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Beth Lipman ‘Once & Again’

All that glitters is glass at Jewish Museum Milwaukee

Oct. 11, 2016
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The exhibition “Once & Again: Still Lifes by Beth Lipman,” currently on view at the Jewish Museum Milwaukee, includes 13 pieces made within the past six years. Lipman is Wisconsin-based, but has enjoyed a growing reputation internationally. “Once & Again” is an opportunity to revisit work that you may have seen in other exhibitions, or to gain an introduction to her eloquent style.

One of the striking aspects of this exhibition is its intimacy. The gallery is not large, but the sculptural installations are at ease and feel uncrowded. It is possible to peer very closely at their surfaces, and this is in fact, necessary. Lipman often uses clear glass for her sculptures, which gives them a sparkling brilliance. Their monochromatic tone also means the viewer needs to devote a little more time and attention to sussing out the details. Lipman casts things like vases, goblets, fruits, flowers and a myriad of other objects, drawing from the conventions of still lifes, especially rooted in the 17th century. Purposeful destruction, like broken vessels or shards of glass, is a nod to the traditions of vanitas, or elements within a composition that are a reminder of mortality and the transience of life. 

One of the most striking pieces in the exhibition is Whatnot II. An array of glass pieces is placed on a tall shelving piece, known as an étagère, and their shapes and arrangement represent the human body and personal mementos. All are cast in black glass, and the objects are dramatic as the work unfolds. Why yes, that is a heart, and not the valentine kind.

Lipman has been photographing her work in various landscapes, as well as producing Lambda prints, which have the effect of appearing like shallow shadow boxes. Her forms and compositions remain familiar and, combined with the installations, present another dimension to her work. It is momentary yet enduring, the essence of glass both fragile and strong.

“Once & Again” is on display through Jan. 8, 2017 at the Jewish Museum Milwaukee, 1360 N. Prospect Ave. 

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