Last weekend I was so pleased to make the drive to the Walker’s Point neighborhood of Milwaukee where The Pitch Project was hosting the second installment of Bridge Work, a platform for emerging artists in the Midwest, in collaboration with Plum Blossom Initiative. PBI aims to support artists early in their careers by granting them the resources and opportunity to build a brand new body of work and exhibit it in a space. This project in Wisconsin is coordinated by Jason Yi (Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design; co-director of The Pitch Project) and Leah Kolb (curator, Madison Museum of Contemporary Art).
Bridge Work aims to platform a new body of work created by recent graduates while facilitating important networking opportunities and providing insight into professional studio practice.
Expanding on the success of the inaugural 2015 Bridge Work program, PBI continued this year with two Milwaukee graduates, Dominic Chambers (MIAD) and Max Cozzi (Peck School of the Arts – University of Wisconsin Milwaukee). Distinctive from one another in just about every way, Chambers and Cozzi never met before the exhibition was installed, but both artists explore themes of identity, experience, and memory in their work.
Cozzi, who I knew previously through a small contemporary photography show I’d curated in Green Bay, WI last summer, presented a new body of work titled Open Sky, based around the loss of his father and a seemingly unrelated incident in which he encountered a duck which he witnessed getting struck by a car. A mix of black and white images and large color prints, Cozzi’s series leads the viewer through a nonlinear narrative that reads like blips of memory — a speeding car, an abstracted view of the kitchen ceiling light that was his “father’s last sight before his passing.” The duck, struck by a passing vehicle moments after it first approached Cozzi, alive and well, comes to represent the shock and disbelief of sudden loss. Employing small bits of explanatory narrative to “lead” the viewer through the series, Cozzi’s images are both meditations on life and death, as well as a brief exploration of the memories and experiences that shaped him as he matured into adulthood.
Chambers explores themes of black identity, masculinity, life and death, and rites of passage in his drawing series employing a contemporary blend of dream-like magical realism and Renaissance figurative drawing. Pulling imagery from his personal history as well as literary sources, Chambers deconstructs “stereotypical ideas surrounding black masculinity” which is derived directly from his experience growing up in northern St. Louis, an area noted for its poverty, racial tension, and gang violence. These drawings struck me immediately in their generally consistent scale, which as I walked from left to right and back again, read like a melancholy story of life and loss, as cartoonish specters embraced languid, defeated men who seemed nonetheless pensive or aware in some way of their fate, equally melancholy in that they did not seem surprised to find they were about to be spirited away — as if they always expected this moment.
Both Chambers and Cozzi found similarities in their work, especially when talking with one another, about the similarities in their bodies of work regarding childhood experience and the shaping of identity. It was a pleasure to talk to them both, and I left the Pitch Project that night with a warm heart. As a blogger, curator, and general art enthusiast interested in emerging artists, it was significant to see two young Milwaukee-based artists finding their voices through this project.
The exhibition runs through November 12. More info can be found HERE!
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