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Paul Druecke Contemplates Time at Green Gallery and Milwaukee Art Museum

Jun. 6, 2017
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Paul Druecke often muses on time, stretched out in the timeless form of memory or the concrete record of a moment. His own time, however, is not his focus but instead a sense of collective time made by a community, whether existing in the past or present. In the exhibition “About One Minute” at Green Gallery, his signature plaques are installed. They are what you would expect as markers for historical sites with formal, dignified serif text and a stately manner, telling of an unseen past.

In Druecke’s handling, a plaque titled 96th Street Aperture is both a narrative and an omission. In the middle of the dense paragraph of text, a large round hole is cut out of the center, taking with it the core of the story. The narrative describes a moment, setting the stage in 1904 with the suggestion of a bustling place and the loaded descriptions of rush and progress. Carefully peruse the writing and words, which include shades of quiet like, “Read lunch poems.”

As an artist, Druecke could be described as an actualizer, particularly as seen in his exhibition, “A Social Event Archive,” which is on view at the Milwaukee Art Museum. It is the first time a contemporary Milwaukee-based artist has been featured with a solo show, but Druecke is a worthy candidate as his fame has spread internationally. This project, however, has very local roots.

“A Social Event Archive” began in 1997 by Druecke soliciting photographs from people by simply going door to door. The point was to accumulate random pictures that are of interest individually and collectively—forming a rich overview of people’s lives and the impulses that inspired the clicking of the camera shutter. Some of the images have riotous moments of laughter among friends and family; other times the pictures catch sweet and tender affection. What this monumental project (numbering some 731 photographs) does is function as a testament of human presence and experience. It is not in the formalized text as in his commemorative plaques, but a legacy that speaks through the catalogue of personal images.

“Paul Druecke: About One Minute” continues through June 18 at Green Gallery, 1500 N. Farwell Ave. “Paul Druecke: A Social Event Archive” continues through Aug. 13 at Milwaukee Art Museum, 700 N. Art Museum Drive. Also, Druecke and Jen Delos Reyes (of the University of Illinois-Chicago) will host a conversation about the exhibition at 6 p.m. on Thursday, July 27, at the Milwaukee Art Museum. 


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