Currently on View

July 9, 2017 - October 29, 2017

Reflector (2017)

Opening reception: Sunday, July 9, 2017, 3-5 pm

A publication with an interview with Gabriel Ritter, Curator and Head of Contemporary Art at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, and an essay by Scott Cowan, will be published.

Katy Cowan: reflected-into-themselves-into-reflected includes seven new sculptures that begin in the gallery and spill out onto Lynden's grounds, as well as a series of preparatory drawings. The exuberant forms of Cowan’s painted wooden sculptures--prairie plants and landscapes will come to mind--fill the gallery, and bronzes, slipped into unexpected locations outside, provide a playful and subtle commentary on the not-quite-wild environment at Lynden.

Cowan describes her three bronze works on the grounds as a “gentle intrusion” into a space defined by monumental sculpture and a manmade landscape. When she began work on this exhibition, she recognized that “the powerful setting of Lynden” was impossible to ignore. Her use of bronze brings her work into immediate conversation with the permanent collection; she further complicates the dialogue by intentionally inserting the female body, and particularly the female hand, among the works of many male sculptors. This counterpoint between made and wild, male and female, past and present has led her to experiment with the bronze—a material with a very long history—investigating how to make works that are active from a substance frequently used for sculptures that are passive, permanent, and “almost perfect in their materiality.”

Cowan’s response is to pack her molds with markers of domestic life, references to the human body, and the studio cast-offs of a working sculptor; to embrace accidents; and to apply paint freely to surfaces. At the same time, she focuses on site and engages directly with the physical environment at Lynden: ponds, trees, fields. Staircase Descending a Nude quietly joins a wooden crutch supporting the sagging branch of a large beech tree, sharing its load, but a close look reveals a hyperactive surface of protruding hammers, noses, and bulging fingers. For Reflector, a work in Big Lake, she plays with the water’s reflective surface, implicating the viewer in the piece. reflected-into-themselves, a cast rope with text standing in a prairie, asks what it means to be a still life in a dynamic environment that never ceases to grow and move. It calls attention, Cowan notes, “to the difficulties of portraying the space you are in.”

In the gallery, the wood sculptures simultaneously reference domesticity and the world beyond the windows. For Cowan, the sculptures of prairie plants allude to the flowers she keeps in vases in her home. She returns to the complicated ontology of still life, creating a charged relationship between the living still life in her vase, the wooden still life on the pedestal, and the abundant life on Lynden’s grounds. The surfaces of these wooden works are variously inscribed with watercolor, enamel, and acrylic paint, lacquer, oil, colored pencil, and graphite--materials that they share with the drawings that trace the evolution of individual pieces.

Ultimately, Cowan views the exhibition as an extended reflection, and an ode to “very pensive beautiful moments that are particular to Wisconsin.” The phrase “reflected-into-themselves”--and Cowan’s palindromic title--comes from Hegel via Frederic Jameson. The phrase itself reflects the difficult passage of ideas, often nouns encapsulating a single idea, from German into English. Cowan has adopted it--and Hegel’s sense of reflection as an illuminating, dialectical process--as slightly awkward shorthand for a constellation of ideas that inform this exhibition in which all the sculptures are in dialogue; reflection describes both the properties of materials and the process of viewing; and sensitivity to site, or placement, reflects the artist’s conceptual practice.

About the Artist

Katy Cowan (b. 1982 in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin) received her BFA at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington and her MFA at Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles. Last fall, she was included in the Wisconsin Triennial at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, and recently opened her third solo exhibition at Cherry and Martin in Los Angeles. Cowan’s work has been included in the cross-medium exhibition Condensed Matter Community organized by the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Physical Sciences Laboratories and in as if form were some pitcher at Fourteen 30 Contemporary in Portland, Oregon. Recent solo and two-person exhibitions include Kate Werble (New York) and The Green Gallery (Milwaukee). Other group exhibitions include Cherry and Martin; the Poor Farm (Manawa, Wisconsin); Torrance Art Museum (Torrance, California), and Los Angeles Nomadic Division. She has lived and worked in Milwaukee since 2014, and is moving to Riverside, California, at the end of the summer. Cowan is represented by Cherry and Martin.

June 26, 2016 - October 30, 2017

Fo Wilson - Eliza's Peculiar Cabinet of Curiosities

Opening reception: Sunday, June 26, 3-5 pm.

Several events have been scheduled in conjunction with the exhibition (details to follow).
July 8: Tomeka Reid (Watch video of the performance here.)
August 6: Viktor Le
August 13: Honey Pot Performance
September 17: Anna Martine Whitehead
October 29: Symposium

A broadside will be published.

This summer, Chicago-based artist Fo Wilson unveils Eliza’s Peculiar Cabinet of Curiosities on the grounds of the Lynden Sculpture Garden. The full-scale structure is both wunderkammer and slave cabin; it imagines what a 19th-century woman of African descent might have collected, catalogued and stowed in her living quarters. What did she find curious about the objects and culture of her European captors? Southern plantation life? The natural world around her? Informed by historical research, but represented in the past, present and future simultaneously, Eliza--animated by an Afro-Futurist vision that embodies a hopeful version of an African American future--presents an imagined collection of found and original objects, furnishings and artifacts.

With Eliza's Cabin, Wilson positions the Black imagination as an essential element in Black survival and self-determination. The fictional Eliza not only assumes the role of collector, anthropologist and naturalist; as curator of her wunderkammer she asserts her right to creative and artistic forms of social commentary about her time. Through Eliza--and the materialization of her interior world--participants have the opportunity to experience history from the point of view of the “other,”as well as through the eyes of an artist who takes history as one of her materials and employs contemporary media and installation strategies to disrupt the viewer's assumptions about the institution of slavery.

In this project, architecture and material culture become important agents for the inclusion of voices in American history that are usually marginalized. Eliza's collection includes more than 100 found and original objects and specimens, some that relate directly to the period and others that traverse time. In Eliza's world, the symbolic architecture or enslaved space becomes a vehicle for and expression of freedom, as well as a container for her fanciful interpretation of an alien world and her critical assessment of her perilous situation.

In the gallery, Fo Wilson will be exhibiting her ongoing series, P.S. I Love You. Wilson takes early 20th-century found postcards that sentimentalize stereotypes of the "happy servant" in the economies of Southern plantation culture and, using collage and mixed media, restores their dignity. The postcards will be shown in an interactive sound environment, a collaboration with Joel Mercedes, constructed from the recorded narratives of former enslaved people archived in the Library of Congress's "Voices from the Days of Slavery."

13.wilson-hodedo copy

Eliza's Peculiar Cabinet of Curiosities is a collaboration with the Chipstone Foundation and is made possible through the generous support of the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, the Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation, Columbia College Chicago, and the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts.


Culture Type - For Your Summer Agenda, 49 U.S. Exhibitions Featuring Works by Black Artists
The International Review of African American Art Plus - A Look Inside: Eliza's Cabinet of Curiosities
Art City Asks: Fo Wilson
Wisconsin Gazette - A cabinet of curiosities in a cabin
Art City: Using objects to explore, reimagine a slave's world
Arts Without Borders: A "peculiar curiosity" lurks in the Lynden Scupture Garden's back woods

About the Artist

Fo Wilson uses constructed space and furniture forms to create experiences that reposition historical objects and/or aesthetics in a contemporary context and offers audiences new ways of thinking about and interacting with history. Wilson earned an MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design and is an associate professor at Columbia College Chicago. A grant recipient of Creative Time, National Endowment for the Arts, and the Propeller Fund, her design work is included in the collection of The Cooper Hewitt National Museum of Design. Wilson has been awarded residencies or fellowships at ACRE, Haystack Mountain Center for Craft, Purchase College, and the Anderson Ranch Arts Center. She leads a team that has been awarded a public art commission for the Burnham Wildlife Corridor, a project of the Chicago Parks District and The Field Museum, and is a 2015 3Arts Award awardee.
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