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Milwaukee Art Museum's 'Rooms of Wonder'

Aug. 27, 2012
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When herds gather outside of the Milwaukee Art Museum, intent on watching the exterior “wings” unfold, I'm reminded of the hoopla surrounding Old Faithful. For me, the real excitement is inside, and my sage advice is to avoid art-mania by selecting one area to explore—or better yet, a single object.

The current object of my affection is in the Chipstone Foundation's installation “Loca Miraculi,” aptly subtitled “Rooms of Wonder.” Located in the lower level of the Kahler addition, it's where beauty and weirdness co-exist. The miracle is the arrangement of fabulous cabinets, some with drawers (gorgeously designed by local artist Martha Glowacki) waiting to be explored. If you had a Victorian-era grandma, perhaps her parlor had a glass-fronted chest filled with precious items you weren't allowed to touch. You may not touch the items in “Loca Miraculi,” but feel free to open the drawers. Some of them even “talk.”

Drawer #27
, my favorite, is in a creamy chest displaying splendid porcelain objects festooned with garden motifs. Open it to view a charming miniature grotto, replete with the sounds of gurgling water, and then perhaps imagine sweetmeats and sex among the seashells. Above, on the main level of the Kahler, is a great installation by Robert Gober (Untitled, 1997). It's a bit like opening a magic drawer, but in lieu of a drawer, Gober uses a bottomless suitcase to direct our eyes downward through the museum floor, to a sewer grate that allows us a glimpse of a pool of water swirling around seaweed and seashells. In effect, it is an urban grotto. In concept, it is very much like Drawer #27.

“Loca Miraculi” is a permanent and brilliant installation. On Sept. 6, in an adjacent gallery, Chipstone presents “Grete Marks: When Modern Was Degenerate.”

The Chipstone Foundation rolled into the Haggerty Museum of Art on Aug. 22 with a small exhibition titled “The Freedom Project: Text/Context” (through Dec. 22). Chipstone gathers no moss.


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