Saturday, November 17, 2012

Portrait Society Relaunched (With Style)

Shimon & Lindeman Installation: Decay Utopia Decay
by Judith Moriority in Express Milwaukee
The newly shaped Portrait Society Gallery (PSG), in the Third Ward’s Marshall Building, opened Nov. 9. Six-plus months is a long time to walk around in dusty debris, but the gallery is up and running and proprietor Debra Brehmer has launched it with style. UW-Milwaukee and MIAD art students will cheer at their opportunities to exhibit in one of the smarter galleries in town. A conceptualist by nature, Brehmer has carried her vision forward from the days when she owned Art Muscle magazine.
Fans of her fifth-floor PSG will still browse three gallery spaces—united, not divided—in the 1,000-square-foot, seamless redo, and they will surely endorse her selection of artists. It’s a reunion of sorts, bringing together old and new self-portraits by J. Shimon and J. Lindemann. Barbara Ciurej and Lindsay Lochman, another photographic team, add the history of the natural by pairing portrait busts of women with cyanotype overlays of plant forms. Nicholas Grider, in collaboration with PSG, presents “word photographs.” As a writer, I am keenly interested in his images, i.e. how words grow into writing and how writing grows into images. A selection of “vintage” portraits, unearthed by Brehmer, will complement Grider’s portion of the exhibition.
I remember seeing the work of Shimon & Lindemann, as well as the work of Ciurej & Lochman, in the pages of Art Muscle 15 years ago. Standing in this updated space is an earthy experience, for it strongly suggests new growing out of old, in much the same way that PSG has grown. It’s a sentimental journey well taken.
Brehmer’s master’s degree in art history has shaped her sensitivity to the concepts driving art. In turn, the concepts create credibility and nurture artists. Both a discerning curator and proprietor, as well as a supporter and a host with a keen sense of “the most,” she also understands the business of art. Did I mention that the gallery sheltering Shimon & Lindemann’s photographs will feature a tipi in which you are invited to sit?
The enriching exhibition moves into 2013 before closing on Jan. 5. PSG calls it a GRAND re-opening. Yes.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Natural History at the Portrait Society Gallery

We are looking forward to exhibiting images from our digital/cyanotype project, Natural History, at the Portrait Society Gallery from 9 November 2012 through 5 January 2012.  Included in this exhibition will be cyanotype self-portrait project Decay, Utopia, Decay by John Shimon and Julie Lindeman and collaborative installation by gallerist Debra Brehmer and photographer, Nicholas Grider.

from Natural History, ongoing series
The transformation of “portraits into tangled shadows of time. Grafting techniques from the history of photography, the cyanotype impressions of botanicals pay homage to Anna Atkins’ use of the medium in the nineteenth century…They speak of evanescence and hidden nature.”

J. Shimon and J. Lindeman
 An exhibition about our personal desperation to create a paradise and record its existence at our isolated rural Wisconsin farm. Such perfection can only exist in the haze of the past or future, making it absurd to approach it with the present-ness of photography, even with camera formats as reflectively cumbersome as 30×36 inches or as spontaneous as small-gauge 8mm movies. Our decaying, aging existence provides us with a stage as we face off with the elements, the uncontrollable plant world, broken-down farm implements, groundhogs, wasps, and mosquitoes.”

Nicholas Grider

This collaborative project between the photographer Nicholas Grider (MFA Cal-Arts) and Portrait Society pairs vintage portraits in all media with photo-derived word images. The exhibition will be in the gallery’s new “Lounge,” the smallest and most informal room of the new space.  From gallery owner and curator Debra Brehmer’s perspective, the exhibition is about loss (of all kinds) and the difficulties of communicating who we are and how we feel; the difficulties of being “known.” All of the vintage portraits, whether paintings, photographs or drawings, carry a sense of displacement as they have fallen out of context and out of a linear kind of history. But that may be a truer state than the assumed conventional ‘life,’ where we think we have a place, a permanency and belongingness.

Nicholas Grider, whose “Men in Suits” project was shown at the gallery in 2009, works in diverse formats. These word photographs present fragments of phrases, thoughts or song lyrics.  Disjointed, the broken phrases feel far more open and interpretive than they would nestled into completed sentences. Grider says this about his body of word images:

“I'm interested in how thought translates to writing and how writing translates to image so I have connected bodies of work that approach those ideas in different ways.  A kind of sub-lingual emotion or precursor to thought is represented by the abstract, swirling fields of pen lines; private, unspoken thought is represented by handwriting; and words spoken in conversation are represented by stenciled text in pencil and pen.  I've matched words and phrases to projects according to what I think a piece of text most suits, and I draw upon pop songs and popular sayings for the text pieces to make them possibly recognizable but unfamiliar in their new form.”

Fall 2012 Exhibitions