Six shows explore the art of memory

Revisit the past at exhibits open in January
Six shows explore the art of memory
Photo by Katie Vaughn
"Harvest" by Mandy Rogers Horton at the Madison Public Library. 

A memory is our way of holding onto the past. A photograph, a story or a note is a means of preserving what happened. Of course, these connections to our personal history are not always comprehensive, or even factual, and their meaning can morph over time. As art on display this month in Madison attests, sometimes the ambiguity of remembering is the most interesting.

“Rise and Fall,” Madison Public Library

On the third floor gallery of the downtown Madison Public Library, materials scavenged from demolition sites mingle with artwork on the walls. Fencing, wooden pallets, bricks, rope and more are set alongside paintings and collages that reference landscapes, cityscapes, interiors and buildings both under construction and being deconstructed. In some places, clippings of chairs and furniture are incorporated.

The juxtaposition of found materials and two-dimensional art in “Rise and Fall” is incredibly successful, and Mandy Rogers Horton uses it to question the “constant negotiations” that accompany the “ongoing construction of our lives and culture.”

The Nashville artist states, “All times are times of change in which something is lost, something gained. Systems and structures rise and fall or fall into disuse and await reclamation. The process is always, for all of us, ongoing. The work is unfinished and unfinishable.”

The show runs through January.

“The Bureau of Forsaken Print,” Drunken Lunch

At Drunk Lunch, Chris Maddox probes the past in “The Bureau of Forsaken Print.”

The Madison-based artist takes on the idea of the palimpsest–“a written or printed manuscript from which the content has been scraped away for reuse”–using commercial publications from the pre-Internet era, and covering their pages with bold paint, text and printed images.

Viewers are invited to page through the books, as handling the pages immerses you into the worlds they contain. Human forms, abstractions of cityscapes and swaths of color in Rorschach-like shapes are transporting.

Maddox’s transformation of materials references the mystery and romance of an artist’s canvas being painted over. “It embodies the sadness of a lost possession and memories,” he states. “These forsaken things are reluctant to acquiesce their bodies, which leak dismembered fragments through veils of intervention and accumulation.”

The exhibition is up through Jan. 29.

“15,” Overture Galleries

The book as a gateway to discovery serves as the starting point of “15,” a group show at Overture Galleries commemorating the 15th anniversary of the Bone Folders’ Guild, a group of local artists rooted in the book arts community.

Handmade tomes displayed in rows, handcrafted paper works showcased in clear cases, a book filled with paper butterflies and a lineup of vibrant paper flowers proves there’s no limit to the creativity books can inspire.

A highlight of the exhibition is “Hand Over Your Book,” a display by Katherine Engen in which more than a dozen white hands hold a unique handmade book in their palm.

“Whereupon Memory” and “Alternative Photographies,” Overture Galleries

Also at Overture Galleries, Carol Chase Bjerke and Sarah O’Farrell delve into nuances of remembrance in “Whereupon Memory.” Bjerke’s photography focuses on the human impulse to stack one stone upon another, while O’Farrell considers the relationship between place and nostalgia in layered screenprints.

And in “Alternative Photographies,” Madison artists Eric Baillies and Anders Zanichowsky use different methods to reveal hidden realities–Baillies delving into the past through tintype photography and Zanichowsky, made prints from rocks, ice and other objects on-site in the arctic.

The three exhibitions at Overture Galleries continue through March 5.

“Reconfigured Reality,” Madison Museum of Contemporary Art

Anyone wishing to explore the intersection of photography and the capturing of a moment should visit “Reconfigured Reality” at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art.

Drawing from the museum’s permanent collection, the exhibition traces the developments of the medium from daguerreotypes to digital prints, chronicling approaches to color, size, processes, manipulation and more.

“What contemporary photography has amply discredited–and which, in fact, applies retroactively to the entire history of photography–is the narrow view that the camera is a recording device only, not a creative tool, and that its purpose is strictly representational,” the text for the exhibition states. “Laid to rest, too, is the notion that the camera can ever capture objective reality.”

The show runs through Nov. 12.

Katie Vaughn writes about the visual arts in her monthly “Artscape” blog for Madison Magazine.