The 2013 Wisconsin Triennial is the latest in an ongoing series of triennials and biennials presented by the museum since 1978. The exhibition is on view in the museum's lobby, State Street Gallery, New Media Gallery, main galleries, and rooftop sculpture garden through January 5, 2014.
The Wisconsin Triennial comes together through a careful review of applicant materials followed by visits to artist studios across the state. The curatorial team, consisting of MMoCA’s curator Richard Axsom, curator of education Sheri Castelnuovo, director Stephen Fleischman, and associate curator Leah Kolb, considered the work of more than 530 artists. Traveling across the state—from Beloit to Door County and from Kenosha to Hudson—the curators conducted studio visits with 113 artists.
The 2013 Triennial features recent work by forty-five artists, including five pairs of artists working in collaboration. Although focused on a specific geographic region, the exhibition also reflects international developments in contemporary art. Paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, sculpture, and video are among the media represented, with exhibiting artists employing diverse approaches to process and content—a key characteristic of contemporary art.
In addition to a range of art media and styles, a variety of themes emerges from among the collection of works on view in the Triennial. Personal, social, and cultural history; narrative; nature and the environment; community; and the effects of burgeoning digital technology are among the subjects explored in the exhibition.
The following artists offer examples of the diversity of art in the Wisconsin Triennial. More information on these and other Triennial artists may be found on the Artists pages of this website.
Derrick Buisch’s painting, 77 Monsters, 2012-13, is derived from the artist’s sketchbooks in which he draws with fine-line pens at otherwise unoccupied moments such as commuting by bus or waiting in line. These sketches capture initial ideas that may, as with 77 Monsters, culminate in a series of related works. Buisch’s early interest in comic book and later LP record collecting were another source of inspiration for the Monster paintings. With their enticing array of colorful imagery, the series is meant to suggest abundant retail displays of LP records, comic books, candy, and toys. Born outside of Washington, DC, Buisch’s vibrant, saturated color is further influenced by his exposure to bold works by artists of the city’s Color Field School and to the graphic design of urban rock and roll posters.
From photography and video to sculpture and drawing, Jason Yi uses a variety of methods to make his work. For That Hollow Feeling, 2013, he employed bright orange plastic snow fencing, pvc pipe, wood, and cement to make a striking abstract form. Yi is fascinated by how humans perceive the world and often uses landscape forms to call attention to how we first sense and then comprehend our surroundings. Evoking a majestic mountain peak or a cascade of water, That Hollow Feeling contains a contradiction: although the sculpture appears to be imposing and powerful, it is formed by draped sheets of brightly colored perforated plastic commonly used as snow fencing. Its title suggests that all is not as it seems—there is an emptiness below the surface, an insubstantiality that belies the sculpture’s visual forcefulness. In That Hollow Feeling, Yi transforms ordinary materials to probe the incongruities and conflicts endemic to contemporary life.
Carl Corey works in the tradition of long-form documentary photography, producing bodies of work that aims to “capture real people in real situations.” The photograph, 3641—Tom and Dino Christ—Nick’s Restaurant, Madison, Wisconsin, 2011, is from the portfolio For Love and Money, in which Corey documented Wisconsin-based businesses that have been family owned and operated for at least fifty years. A familiar icon of Madison’s downtown restaurant scene, Nick’s modestly claims itself as “the home of good food.” Corey has situated the owners within the restaurant’s booths that run alongside illuminated wallpaper illustrating a bucolic Southern scene. In pursuing a new subject, Corey builds upon his previous work and often unites a series of images into a compelling book. For Love and Money will be published by the Wisconsin Historical Society Press in 2014.
Gina Litherland makes beautifully rendered paintings that explore “the ideas in folklore, songs, and literature,” a subject that has interested her for some time. In Little Red Cap—the title of the story by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm also known as Little Red Riding Hood—Litherland portrays the moment of encounter between the young girl of the title and the wolf. In Litherland’s rendition, the girl has cautiously approached the massive wolf, who lies comfortably on the mossy ground. She holds in her hands the flowers she has picked as she made her way to grandmother’s house; her basket contains books and paint brushes. She looks at the wolf, with his gaping smile and thrown back ears, with a calm and steady expression. Ghostly silhouettes of three more wolves can be seen through a mist rising in the woods. A crow looks out from its windowsill perch, as if joining us in our observations of the evolving narrative. Among other sources, Litherland draws upon her childhood love of reading and “wandering around wild places” as well as a well-grounded understanding of the art traditions of India and western Europe.
Debbie Kupinsky and Craig Clifford worked together to make Mississippi/Echo, an installation comprised of hand-built and cast porcelain sculptures combined with commercially produced ceramic objects. Whether carefully constructed by the artists or mass-produced for retail sale, the assembled objects—figurines of various birds, a cat, and two people; beverage containers for milk or soda; and two tea cups—are presented singly on individual, hand-crafted ceramic shelves, lending each significance.Mississippi/Echo continues the artists’ interest in exploring the ways in which objects convey a sense of place and time and evoke memories and associations. Its title refers to the two years the artists lived in the Mississippi delta as well as to the “echoing” or repetition of the installation’s visual elements.
Pacific Quilt (Part I: Bering Strait—Tropic of Cancer), 2013 is one of a set of four quilts by Sarah FitzSimons that together form a depiction of Earth’s largest ocean. Pacific Quiltmaps the area from the Bering Strait, which lies between Alaska and Siberia, to the Tropic of Cancer, the imaginary line of latitude that marks the northern boundary of the tropics. At nearly six by eighteen feet, the quilt would flow out and over a bed, dwarfing and submerging it beneath its blanketing effect. The quilt’s varying shades of blue fabric and stitching pattern reflect the artist’s careful research on actual ocean topography, depth, and currents. Pacific Quilt (Part I: Bering Strait—Tropic of Cancer) and its three companion quilts join FitzSimon’s work as a visual artist with her passion for nature and the natural sciences, as well as recalls her experiences living alongside the sea in coastal communities in California and Portugal.
- Diversity of form, style, materials, processes, and subject matter
- Paradox and contradiction as a metaphor for human experience
- Documentation of community life
- Contemporary interpretation of traditional folktales
- Explorations of social histories and natural phenomena
- Objects as repositories of time, place, and memory
- Contemporary art is characterized by its diversity, whether of form, subject, style, materials, or concepts addressed. In what ways is this reflected in the works of art discussed here and featured in the Wisconsin Triennial?
- Contemporary artists often draw on their individual experiences to make art that comments on a larger social or cultural history. How are Derrick Buisch’s paintings,77 Monsters, or the installation Mississippi/Echo by Debbie Kupinsky and Craig Clifford examples of this idea? Both works reference common objects—whether the LP record albums or comic books that Buisch collected as a youth, or the figurines and vessels that Kupinsky and Clifford have represented. Why do human beings attach meanings to objects? How do these attachments reflect the influence of society? Do certain objects have significance to you and, if so, why do they carry special meaning for you?
- Jason Yi’s sculpture, That Hollow Feeling, is made from pliable snow fencing draped over an empty core, and yet the sculpture itself is seems powerful and imposing and is meant to evoke a majestic mountain. What contradictions or paradoxes does this sculpture suggest? How might this work of art be a metaphor for everyday life?
- Carl Corey’s photograph of two restaurant owners is part of a series of images he took of family-owned businesses that have been an integral part of their communities for many years. How has Corey composed the photograph to tell the story of this particular establishment? What has he included to create an “environmental portrait” of the two owners? Why might the artist have chosen to document long-standing family businesses? What might he be saying about the relationship of small businesses to the life of the local community?
- In Little Red Cap, Gina Litherland pictures the encounter between the two protagonists in the story some know as Little Red Riding Hood. How would you describe their meeting? How has the artist portrayed Little Red Cap? How has she depicted the wolf? What might these attributes suggest about a possible ending to the story? What details can you find in the painting to support your storyline?
- Debbie Kupinsky and Craig Clifford use common objects as a vehicle for expressing ideas about time and place, memory and association. What time and place do the objects in Mississippi/Echo evoke? What associations do they bring to mind?
- Sarah FitzSimon’s unites her interest in science with her life as an artist. In Pacific Quilt (Part I: Bering Strait—Tropic of Cancer) she also has embarked on a new direction by using quilting materials and processes for the first time in making a sculpture. How is an ocean like a quilt or a covering? With its careful attention to details of ocean depth and currents, how is this quilt like a map? Why might the artist have crafted a scale model of the Pacific Ocean from materials typically used to make a domestic item? What might this suggest about the connections between human culture and nature?