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The Impulse to Escape

Multi-media exhibit explores the theme at Kohler Arts Center

Sep. 27, 2016
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The urge to escape runs deep in human nature. We evade the stresses of workaday life with drugs, alcohol and Netflix. Advertisers hock products promising escape from our insecurities and imperfections. The John Michael Kohler Arts Center (JMKAC) has been hosting an ongoing exhibition series that explores this impulse to escape in the work of contemporary artists. The series comprises six original exhibitions of photography, sculpture, video, painting and drawing, each of which approaches the “escape” theme from a different angle.


The penultimate installment of “Escape Routes” opens on Sunday, Oct. 2. Twenty artists from around the world working with diverse media are represented. Some of the artists paint fantastical possible worlds or sketch DIY flying machines. Others confine themselves to “this” world with photographs of grizzled outsiders living off the grid.


Another show currently on display is “Gregory Van Maanen: A World We Cannot See.” The exhibition (on display through Sunday, Nov. 6) concerns psychological escape from past trauma. Upon returning in 1969 from a tour of duty in Vietnam, Van Maanen found much-needed peace in making art. Nevertheless, his paintings represent the turmoil that it was so necessary for Van Maanen to externalize. Skulls and other anxious imagery are counterbalanced by Van Maanen’s personal vocabulary of protective symbols and “good magic.”


On Saturday, Oct. 1 from 7:30-10:30 p.m., JMKAC hosts “Escape Party.” The one-night event celebrates escapism with an art heist-themed escape room, virtual reality environments and the transporting tunes of local indie rockers, Space Raft. “Escape Party” is free for JMKAC members, $18 for adults and $12 for students.


“Dan Friedman: Radical Modernist”

MIAD’s Frederick Layton Gallery

273 E. Erie St.


Dan Friedman (1945-1995) was a graphic designer whose posters, packaging and experimental furniture were unified by his unique aesthetic philosophy that he named “Radical Modernism.” As Friedman’s “reaffirmation of the idealistic roots of our modernity, adjusted to include more of our diverse cultures, history, research and fantasy,” viewers will find Radical Modernism to be playful, colorful and germane to a broad range of interests. The Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design’s “Dan Friedman: Radical Modernist” collects furniture and wall pieces that will leave you feeling more modern and radical.



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