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Victorian Sci-Fi at Art*Bar's 'Steampunk Junque'

Sep. 12, 2017
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Trinkets and bling and instruments and mystery. The “Steampunk Junque” exhibition at Art*Bar is not an ordinary collection of objects, as it draws on everything from Victorian fashion and science-fiction, mixed with a tinge of gothic romanticism and futuristic invention, wrapped up in nostalgia for a time that never really was. From here, the exhibition also stretches into other conceptual realms.

The roots of Steampunk reach back to the 19th and early 20th centuries. Fantastic machines, characters and even an alternate sense of history underlie this style. Influences from the Victorian and Edwardian eras frame this aesthetic with a sense of adventure and mystique. Steampunk, coined in 1987 by author K. W. Jeter, has grown as a subculture with conventions and festivals, as well as Steampunk literature, music and art.

Given that it is something of a fashion, it was adopted as the theme for this exhibition organized by The Martini Girls, an art collective and gallery based in Wauwatosa. More than 30 artists are included, with awards given for the top three pieces plus three honorable mentions.

The exhibition title is clever and many works in the exhibition echo the general mood of the Steampunk aesthetic, which often incorporates nods to machines, metallic or robotic figures and charming reiterations of antique apparatuses. Clocks and goggles are surprisingly plentiful. The winner of the first place award, Renee Pahlisch’s Stem Punk View, takes a punny turn in the title and the transformation of flowers and a grasshopper into mechanical creatures made of cogs and widgets and such. Others take a darker turn that is both interesting and ominous, such as Chris Behrs’ Horse Power, where sci-fi equines are combinations of flesh and locomotion power, heaving forward against a nocturnal background.

Not all of the works in the exhibition necessarily exemplify what you might expect of Steampunk style, but instead dance around the idea or its motifs. As a concept it is broadly interpreted artistically and curatorially, and is nonetheless an interesting show to check out, particularly for enjoying the convivial and colorful environment of Art*Bar.

Through Oct. 4 at Art Bar, 722 E. Burleigh St.


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