes during "Birthday." I think it works because we're dealing with musicians who genuinely love the Beatles and appreciate the craft and quality of the songwriting that legitimized rock and roll, but they also appreciate a great metal band and saw no reason why the two couldn't coexist. And so I spent the evening taking it in, hearing them bang out mashup upon mashup, and thinking to myself, "Nice take on that. It works." Only one weak spot in my opinion: "Helter Skelter." They sludge it down, and in the process, weaken what was probably the Beatles' most raw, sinister moment -- the one time when the fab ones really opened up and got really dangerous and showed a dark side with that Zeppelin-ish authority. It turns into a joke in Beatallica's hands, which would have been fine, except the rest of the set was a convincing argument for the inclusion of the Beatles in "VH1's Hundred Greatest Songwriters of Hard Rock." Beatallica works best when it's not a joke -- when you're smiling but headbangingly admitting, "Wow, 'She's So Heavy' really works under this treatment." I want to pick up the CD specifically to hear "Ktulu -- She's so Heavy" on a regular basis. It's not a joke. At times, it's as great art as the original Beatles versions were. If you're so much of a purist that you can't deal with this kind of stuff, nothing's gong to satisfy you besides listening to your pristine mint-condition copy of Revolver that you keep at 67 degrees F encased in archive-quality plastic anyway. Get your snob head out of your butt and admit that metal has its equally artful moments.

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