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Peltz Gallery Presents Warrington Colescott

Art Review

Apr. 19, 2010
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The name Warrington Colescott is synonymous with a rebirth in printmaking that began more than 50 years ago. The ever-hospitable Peltz Gallery presents a unique exhibition in front of the Milwaukee Art Museum’s summer retrospective for this illustrious Wisconsin artist in “Warrington Colescott, Selected Works: Paintings, Etchings and Drawings” (through July 10).

The prolific 89-year-old Colescott displays 2008-2009 watercolors that interweave his love for history and creative narrative, as seen in his painting Jefferson and Bonaparte Cut a Deal. This vivid and satirical depiction of the Louisiana Purchase led to a series of full-sheet watercolors based on the subsequent Lewis and Clark expedition. Colescott portrays that treacherous and amazing journey across America to the Pacific coast through a dozen large-scale images.

Colescott covers heavyweight Arches papers with figures, interiors, exteriors, landscapes, movements and minute details in opaque and transparent colors. Charcoal drawings underlay the paintings, which are then highlighted with varying thicknesses of ink. When adding depth to specific areas, like a blond head of hair or interior ornamentation, Colescott sometimes applies oil crayon or pastel to the watercolors.

The paintings frequently illustrate historical situations, sometimes through altered perceptions, incorporating Colescott’s own interpretation of the past while also referencing contemporary political and social culture. Two very imaginative watercolors, Fish Eaters and Fish Eaters II, display a variety of human and marine life patronizing eateries while enjoying fish delicacies—Colescott’s witty and wondrous campaign to promote eating the healthy seafood that he relished when he lived in the Pacific Northwest.

Spend time carefully studying, then smiling over, each image in this singular exhibit. Every detail shows Colescott’s irreverent perspective on America in vibrant and eccentric worlds that radiate intelligence. Distinctly different from the upcoming MAM print exhibition, these watercolors could be the best history lesson you get all summer.


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