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‘Good Morning, Milwaukee,’ Empire Fish and Art Elkon

Photo impressions of people and places at Portrait Society

Oct. 18, 2016
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Photographs are patient in their stillness, hanging onto a single moment for an eternity. Three bodies of work at Portrait Society Gallery shine with this quality and present fresh vantage points into the beautiful quotidian world.

Gallery Director Debra Brehmer notes that they all originated from a spirit of personal interest, not as projects intended to be publicly shown. These pictures were made because the photographers were deeply interested in taking them, and continued to do so with no particular endpoint in mind. Ultimately, there is something in each that transcends being a mere recording. They present lively echoes of time in single frames.

“The Faces of a Fish Empire,” with photographs by Tom Kutchera and curated by Naomi Shersty, takes us into past decades at the Empire Fish Company. It was a family run Milwaukee business where the employees felt like family, some working there for decades. The many people and settings of the offices and processing plant show the unseen work necessary to simply bring food to the table.

“Good Morning, Milwaukee” is a series by Blyth Renate Meier. She photographed places she saw every day on her way to work, amassing a series of black-and-white cityscapes printed in square format. Her compositions point out the power of architecture to shape space within a city, and their clarity and contrast render them gracefully soundless. It is like the noise of the street and disruptions of daily life are momentarily settled, and we are left with the accents of visual rhythm.

“A Social Forever” presents photographs by Art Elkon, a perennial figure in the city’s art and music scene. He was a participant and witness at gallery openings and nightclub shows, and also drawn to landscapes and still lifes. Most of all his work centers on people, drawing out warmth, humor and humanity. Snapping the shutter was a response to a spark, whether a fleeting laugh or light illuminating a musician onstage. The photographs selected for this exhibition bring the viewer into a shared experience, a retrospective of vivid enthusiasm and artistic clarity. 

“The Faces of a Fish Empire,” “Blyth Meier: Good Morning, Milwaukee” and “A Social Forever: Art Elkon” continue through Nov. 6 at Portrait Society Gallery, 207 E. Buffalo St., Fifth Floor. 

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