By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Nov 17, 2009 at 5:14 AM

As the Haggerty turns 25 -- it opened in an eye-catching building on the Marquette University campus in 1984 -- the museum launches a special exhibition of works from its permanent collection that seeks to highlight its large body of work and also to spark conversations and revelations about the relationships -- expected and unexpected -- about some works.

"Pairings: The Haggerty Celebrates 25 Years" opened Oct. 14 and runs through Jan. 16, 2010.

On a recent visit, I headed straight into the museum and found myself face to face with "Persian Visions: Contemporary Photography From Iran" -- a show that is eye-opening and colorfully eye-catching. A quartet of works by Arman Stepanian is especially powerful.

But that's a story for another time.

I was there to see the pairings and I started in the gallery that hosts portraits of women. The most startling visual similarity here -- although in completely different styles and eras are Andy Warhol's double portrait of Jackie Kennedy Onassis and "L'imagination" by 19th century French painter Jules-Claude Ziegler.

In the next room we see the playful juxtaposition of a an 18th century oil painting of Cupid with his bow and arrow and a soft-focus photograph of swimming star, Tarzan-portrayer and heartthrob Johnny Weissmuller. It's one of the more entertaining pairings.

But of all the works that work well together, none can match the wedded bliss of Rufino Tamayo's 1980 relief print with monotype, "Hombre con Baston (Man with Stick)" and Miguel Rio Branco's '94 cibachrome photo, "The Magician" -- both depicting figures with walking sticks.

Although they're rendered in different media, the images feel complementary thanks in part to the similarity of the subject matter but also because of their contrasting feels.

In Tamayo's work, the figure stands proudly before us, looking us square in the face, one hand on its hip, the other grasping the stick.

In Rio Branco's photograph we can't see the figure's face and he's not addressing us; in fact, we can't even tell whether he sees the photographer as he strolls past.

While sometimes we wonder about the connections -- some might seem a little obscure, others a little banal (maybe they're over our heads!) -- with a single pair of works, the idea of "Pairings" is vindicated. Had these two works been on display in different rooms at the Haggerty we might never have noticed their conversation.

And the Haggerty has a lot to work with. That the building isn't large and the galleries aren't stuffed with works belies the fact that the museum has more than 4,500 works in its permanent collection. It seems safe to say that "Pairings" could have been a much larger exhibition.

"Pairings" could also have been a better explained with a brochure and some wall text. Even an employee we asked wasn't sure what it was or where it was hanging in the museum.

With the exception of the Iranian photo exhibit, the entire Haggerty was given over to "Pairings."

But, remember that admission is always free and parking is cheap and easy a few yards away on Tory Hill / Clybourn Street, making the Haggerty the best art bargain in town.

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

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.