The museum houses 15th to 20th century European and American paintings, sculptures, prints, drawings, photographs, decorative arts, folk art, Haitian art and outsider art.
MAM's cafe also offers great lunches in a luminous setting with lake views.
Visit the Milwaukee Art Museum's Web site for hours, admission fees and a full description of current exhibitions.
Helen Levitt: In the Street
The Milwaukee Art Museum’s Helen Levitt: In the Street celebrates the honest, humorous and inventive work of prolific documentary photographer Helen Levitt. One of the best-known street photographers of the 20th century, Levitt observed people of every age, race and class without attempting to impose social commentary. The artist worked in New York City from the 1930s through the 1990s, capturing fresh, unstudied views of everyday life in the city’s urban neighborhoods. Concurrently on view in the Herzfeld Center for Photography and Media Arts is James Nares: Street and Pendulum. The contemporary English artist employs innovative technology to turn a lens on everyday life and explore movement, time and rhythm. In both of these unique exhibitions, the streets of New York City inspired two very different ways of looking at the bustle and drama of life in the big city.
James Nares: Street and Pendulum
James Nares: Street and Pendulum, displayed in the Milwaukee Art Museum’s Herzfeld Center for Photography and Media Arts, features the artist’s mesmerizing 61-minute high-definition video Street and the energy of a wrecking ball in Pendulum. Describing Street as “a love letter to my adopted home,” the London native uses innovative technology to provide unique perspectives on the details of New York City street life. The accompanying musical score was composed and performed by Sonic Youth co-founder and guitarist Thurston Moore. Pendulum captures the long arc of a wrecking ball as it moves through the deserted Tribeca neighborhood in 1976 to explore movement, rhythm and repetition. This exhibition complements the gallery’s simultaneous showing of Helen Levitt: In the Street, which similarly looks at the details of urban living but through the unscripted interactions of its residents.
MAM Exhibit James Nares: In the City
Just as photographer Helen Levitt drew her inspiration from the streets of New York City in the 1940s, contemporary artist James Nares finds his subject in the city streets in his hypnotic 61- minute high-definition video Street and in his 1976 Super 8 short in Pendulum.
Nares, a native of London who came to New York in 1974, describes Street as “a love letter to my adopted home.” Inspired by pioneers of actualité cinema, Nares recorded the mundane details of city street life using innovative technology. He repurposed a stationary high-speed camera (normally used to capture fleeting subjects) to record sixteen hours of footage. Shooting six-second clips, the maximum length of time that the camera can record at such a high resolution, he then greatly slowed his source material, and edited down the results to 61 minutes of steady, continuous motion—which, if shown in real time, would last only three minutes. The accompanying musical score was composed and performed by Sonic Youth co- founder Thurston Moore on a 12-string acoustic guitar.
Pendulum, which follows the arc of a concrete sphere swinging in the deserted streets of Tribeca, was filmed on Super 8 just a few years after Nares moved to the city. Examining the motion of an object in space, the mesmerizing film celebrates the freedom of flight and provides context for Nares’ broader oeuvre of films and videos, which reveal preoccupations with movement, rhythm and repetition.
MAM Exhibit Helen Levitt: In the Street
Featuring the honest, humorous and inventive works of prolific documentary photographer Helen Levitt, this exhibition features 30 photographs, a slide installation and Levitt’s iconic film, “In the Street.” One of the best-known street photographers of the 20th century, Levitt documented the everyday dramas of New York City. Working from the 1930s through the 1990s, Levitt roamed the Lower East Side, Spanish Harlem and other urban neighborhoods, capturing fresh and unstudied views of everyday city life. Her photographs portray mothers hovering as their children play, pedestrians making their way along busy sidewalks, and neighbors visiting on stoops, among other scenes. Rarely do any of the figures in Levitt’s work, child or adult, engage directly with the photographer or strike a premeditated pose; much more frequently they seem to be occupied completely in their own worlds. Her photographs, first in black and white and later in color, observe people of every age, race and class without attempting to impose social commentary.
MAM Exhibit Eastman Johnson in Focus
When it debuted at New York’s National Academy of Design in 1859, critics hailed Eastman Johnson’s Negro Life at the South as a masterpiece; it quickly became a touchstone for both abolitionists and proponents of slavery alike for its indictment of urban poverty and its effects on African Americans lives on the one hand, and the seemingly idyllic view of southern culture on the other. After a fallow period, Johnson returned with a vengeance in 1871 with The Old Stagecoach, a painting that critics hailed as the painter’s “latest and greatest,” and that attracted “crowds of devotees” at the National Academy that same year. As opposed to Negro Life at the South, The Old Stage Coach garnered unanimous praise for its nostalgic look at the country’s national childhood. At the same time, the mixed race girl yoked to the coach had obvious allusions to slavery and post-Civil War lynching, while the triumphant white boy atop the decrepit coach named Mayflower held obvious metaphors about America’s past and future.
This exhibition unites in conversation Johnson’s two masterpieces: his major ante-bellum painting, Negro Life at the South from the New-York Historical Society and his post-Civil War masterwork, The Old Stage Coach from Milwaukee’s Layton Art Collection. It celebrates the Layton Art Collection’s Old Stage Coach and explores in brief the artist’s career and critical reception, as well as each painting’s historical context.
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