Published: February 5, 2008
Immersive light environments, optical illusions and interactive sound installations †these engaging works of art that explore the principles of perception take center stage in a new exhibition at the Milwaukee Art Museum developed from its collection. On view through October 2009, “Sensory Overload: Light, Motion, Sound and the Optical in Art since 1945” tracks two populist visual art movements, kinetic and Op art, and their legacies.
In all, the exhibition showcases approximately 50 works in almost 15,000 square feet of gallery space. Visitors will see works by such well-known artists as Frank Stella, Robert Irwin and Bridget Riley, and encounter Stanley Landsman’s 1968 “Walk-In Infinity Chamber,” an environment of mirrors and lights that is returning to the gallery floor after 15 years. Contemporary works from Michelle Grabner and Josiah McElheny are on view in the exhibition as well, as is a 53-foot-wide painting by Alfred Jensen and the 13-foot-high Nam June Paik piece, “Ruin,” which the museum recently acquired.
In addition, select images, films and videos will be projected in two black box theaters installed in the galleries. “Sensory Overload” also includes an immersive 25-by-50-foot LED installation by artist Erwin Redl.
Chronological in its presentation, the installation begins with works by Laszlo Moholy-Nagy and Josef Albers, two Bauhaus instructors whose ideas stimulated the developments of kinetic and Op art. The 1950s and 1960s saw the emergence of vibrant early Op art pieces by European and American artists such as Victor Vasarely and Richard Anuskiewicz.
Pieces by artists working in the 1970s (Al Held, Frank Stella) reflect the continued influence †and evolution †of Albers’ ideas, while the works of Peter Halley, Philip Taaffe and the so-called posthypnotic artists such as Bruce Pearson and James Siena carry the optical tradition into the 1980s and 1990s.
Kinetic art is defined as art that incorporates “real or apparent movement.” The museum has collected and exhibited work in this genre ever since 1967 when it co-organized with the Walker Art Center “Light/Motion/Space,” one of the first museum exhibitions of kinetic art in the United States. “Sensory Overload” continues this long-held focus at the museum, which permanently features atop its Quadracci Pavilion the Santiago Calatrava-designed and world-renowned “Burke Brise Soleil” †commonly known as “the wings,” a 110-ton work of kinetic sculpture †and Alexander Calder’s “Red, Black, Blue,” 1973, rotating at the entrance to Windhover Hall.
The museum is at 700 North Art Museum Drive. For information 414-224-3200 or www.mam.org .
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