MOWA is pleased to announce the opening of its
new location—MOWA | DTN—inside Wisconsin’s
first-of-its-kind arts hotel, Saint Kate. MOWA’s
inaugural exhibition, simply titled Downtown
will consider the vibrant historic traditions of
Milwaukee’s core as well as the social realities
that characterize its urban environment.
Earlier this year, MOWA invited ten artists who
live or work in Milwaukee—Mark Brautigam,
Brema Brema, Adam Carr, Portia Cobb, Mark
Klassen, David Lenz, Jessica Meuninck-Ganger,
Lon Michels, Keith Nelson, and Nathaniel
Stern—to create a visual conversation about
Milwaukee as a city of the twenty-first century.
The results are an exciting visual cacophony of
diverse views and interpretations.
Three artists, Brautigam, Brema, and Carr, use
photography to challenge traditional notions
of the iconic and the social hierarchy of
architecture. Brautigam finds merit in the city’s
crosswalks and abandoned railroad lines while
Carr’s charming vignettes of local neighborhoods
disrupt established hierarchies when they are
presented as postcards of mainstream tourist
attractions. Brema, the youngest artist in the
exhibition at twenty-two, takes the most radical
and unexpected view of Milwaukee in drone
photographs of spectacularly lit night scenes
that are immediately recognizable as both
somewhere and nowhere.
Klassen and Nelson find meaning in the banal
and uncertainties of urban living. Klassen’s
strangely sterile and disconcerting sculptures of
ordinary objects raise questions about artifice.
Nelson likewise draws inspiration from the
humble, recalibrating curbside trash with the
mindset of a modernist.
Michels’s large-scale sculpture of “downtown”
women whimsically celebrates femininity while
slyly confronting gender biases in the city’s
traditional bastions of power.
Printmaker Meuninck-Ganger and digital
artist Stern have combined media to
create an installation of “moving images
on paper.” Their unexpected combinations
explore distinctions between static and moving
elements in three downtown neighborhoods.
Images of cars, people, streets, and signs ebb
and flow to reframe our understanding of
their relationships to each other and to their
Cobb and Lenz each focus on the racial
challenges and inequities of Milwaukee’s
communities. As a filmmaker who has worked in
the city for almost thirty years, Cobb examines
her own early years in the city as well as
changing relationships as seen through the
politics of place and identity. Lenz’s hyperrealistic
paintings similarly confer stature and
commanding presence on individuals who live
on the periphery and otherwise go unnoticed.