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Uncommon Folks, Like You and Me

Milwaukee Art Museum showcases under-appreciated voices

Jan. 27, 2014
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An MFA is not a condition for the possibility of great artistry (cf. below on the clay bison of Tuc d’Audoubert). The outsider artist often idiosyncratically filters tradition to potent effect. Maybe it’s a sincerity that the market in late-capitalist society tends to devalue. Possibly it’s the forcefulness of an unusually insistent artistic impulse. Whatever its essence, if the term “folk art” is not especially descriptive, it does capture the universal appeal of the creations.

“Uncommon Folk: Traditions in American Art,” opening Friday at the Milwaukee Art Museum, collects paintings, drawings, sculptures, photographs, textiles and furniture of under-exhibited and under-appreciated voices in American art. Sure, to those better versed in the Old Masters, the works are quirky. But, as with the Old Masters, one finds here the same immediately evident yet difficult to pinpoint know-how by which all great art communicates.

“Uncommon Folk” runs through May 4.


“Magic Mud: Masterworks in Clay from RAM’s Collection”

Racine Art Museum

441 Main St.

The clay artist is no Johnny-come-lately of the cultural world. Half a kilometer deep into a cave in the south of France, the brothers Bégouën discovered two magnificent clay bison in 1912. Subsequent research showed they only missed the artist by approximately 14,000 years. The Racine Art Museum’s “Magic Mud” exhibits how well Homo sapiens continue to pour their spirit into the material. This diverse collection of sculptural and functional clay is on display, for the first time since 2005, from Feb. 2 until May 4.


“Sight Readings: Wild Space Dance Company”


2155 N. Prospect Ave

“Sight Readings” is a Choose Your Own Adventure of site-specific installation performance art. The path that you choose through the work alters the content of the experience. The art seeks to encourage reflection on how we traditionally interact with art in museums, so expect to be pleasantly unsettled. Performances are Jan. 30-Feb. 1, at 7 and 8:15 p.m. There is an artist talkback after the later show.


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