Milwaukee Art Museum’s series of Currents exhibitions is now in its 31st year and Thursday, Nov. 7, the 36th installment – "Currents 36: Dirk Skreber," which focuses on the Brooklyn-based, German-born artist – opens at MAM with a 6:15 p.m. exhibition talk by the artist.
And it’s a Target free Thursday at the museum, so admission is free all day.
Skreber, who is best known for his work showing crashed cars, is represented here by an outdoor sculpture to the east of the Calatrava building, but also by a selection of his large-scale paintings in the Contemporary Galleries and by his 30-minute video, "Turgidity," which is making its U.S. premiere here.
You can view a sample of the film here.
"We are excited to bring Skreber’s work into our Contemporary Galleries, and in fact throughout the Museum campus," said Brady Roberts, chief curator for the Milwaukee Art Museum, in a statement. "Visitors will be blown away by what they experience."
What visitors will see is a range of Skreber’s works, which are realist works that appear to display some more abstract elements as you near them. From afar, most of them could pass for photographs, but get up in front of them and you can see that Skreber uses unexpected media like black tape and sometimes applies paint so thickly that it juts right out of the canvas.
He often splatters paint, too, but often you can't see it from a distance.
Notice, too, when looking at them that Skreber loves to use reflections. Stands of trees are reflected in water, a series of two paintings show an image and its opposite and the "Turgidity," which features just a couple seconds of footage slowed down to 15 minutes then reverses course and plays backward, offering a video reflection of itself."
The centerpiece of the show is the car crash imagery, which appear in the film, the installation sculpture and on canvas.
"A painting for him is really just something that is copying a source," says Margaret Andera, adjunct curator for the Milwaukee Art Museum.
"It is based on a source, but it’s a representation of a source. The next step evolved to the sculpture which is using the source itself. The video is the third evolution of that and he was making a sculpture for an outdoor installation in Cologne, Germany, which is this fabulous installation. While they were making that sculpture, that’s when he decided to make the video."
Despite his attachment to abstract painting, Skreber's images are instantly recognizable to everyone.
"A lot of his work he starts with images that are readily available in the mass media, so images that we all would have had a chance to see and after it gets funneled through his imagination it comes out on the other end. He likes to see what his filter does compared to what your initial impression of the event would have been."
Those familiar images are, says the artist, a means for bringing viewers into what he sees as a sort of abstraction.
"Maybe the whole realism thing is the entry door," Skreber says. "Because, just thinking about this show and thinking about many things in the last two weeks, I centered around the idea that my heart is really abstract. So, (the imagery) is more or less an entry door. I‘ve (had) the experience that if you’re super straight abstract, sometimes it’s just not the time to do it. You end up alone."
"Currents 36: Dirk Skreber" runs through March 2, 2014.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.