KMUW 89.1FM 2012-2013 Archive

January 9, 2013


Early Year Exhibitions

January 9, 2013—A round-up of exhibitions opening in the new year.

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Early January always holds such great optimism. A new year. A fresh start. A clean slate. This fades of course as the daily grind, well, grinds away. But until then, reveling in the newness of the year feels great. And with this excitement, I look to what Wichita has in store for the arts in 2013.

Beginning this week, the Ulrich Museum will open the photography exhibition Berenice Abbott: Changing New York. Abbott’s stunning black-and-white photography captured New York City from 1929-1939 as it transitioned from old Manhattan to a dynamic urban center filled with buildings of dizzying heights.

Opening the following week is the Ulrich’s big spring show, Stocked: Contemporary Art from the Grocery Aisles– a promising show of colorful design and social introspection accompanied by a stellar line-up of Buzz-Worthy Art Talks to take place over the coming months.

The Wichita Art Museum’s first major exhibition of the New Year is Under Pressure: Contemporary Prints from the Collections of Jordan Schnitzer and His Family Foundation. Opening in early February, this show boasts 40 artists, over 100 prints, and spans 50 years.  From Jasper Johns to Kiki Smith, this exhibition offers visitors an extensive survey of modern and post-modern printmaking.

Center Gallery has two shows lined up for 2013: the Midwest Center for Photography Juried Exhibition and Developed Work: National Photography Fellowship Competition. Gallery owner Linda Robinson continues her efforts to promote the medium in photography and to bring new artists to Wichita audiences with competitive exhibitions in one the finest gallery spaces in town.

These are just a few exhibitions that are coming our way. If this is Wichita just getting started, I am excited to see how our art scene shapes up for 2013.



Art Review: Stocked

January 23, 2013—Review of the exhibition Stocked: Contemporary Art from the Grocery Aisles at the Ulrich Museum of Art.

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This past weekend, the Ulrich Museum opened their newest exhibition Stocked: Contemporary Art from the Grocery Aisles.

This exhibition is Dr. Emily Stamey’s final show, and she left Wichita with a true gem. For Dr. Stamey, Stocked is a culmination of three years of research– and several more of personal interest– in food production, distribution, marketing and consumption. She married this interest with her scholarly background in Pop Art for an exhibition that is accessible, engaging, and challenging– a hard chord to strike.

Stocked is also a timely show, as our country takes on new concerns toward food. How was our food grown? Where does it come from? Where does it go? Or not go? But these questions just scratch the surface of cultural discourse explored by the artists featured in Stocked.

Scott Blake’s I Am What I Eat consists of 32 canvases of meticulously hand-painted bar codes. The number and size of the canvases hark back to Andy Warhol’s original 32 Campbell’s Soup can paintings. But Blake’s canvases offer more of a personal portrait, accomplished by using one of the most impersonal, ubiquitous symbols of contemporary life, which raises questions about the interests of big businesses and tracking.

British artist Damian Hirst occupies the back wall with his large print series The Last Supper, in which common British fare is presented in the format of prescription drug labels. While seeing a label for 400-milligram tablets of steak and kidneys is, at first, humorous, the darker undertow of these works draws out questions on the use and abuse of food, similar to prescription drugs.

Themed exhibitions always run the risk of cramming ill-fitting artwork into the desired theme or homogenizing the practices and intents of artists into a single goal. But Dr. Stamey’s curating has none of this. Instead, she executes a level of curatorial prowess that makes the show feel effortless as if these objects were fated to share the same space.

Stocked is accompanied by an exquisite catalog that includes a commission by Kansas photographer Larry Schwarm. After the show closes, it goes on national tour– but while it’s here, this stunning exhibition provides much food for thought.



Art Review: Under Pressure

February 6, 2013—Review of Under Pressure: Prints from the Collections of Jordan D. Schnitzer and His Family Foundation at the Wichita Art Museum.

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The Wichita Art Museum opened a new show this past weekend. The exhibition is Under Pressure: Prints from the Collections of Jordan D. Schnitzer and his Family Foundation. This exhibition features 40 artists from this private collection of postwar American artists.

While this is just a selection from a profound collection, Under Pressure offers audiences a chance to examine printmaking, not as a supplemental medium to an artist’s practice but as a serious pursuit on par with the mediums of painting and sculpture. Often, printmaking suffers from this underdog status. Prints are not singular, unique objects. The artist’s touch is not visible as it might be in an oil-on-canvas painting.

But artists in the 1950s began to break away from these constructs. Pop art, minimalism, and conceptualism challenged these perceptions by embracing printmaking as an underutilized creative and experimental medium. Under Pressure offers a wide range of work from the mid-20th-century to today. The display of artwork moves between formal concerns, urban and natural environments, social issues, and identity politics.

With brightly colored walls of yellow, teal and grey, the gallery offers an energetic space to engage with these prints. At both entrances of the gallery, the wall text provides brief descriptions of the printmaking processes used in the displayed works– a smart touch that sheds light on the technical challenges of printmaking.

Under Pressure is a riveting exhibition that melts away any preconceived notions of printmaking and replaces them with a sense of awe and respect for the medium. After spending several hours in the show, I left with a renewed admiration for printmaking– its technical demands, experimental possibilities, incredible formal qualities, and its power to address social and political issues with biting acuity. Since the show will be up until May, I suspect Under Pressure still has more to offer.



Navigating Final Friday

February 20, 2013—Recommending galleries that regularly participate in Final Fridays and how to find current information.

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On the last Friday of every month, local art galleries keep their doors open late for visitors.

This is what is known as Wichita’s gallery crawl– visiting one gallery after another, taking in as much art as possible, and all free to the public. The museums participate at times, and so do local restaurants and coffee shops.

But navigating Final Friday is a challenge, and you have to know where to go. Not every gallery is open on Final Friday and venues are located all over town. Most galleries can be found in Old Town, on Commerce Street, and in the Delano district, but some of them take a special effort to seek out.

Commerce Street, just south of the arena, is the most densely packed with art galleries, and good ones, too! Go Away Garage and Diver Studio top my list, and Fisch Haus and Fiber Studio are just a hop away.

Just off the beaten path is Center Gallery on Ellis Street. You can see the gallery from Douglas, but turning that corner proves a challenge for some. Once you find it, though, you’ll feel you’ve discovered a real gem.

I find the best way to stay current on Final Friday happenings is to join the email art list run by CityArts. They will pass along information from a variety of arts organizations so that you can stay up to date on Final Friday and other interesting events around town.

To be added to the CityArts’ art list, email Marilee Mitchell at or Kay Blair at and they will get you signed up.

Final Friday roughly runs from 7 – 10 p.m., though venue times vary slightly. Don’t know where to go? Follow me on Twitter for real-time reviews. Find out what’s worth the visit and what you can pass up, so that you can make the most of your Final Friday.



Art Review: Curt Clonts

March 6, 2013—Review of a solo exhibition by artist Curt Clonts at Bluebird Arthouse.

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This past weekend, painter and Wichita native Curt Clonts opened his solo exhibition at Bluebird Arthouse with a title that, well, I can’t write here, but it conveys the self-deprecating humor that makes Clonts so likable.

Clonts is a well-established figure in the art scene. He is an artist-in-residence at Friends University, a member of relatively recent artist group The Ginger Rabbits, was unanimously voted into the cheekily-named “Famous Dead Artists” group in 1997, and was a regular contributor to local arts and culture publication F5, among many other endeavors.

But, at the core of it all, Clonts is a painter. He typically works on found materials that are fitted together to make a paintable surface. This gives his work dimensionality, texture, and a distinct visual quality.

Birds have a consistent presence in his composition, along with Matisse-like foliage and planes of color that rest easily on the surface. With refined color choices and a trained eye for asymmetrical balance, Clonts’ paintings convey a range of tones– from contemplation, in works such as Over the Grey Pond, to the politically engaged, with A Prayer for Greece. He also collaborated with his three-year-old granddaughter on a piece titled Bean Bean and Poppy, a work of formal excellence and touching sentiment.

Clonts’ subject matter is a natural fit for the bird-themed Delano art supply store. There are 12 works total of relatively small scale for Clonts, who can produce quite large work at times. Overall, it is a tidy exhibition with pieces that are accessible and enjoyable.



Small Pleasures

March 20, 2013—Highlighting a commissioned project by artist Levente Sulyok during the restoration of Joan Miró’s Bird People mosaic.

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In its absence, the Ulrich has utilized the space to invite other artists to show work. Right now, they’re installing new work commissioned from artist and WSU Professor Levente Sulyok.

Small Pleasures consists of a billboard-size banner of pixilated urban imagery, with a small display case mounted on the banner and, eventually, two telescopes positioned across the street for viewing the contents of the display case. The small case functions as a “miniature gallery” in which a rotating selection of other artwork can be viewed.

The first piece in the miniature gallery is by artist James Porter. The work assembles bolts and washers in a jar and a stack of colorful plastic toothbrushes that jut out of the top. It is what Sulyok calls a “spontaneous sculpture.”

A juror will be in charge of selecting the next object for display along with selecting the next juror for the following selection process. The intent is to keep the nature of the “miniature gallery” open and democratic. Selections are made from submissions that come through the website dedicated to the installation.

Small Pleasures will remain up until the Miró is ready to be reinstalled in 2016. Professor Sulyok will be giving a talk at the Ulrich Wednesday at 6pm, where you can hear about his work, the conceptualization of this project, and discuss all the possibilities Small Pleasures offers the community.



A Dual Exhibition Venture

April 3, 2013—Exhibition review of Not Too Far and Surface at the Mid-America Fine Arts Gallery.

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Admittedly, this was my first visit to the Mid-America Fine Arts Gallery. Within this business building, it was clear that little more than removing the desks and cubicles has been done to create this gallery space. Carpeting and drab ambient light is what one would expect from an office, not a gallery.

As I walked through the exhibition, Donald Judd’s statement came to mind that “[a] work only needs to be interesting.” And, unfortunately, most of this exhibition did not rise to the occasion — with one exception: the works displayed by Armando Minjarez. His formal explorations of the painted surface and his three-dimensional objects provided a much-welcomed visual and conceptual counterpoint to the rest of the show.

Taking the elevator down to the basement was like being transported to a completely different world. The elevator doors opened to reveal myriad sculptures in a well-lit, open space.

Entering, one is greeted with a gnarly sculpture of painted car tires by Jo Ann Taylor and a beautiful kinetic sculpture by Mike Miller. There’s also a delicate installation with dryer sheets, which viewers were allowed to enter, and the most amazing rhinoceros head out of roofing nails and pearls.

The range of materials was tantalizing and the installation of the work allows visitors to weave through this subterranean wonderland.

Not Too Far and Surface are like mirror opposites of each other in several ways. It looks like the Mid-America Fine Arts Gallery broke even with this dual exhibition venture.



Pushin’ Up Daisies

April 17, 2013—Review of Pushin’ Up Daisies at CityArts.

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This spring, CityArts presents the work of the local artist collective Famous Dead Artists in an eclectic, action-packed, 20-year retrospective called Pushin’ Up Daisies.

Similar to the Ulrich Museum’s 2011 retrospective on Fisch Haus, CityArts celebrates the critical contributions the Famous Dead Artists made in establishing a local alternative scene in the 1990s.

The Famous Dead Artists’ show Decomposition, from 1995, was the first art exhibition held at Go Away Garage – a now-beloved Commerce Street gallery. This artist group was also key in initiating Final Friday. They partnered with Gallery XII and Fisch Haus in 1997 to start the gallery crawl, and it has since grown into the familiar monthly event we enjoy today.

For Pushin’ Up Daisies, CityArts reunites artwork from members Curt Clonts, Brad Hart, Scott Steele, Christopher Gulick, Pam Terry, Leigh Leighton-Wallace, Marc Bosworth, Wade Hampton and Jennifer Wallace.

While there is a wide variety of work in this exhibition, there is also a distinct influence of American Modernism. Reminiscent of a Robert Rauschenberg “combine painting” is Marc Bosworth’s Home Plate from 1993. Bosworth’s nostalgic painting makes use of visual material, such as Minnesota Twins baseball cards, and three-dimensional elements that extend toward the viewer.

Known for his Alexander Calder-like mobiles, Christopher Gulick has installed a range of work, the largest being a 14-foot mobile titled Flint Hills 1 from 2012. In this work, colorful organic shapes are pierced by the ends of long, silver spindles. The work is delicately balanced and brings a playful quality to the gallery as the colors of the abstracted landscape twirl above the heads of visitors.

Pushin’ Up Daisies boasts an incredible range of medium and subject matter, and proves to be a crowd-pleaser of a show. And while visitors many not like everything, they almost certainly will find something they really love.



Ulrich Faculty Biennial

May 1, 2013—Review of Wichita State University’s School of Art and Design 19th Faculty Biennial.

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Over the weekend, the Ulrich Museum of Art opened their 19th Faculty Biennial.

On display are works from 20 faculty members from the WSU School of Art and Design. Both adjunct and tenured faculty alike give a sampling of their studio work.

Painting and drawing instructor Kathryn Van Steenhuyse offers two large paintings on unstretched canvas. These works charm viewers with an honesty and awkwardness that only a deft painter can make look effortless. And with titles such as Come On In, it is difficult to turn down the invitation.

Assistant professor of printmaking Humberto Saenz presents a colorful wall arrangement of serigraph hammers titled Macillo. Looking to empower visitors with knowledge of Mexican immigration issues, the specific style of hammer he uses resonates with both Western mythologies and current immigration concerns. The result is a work that ultimately contends with hybrid identities and struggles of immigrant communities.

And there are so many more.

Faculty shows are always great for students because they get to see a different side of their instructors – perhaps one that is quite relatable since their professors are artists… searching, playing, critiquing, and questioning the world around them just like they are.

For the community, we get to see the professional studio work of the teachers that are cultivating the next generation of artists. And, of course, the undeniable nature of a Faculty Biennial is to flex of a bit scholarly muscle for the community – to show off a bit – and, I’ve got to say, I’m impressed.



Art Review: But Wait, There’s More

May 15, 2013—Review of But Wait, There’s More at Diver Studio, solo exhibition by artist Randy Regier.

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April’s Final Friday was absolutely splendid. One show that really caught my attention was Randy Regier’s solo exhibition But Wait, There’s More at Diver Studio.

Regier creates what look like vintage toys from the 1950s, complete with accessories and their original boxes. The detail in both the toys and the graphic design of the boxes makes it feel as if they were fatefully discovered at a thrift store or estate sale. But, in fact, they are meticulously hand-crafted contemporary sculptures, with a subversive sense of humor to boot.

On waist-high shelves are works like the All-American “average” man action figure John Manshaft. Manshaft makes several appearances in the show, each time engaged in either a mundane activity or a manly adventure, such as the Antarctic Action figure, where he is a frigid pale blue, has grown a wilderness beard, and is accompanied by a can of sprayable snow.

One of the more elaborate works is a train set, but upon reading the fine print of the box, it is actually a Man Waiting for the Train Set. This plug-in toy features a single-rail train station and a lone man sitting on a bench. His head wobbles as he turns and looks down the line in anticipation. While humorous at first, this work has a strong Waiting for Godot undercurrent, drawing the viewer to a place where larger, less-childlike questions loom.

And this is what makes Regier’s work brilliant. The disarming nature of a kid’s toy offers an immediate sense of delight and nostalgia. But spend enough time with it and complex questions about American culture, society, and history unfold.



Art Review: Ray Turner Population

June 12, 2013—Review of artist Ray Turner’s Population at the Wichita Art Museum.

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The portraits of California-based artist Ray Turner engage viewers with their direct gaze and thick, luscious strokes of oil paint that rest on top of 12-by-12-inch panels of glass.

Turner’s “head paintings”—as he calls them—have a candid, impressionistic quality. Small distortions of color and facial features give each model a unique personality. The glass, which is sometimes color-tinted, adds a luster to the work, making it feel fresh and alive.

Ray Turner: Population, is currently on view at the Wichita Art Museum. Population is an on-going project in which Turner paints the faces of local citizens at each stop of the nationally touring exhibition. The project is currently more than 500 portraits strong—and, at its completion, will become a compelling national portrait.

Now included, and on display at WAM’s exhibition, are the faces of 27 Wichitans. This gives the project an added air of excitement, as local visitors can find the faces of people they know, while discovering new ones as well.

Ray Turner: Population is a beautifully engaging show. It pulls viewers in slowly with a single row of square portraits metered along the opening wall. Then, a short video of Turner spurs us on to enter the gallery, where 300 individual portraits await. The large canvasses of his Good Man/Bad Man series and his works on paper fill out the exhibition and give a hauntingly complex finish to the show.



How a Vacant Window Became an Edgy Art Gallery

June 26, 2013—A look at a new window installation project by local artists in empty downtown storefronts.

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A wonderful new collaboration has received support from the prestigious John S and James L. Knight Foundation. Activate Wichita, a website that serves as a virtual town hall has partnered with the Wichita Public Library to commission temporary art installations in vacant downtown windows.

This installation project was initially the idea of Kacy Crider and Seth Blume. Before partnering with the library, Krider and Blume created playful-yet-edgy window displays in vacant downtown spaces.

One of their first installations was on the corner of Douglas and St. Francis, at the old Zellman building where Espresso To-Go-Go is currently located.

Now the project’s mantle is being taken up by artist Kristin Beal.

Beal is the creative and organizational force behind some of the city’s most beloved art events, such as the Ulrich Museum’s yarn bombing and the Riverfest Art Pride Parade. This Final Friday, Beal and artist Randy Regier will reveal the next window installation.

Regier has given the ground floor of the Sterling Water Systems building, at Market and William, an installation featuring his signature post-war Americana style centering on the theme, “The Future of the Public Library.”

Overall, this project teems with possibilities.

I love the idea of bringing art out of the museum, out of the gallery and putting it in city spaces to be enjoyed by the community. Not to mention it’s been good to the realtors of these spaces as well. And whether this project continues to get support from the public library or not, I hope this creative practice is here to stay.



Museums In The Summer

July 10, 2013—Highlighting a range of museums.

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I love museums in the summer. What’s better than the beautifully cool environment of a museum when you need a break from the intense heat of the day?

I often talk about the Wichita Art Museum and Wichita State’s Ulrich Museum. And these are great places to spend a summer afternoon. But rich artistic and cultural artifacts are on display all over the city.

Civil Rights history is palpable in The Kansas African American Museum, which is housed in the beautifully restored Calvary Baptist Church, built in 1917. The museum features both contemporary and historic works from African American artists that come to life in this powerful space.

At the Mid-America All Indian Center, you feel a sense of connectedness to the nations of people that lived on this land before the Founding Fathers. Explore the contemporary artwork and cultural history of American Indians and visit Black Bear Bosin’s iconic Keeper of the Plains with a fresh perspective.

The Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum is located in Wichita’s 1892 City Hall, a building once known as the “Palace of the Plains.” In this building is a treasure trove of all things Wichita. From industry to daily life to art, this impeccable museum gives visitors four floors of enchanting history.

These museums, and many other local galleries, offer a look into the incredible art, culture, and history of Wichita, and I can’t think of a better way to get away from the summer heat.



Louise Nevelson

July 24, 2013—A look at the life of Louise Nevelson and her work on view in Wichita.

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Louise Nevelson was a key American sculptor in the mid-20th century. Her Modernist artwork changed the world of sculpture – much like what Jackson Pollock did for painting.

Nevelson immigrated to the United States from Russia at a very early age. As the daughter of a lumberyard owner, her life was to be a vast departure from her upbringing. In 1931, she studied with renowned painter and instructor Hans Hoffman, and worked as an extra in films in Berlin and Vienna.

Her flair for the theatrical is almost as well known as her large, monochromatic wood constructions – a material choice that perhaps speaks to her early life. Nevelson rose to international acclaim in the late 1950s and through the ‘60s. Her sculptures from this time are generally made out of found wood scraps, fragments of furniture, or woodwork rescued from dilapidated houses.

These wood pieces are painted a single color – typically black or white – and composed as individual boxes, which are stacked to a monumental size. These stacks display Nevelson’s mastery of composition, light and space.

Both the Wichita Art Museum and the Wichita State Sculpture Garden hold excellent examples from her mid and late career. At the Wichita Art Museum, you can view Nevelson’s stunning Night Sun III from the museum’s permanent collection. On the grounds of WSU, tucked in the flowerbeds of the Ulrich, is her work Night Tree from 1971. This late-career piece maintains the monochromatic shapes, though her production of outdoor sculptures draws her to more industrial materials.

Nevelson’s approach to materials made her one of the most important sculptors of the 20th century, and her celebrated career is alive and well here in Wichita.



What Is Modern Art?

August 7, 2013—An explanation of the differences between Modern and Post-Modern art.

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What is the difference between Modern art and contemporary art?

Generally, the response to this question goes something like this: “Contemporary” is a term that refers to art made today by living artists. “Modern” art refers to the art movement of Modernism—with a capital M—which began around the 1850s and concluded mid-20th century.

While this general response places these terms chronologically, it does not describe what the differences actually are. This is because the term “contemporary” is not the name of an art movement. And while the term “contemporary art” is formally deployed by art institutions, what it delineates is the Post-Modern movement. So, now, this sets up the more accurate question: What is the difference between Modernism and Post-Modernism?

These are two umbrella terms, each marked by points of rebellion against forces that once restricted the definition of art. Modernism is a rejection of Realism in favor of new modes of painting and a critical examination of art itself. The movement began with the Impressionists and cut the path toward Abstract Expressionism. Eventually, the abstraction of Modernism became the prevailing notion of art and the influential American art critic Clement Greenberg narrowed the definition of art to only these ideas.

Post-Modernism is a rebellion against Greenberg’s standards and aimed to, once again, open the definition of art. As a result, Post-Modern art collapses hierarchies between high culture and popular culture, erases the boundary between art and life, and refuses any authority that restricts the definition of art to any single understanding.

To view Modern art in Wichita, visit the Roland P. Murdock Collection at the Wichita Art Museum. You can find Modern and Post-Modern art at Wichita State University’s Ulrich Museum of Art.



David Salle

August 21, 2013—A look at the work of artist David Salle who grew up in Wichita.

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Painter David Salle came to prominence in the 1980s when there seemed to be a lull in major American artists on the international contemporary art scene.

But Salle, along with a handful of other American artists like Julian Schnabel and Eric Fischl, gained the attention of international audiences and established critics for, most notably, returning figuration back to painting.

In contemporary art history, Salle is hailed as a leader in this aspect and is viewed as a quintessential postmodern painter – and he grew up right here in Wichita.

Critical reception was not always favorable, to put it mildly. And yet, despite any bad press, Salle’s paintings captivated, confused, and disturbed viewers with a distinct visual language that appropriated images from popular culture and art history in equal measure.

His paintings from the ’80s generally consist of monochromatic backgrounds with nude figures and fragmented vignettes. Sometimes these figures are surrounded entirely by negative space, other times they are overlaid with other figures. Salle is quite careful to keep all visual elements present at once and hold them in visual tension with each other – much like poetic phrasing.

Delving into a Salle painting is like walking into the middle of a story. His nude figures, images, and objects all seem to interact, though the morality of the situation is unknown. But his work is not necessarily a puzzle to decode. It’s more of an orchestrated polyphony of abstraction, figuration, and, sometimes, text all at once.

What I enjoy about Salle’s paintings is that his canvases tend to prefer questions to answers. And while some may find this frustrating, I always feel Salle’s work gives viewers so much freedom to revel and relate.



Art Review: Nature’s Toolbox

September 4, 2013—Review of Nature’s Toolbox: Biodiversity, Art and Invention at the Ulrich Museum.

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Over the Labor Day weekend, the Ulrich Museum opened their new fall exhibition: Nature’s Toolbox: Biodiversity, Art and Invention. The exhibition aims to raise awareness of the human impact on the environment.

An incredible range of materials is used in the artworks, which plays well into the biodiversity theme. BioHarmonious, a beautifully designed video game played on an Xbox, challenges visitors to balance life on an industrial planet and a natural planet with the goal of achieving healthy symbiosis between the two.

In a work called Just Did It, a single grain of sand, viewed through a microscope, is carved with the image of Neil Armstrong’s moon footprint.

Donna Ozawa’s The Waribashi Project assembles thousands of used wooden chopsticks in spiraling mounds on the floor, with a large nest-like structure in the center. Ozawa’s installation represents the intense deforestation caused by the worldwide use of disposable chopsticks and the subsequent loss of natural habitats.

Each of the works in Nature’s Toolbox is compelling in its own right, but the framework of the show – particularly the didactic wall texts – describes complex problems in simplified terms and offers idealized solutions filled with nudgy language.

In the exhibition, visitors are given questions like “What happens when a million species vanish from the planet? Could we eventually be one of them?” The show presents itself as a celebration of biodiversity, creativity, and ingenuity. But after confronting some of the stark realities of our current environmental situation, I didn’t feel much like celebrating.



WSU Shift Space Re-Opening

September 18, 2013—Highlighting the re-opening of WSU’s student gallery in the commercial gallery district.

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One of the premier events happening this Final Friday is the grand re-opening of WSU Shift Space.

The School of Art and Design’s student gallery has left its spot in Old Town to join Wichita’s professional galleries on Commerce Street. Gallery Director and Multi-Media Artist Lisa Rundstrom made the decision to move to a more contemporary context– one where non-traditional exhibitions and experimental art can thrive. In its new location, Shift Space will have serious exposure and the opportunity to actively engage with the community.

Rundstrom wastes no time putting this into effect for the gallery’s debut exhibition: Shifting Spaces: Commerce Street Homecoming. Inside the Main Gallery, artist Beth Post will be featured along with special guest artists Kristin Beal and Bob Burdette. In a common area just outside of the gallery, wearable art created by area high school students will be on display. The theme “Capes, Masks, and Tights” unifies these two exhibitions.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony will take place at 7 p.m. with WSU mascot WuShock there to celebrate. Following the ribbon cutting, the Wichita Prose Collective will have a Live Kamikaze Poetry Event and the Ulrich Museum will bring the nationally touring Sketchbook Project Mobile Library.

This Final Friday event announces that the new kid on the block is showing up in style. But after the debut spectacle is over, it will be interesting to see how Shift Space contributes to the Commerce Street art scene.



WAM Exhibition Is A Vibrant Debut For New Ulrich Curator

October 2, 2013—Exhibition review of Vital Signs: New Media Art from the San Jose Museum of Art at the Wichita Art Museum.

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This month, the Wichita Art Museum opened Vital Signs: New Media Art from the San Jose Museum of Art.

This exhibition was curated by the Ulrich Museum’s new curator, Jodi Throckmorton, but it was organized when she was working in her former role as associate curator in San Jose.

It is a bit confusing to have Throckmorton’s debut at the Wichita Art Museum instead of the Ulrich, but Vital Signs is a wonderful introduction to her aesthetic sensibilities and curatorial prowess. Throckmorton assembled 15 works from the San Jose collection that reflect on humanity and its relationship to the natural world.

Artist Gale Wight views the earth’s environmental changes through geologic time in her installation Center of Gravity. Wight’s interactive environment consists of long, thin cylinders that represent core samples of the earth. They glow warmly, suspended from the ceiling, and sound is triggered as visitors meander through.

Multimedia artist Tony Oursler creates a recognizable-yet-alien biological life-form. In his work Slip, a distorted, green face is projected on a bulbous, backward “S” shape. The creature has two eyes separated by a vertical mouth and softly speaks with elongated “s’s” that make it humorous, alluring, and a little creepy.

Renowned video artist Bill Viola is, perhaps, most interested in human nature. His hauntingly beautiful work Memoria is installed in the DeVore Gallery, separate from the main exhibition. This disconnected location makes it feel like an afterthought, but Viola’s work is actually one of the strongest in the show.



How a Gallery Space Affects an Exhibition

October 16, 2013—Review of the focus exhibition Learning to See: Josef Albers and The Interaction of Color at the Wichita Art Museum.

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This week, I returned to the Wichita Art Museum eager to visit the exhibition: Learning to See: Josef Albers and The Interaction of Color.

This small exhibition pulls work from the museum’s permanent collection to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Albers’ now-classic publication, The Interaction of Color. Albers’ book and formalist artwork explore color relationships, asserting that how we perceive color is highly dependent on its surroundings. Albers’ assertion is correct, as evidenced by the unfortunate display of his work in the Vollmer Gallery.

The exhibition, totaling eight artworks, is mounted in a tucked away, poorly lit space with dull gray walls. These vibrant works lose their intensity in this dim, listless space. It’s like they’re trying desperately to be cheerful on a dreary, overcast day. What good is a color theory show when the space ruins the color?

Of the eight works, five belong to Albers – four prints and one study painting. They are from his famous Homage to the Square series, with the exception of his print Pillars. This print, which opens the show, is further burdened with four cartoon speech bubbles, each with a quote from Albers’ text. It feels gimmicky to have Albers literally speak through his work, where a wall label would have worked just as well.

The remaining three artworks belong to Russian artist Ilya Bolotowsky; Swiss artist Max Bill; and Albers’ student at Yale, American painter Richard Anuszkiewicz. His Op Art painting From Blue anchors the entire show, but it, like the others, is robbed of full potency by drab surroundings.



What Can Contemporary Art Tell Us About Our Environment?

October 30, 2013—Highlighting the Ulrich Museum and the Wichita Art Museum joint symposium in conjunction with their parallel exhibitions concerned with the environment.

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November 8th and 9th, the Ulrich Museum and the Wichita Art Museum team up for a joint symposium called Nature’s Impact, Art’s Force. While the title is a little awkward, the collective symposium appears intriguing, as it will tackle issues of nature, ecology, and technology through the lens of contemporary art.

I’ve already talked about each museum’s respective fall exhibition– Nature’s Toolbox at the Ulrich and Vital Signs at the Wichita Art Museum. And they were clearly designed in preparation for this event and serve as the critical context for the symposium.

Joining the conversation are several notable speakers: On Friday, California artist Isabella Kirkland, whose ecological paintings of flora and fauna can be viewed in Nature’s Toolbox; and, that evening, the founder of The Land Institute, Wes Jackson, will deliver the keynote address.

At the Wichita Art Museum on Saturday, Jodi Throckmorton will begin the day by discussing her curatorial work for Vital Signs, setting the stage for artist and Stanford University professor Gail Wight, who has two works on view in the show. The day will conclude with a talk by John Weber, the founding director of the Institute of Arts and Sciences at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

With this lineup of incredible speakers, Nature’s Impact, Art’s Force hopes to provide Wichita with a vibrant and intellectually engaging dialogue concerning the important environmental issues of our day.



Black Final Friday

November 27, 2013—Recommendations for November Final Friday that lands on the commercially-centered Black Friday.

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The Christmas décor in grocery stores and shopping centers gets trotted out earlier and earlier every year. Now, Christmas decorations replace the Halloween costumes and treats. This leap from skeletons to silver bells means that Thanksgiving is left to us to keep traditions with family and friends alive.

For many, part of Thanksgiving tradition is the post-turkey shopping on Black Friday. This year, I propose Black Final Friday – a local art extravaganza that the whole family can enjoy – as part and parcel to the finest of Thanksgiving traditions.

Here are some art exhibitions that I recommend for this Black Final Friday:

Bob Schwan Studios is hosting an invitational group exhibition called Eye Thirty-Five. This show takes a look at some serious emerging talent of Kansas Artists age 35 and under.

At Watermark Books, Graphic Designer and Painter Dustin Parker will be featuring new work in his solo exhibit, The Mask Becomes the Face.

Artists Hallie Linnebur and Megan Miller are offering blow-out special to Wichita clientele in their performance work Certified Transdimensional Spaciotemporal Biblio-Dispatch. This is a rare chance to enjoy proper performance art in Wichita.

If this Black Final Friday does not fully satiate you, the ICT Winter Bazaar will be on December 8 at Century II and will boast the finest handmade gifts and local art for this holiday season.



Art Review: Joe’s Swan Song

December 11, 2013—Review of Joe’s Swan Song at CityArts.

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This past weekend, CityArts opened a new show called Joe’s Swan Song – a guest-curated exhibition by Joe Goodwin.

Joe is a long-time patron of the arts in Wichita who has also done a fair share of arts organizing and independent curating around town. As indicated by the exhibition title, this CityArts show is his last curatorial endeavor.

For this last hurrah, Joe reached out to some of his favorite artists from his collection. For this group invitational, he brought together: Curt Clonts, Connie Ernatt, John Ernatt, Wade Hampton, Rebecca Hoyer, Ted Krone, Gary Lincoln, Steve Miner, Kevin Mullins and Bruce Van Osdel. Joe asked that each artist produce new work for the show. To have these major players from the ’90s era of Wichita’s art scene in a single room is an incredible thrill.

Of these artists, I was particularly impressed to see so much of Connie Ernatt’s work in one place. Her bronze assemblages are not only technically proficient and formally stunning, but her philosophical questioning of the primal nature of mankind adds a profound depth to the show. With the continuous debate of evolution vs. creationism, Connie’s subject matter could be considered fairly controversial – even making Wade Hampton’s paintings look downright quaint. And her presentation of her work elevates the entire show.

At a time in the year when small-works shows position themselves for the gift-giving season, Joe’s Swan Song presents a must-see winter show that offers beautiful harmonies that one could listen to for a lifetime.



Images of Santa

December 25, 2013—A historical look at the images of Santa Claus.

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During the Christmas season, we are surrounded by images of Santa Claus– yes, that jolly, rotund man with his famous white beard on a mission to deliver presents to children around the world. We see Santa surrounded by elves and reindeer at the North Pole, but where did this image of Santa Claus come from?

Santa Claus is understood to be a descendent from St. Nicholas, who was a 4th-century Greek Bishop of Myra – a city in modern-day Turkey. St. Nicholas is known as the patron saint of children, travelers, and scholars, among others, and took part in the bishop’s council that signed the Nicene Creed into doctrine.

But Santa Claus, in his current visual representation, is an American creation that appears as early as the 19th century. The modern version of Santa Claus first appeared in 1863 by political cartoonist Thomas Nast.

Our current version of Santa Claus is distinctly different from St. Nicholas and bears no connection to other midwinter European traditions or the Latin Three Kings Day. Instead, the robust, white-bearded fellow donning a red suit represents America worldwide.

But, regardless of what he looks like, Santa– who is real– is more than a bearer of presents. His visit lets people know that they are loved and cared for. And it is this holiday spirit and goodwill that brings friends and families together. Happy holidays everyone!




A Cultural Icon Turned Commercial Design

March 7, 2012—A look at artist Robert Indiana’s LOVE and its evolution into commercial realms.

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Have you ever seen that print of the word “LOVE”? It has red capitalized letters, each stacked on one another like the four quadrants of a Cartesian grid, but with the “O” slightly tilted.

This image has graced postage stamps, has been made into sculptures that are displayed publicly across the country—including one on the Wichita State campus—and even Google did a parody of it for Valentine’s Day last year.

LOVE is the best-known work by Midwest artist Robert Indiana. Indiana often referred to himself as a “sign painter,” suggesting a humble artistic practice and Midwest work ethic. But his painting of “signs” was, above all, a philosophical pursuit.

Indiana was fascinated by the existential aspects of numbers and words, and the sign systems that structure our daily lives. This interest, along with his use of bold colors, flat compositions, and eye-catching designs placed him at the center of the American Pop Art scene.

Originally, LOVE was commissioned in 1965 by the Museum of Modern Art for a Christmas card. Its popularity spread rapidly. The word “love” in the late 1960s was charged with complex meanings of eroticism, idealism, and politics. Indiana’s design became an important emblem of the hippie generation and it was reproduced in a wide range of printed formats.

Today, Indiana’s LOVE remains a popular icon, but in a more commercialized sense. We can find it readily in any museum gift shop and printed on any item for the office or home decor. But next time you see it, you’ll know that this image was once more than a slick corporate design.



Three Women Walking

June 27, 2012—Highlighting the sculpture Three Women Walking by artist Francisco Zúñiga located on Wichita State University’s campus.

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Francisco Zúñiga’s Three Women Walking seems to be a straightforward representation, but subtleties in expression, gesture, and formal technique indicate there is more going on.

In this sculpture, two figures walk in stride with one another. This pair continues forward with their backs to the solitary third woman moving in the opposite direction. No more than two steps away from each other, there is an air of tension caught in the space between them.

In the pair, the large, full-faced woman turns her head over her shoulder as if speaking to her elderly companion. However, her flippant posture and expression indicate that, while speaking to her friend, the subject of the comment seems directed at the lone young woman who is well within earshot.

This passive-aggressive gesture reads on the face of the young woman. Her expression shows a prideful resolve, but a resolve that needed to be drummed up after the sting of an insult. In her left hand, she seems to be holding something. Perhaps a monetary exchange was made in conjunction with a social one.

Zúñiga is one of Mexico’s prominent sculptors and a master of portraying the anatomy of young, mature, and elderly women and the complexities of femininity. “Three Women Walking” remains a pleasure to view, and the tension between the figures continues to captivate.

Three Women Walking can be found in Wichita State University’s Outdoor Sculpture Collection.

This commentary originally ran in a similar form on June 27, 2012.