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Museum of Wisconsin Art Goes ‘Hyperphotographic’

Apr. 18, 2017
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I’m standing on our backyard patio with my spouse. He’s grilling steaks on a Weber. If you turn and draw an imaginary line straight to the east, you will see grills galore. Turn west and its twilight time, the hour of Old Fashioneds and mosquitoes. My belly is large with child number three who will grow up on a street with no sidewalks. It’s a lily-white-John Updike kind of place where folks watch “Vietnam” on color televisions.

It’s 2017, and the Museum of Wisconsin Art is hosting a major exhibition, “Hyperphotographic,” (showing now through May 21) of often similarly themed photographs by Tom Bamberger. At age 68, he’s donated 400 of his prints to the museum. A UW-Milwaukee philosophy major, he can’t be deciphered; never mind that he taught the logic of mathematics. In the retrospective, Untitled (Grilling, 1986) describes the mind-numbing sameness of suburbia, but beyond that, the loss of hopeful horizons. I asked Bamberger to devise an equation about his accomplishments. He declined, so I devised this: 400-T=0. 400+T=68. 

On page four of the current quarterly published by the museum is a 1977 image of the man himself. Clad in a white t-shirt, he’s Milwaukee’s Bad Boy. A fly clings to his shirt. Does it matter if he killed it and staged the photo? Don’t ask Bamberger. He’s tired of answering questions. 

On Saturday, May 6, “Bamberger and Friends” will convene in the museum at 1 p.m. Among the topics will be the condition of our art community. Some artists have fled to Los Angeles or New York, but not Bamberger. He embraced the technology which keeps us hyper-connected, using it to expand his career. All those faces, fields, suburbs and techno machines could be anywhere. He also writes about urban architecture, decrying repetition that dilutes rather than enhances. As a result he is sometimes blasted for his opinions. It’s great to live long enough to be opinionated. Otherwise, we are lashed to the wheel of sameness.


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