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Museum Director Marcelle Giving a Press Preview

Wisconsin Photographers Confront Portraiture in Unmasked & Anonymous

Posted on July 10th, 2008

Milwaukee, WI, June 2, 2008—Two Wisconsin artists open a dialogue with nearly 170 years of photographic history in Unmasked & Anonymous: Shimon and Lindemann Consider Portraiture, on view at the Milwaukee Art Museum August 14-November 30, 2008. The result of a two-year collaboration between the photographers
John Shimon and Julie Lindemann and Milwaukee Art Museum curator Lisa Hostetler, this photography exhibition and its accompanying catalogue present new perspectives on one of the oldest artistic genres—portraiture.

In the Museum’s Koss Gallery, fifty-four portraits from the Museum’s collection of photographs are juxtaposed with Shimon and Lindemann’s forty-three portraits of friends and acquaintances. This pairing illustrates the legacy of portraiture and the significance of “posing” before the lens. Whether an unknown sitter against an obscure backdrop or the kid up the block turned rock star in his own backyard, each image is enriched by its proximity to another, unmasking sitter, photographer, and viewer. Shimon and Lindemann’s portraits are informed and enhanced by the relationships they have with the people they photograph. They amplify the way portraiture has been absorbed into everyday life—from T-shirts and posters to calendars and snapshots.

Using early photographic processes to make their images, Shimon and Lindemann mix antique cameras with modern lens technology, artificial light, and contemporary pop culture to create portraits amidst backyards, living rooms, parking lots, and the landscape of Wisconsin. Their labor-intensive techniques, documented in the artists’ multimedia installation created for this exhibition, materialize the passage of time and reflect the artists’ deep engagement with the tradition of photographic portraiture.

“Shimon and Lindemann’s portraits belie the careful preparation and extended duration of their portrait sessions, during which their subjects seem to grow into the contours of their chosen pose before our eyes. In contemplating their work, we recognize the unconscious yet deliberate way in which the subjects present themselves to the camera as they strive to create a persona worthy of indelible inscription onto a photographic plate. We are all familiar with this behavior, having been born into today’s image-obsessed culture,” notes Associate Curator of Photographs Lisa Hostetler.

Several Wisconsin artists that have directly inspired the work of these Manitowoc-based photographers are represented in the show, such as Walter Sheffer, Eugene von Bruenchenhein, and Francis Ford. They are joined by twenty-six other photographers known for their portraiture, including Alfred Stieglitz, Diane Arbus, Larry Clark, Lewis Hine, Walker Evans, Nan Goldin, James Van Der Zee, and Sally Mann. Twenty-one antique daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, and tintypes from the Museum’s Collection complete the presentation. Portraits of anonymous people by unknown photographers, these nineteenth-century cased photographs provide a point of departure for considering issues of identity, place, authorship, and artistic practice.

Unmasked & Anonymous: Shimon and Lindemann Consider Portraiture is sponsored by the West Foundation, with additional support provided by the Richard and Ethel Herzfeld Foundation.

Opening Reception with Book Signing
Thursday, August 14
Gallery Talk: 6:00 p.m.
Reception with Book Signing: 6:30-8:00 p.m.

Walk through the exhibition with artists John Shimon and Julie Lindemann and curator Lisa Hostetler on its opening night. Then join them in the Baumgartner Galleria for a reception with a book signing, hors d’oeuvres, and cash bar. Free with general admission. Sponsored by the Photography Council.

Gallery Talks
Tuesday, September 9, 1:30 p.m.
Tuesday, October 21, 1:30 p.m.
Tuesday, November 18, 1:30 p.m.

Join Lisa Hostetler, associate curator of photographs and Unmasked & Anonymous curator, for an in-depth, 40-minute tour of the exhibition followed by Q&A and discussion. 

Artist Talk
Thursday, October 30
6:15 p.m.
Free with general admission

Join photographer Jen Davis, featured in Unmasked & Anonymous, as she delivers a talk in Lubar Auditorium on her photography. Followed by a reception from 7-8 p.m. in the Baumgartner Galleria. Sponsored by the Milwaukee Art Museum’s Photography Council and the Coalition for Photographic Arts.

Film Screening
Thursday, November 6
6:15 p.m.
Lubar Auditorium
Free with general admissionVisit the Museum on November 6 and see Cathy Cook’s “Immortal Cupboard: In Search of Lorine Niedecker,” introduced by the filmmaker. An experimental documentary about a Wisconsin poet, Julie Lindemann play’s the poet’s hands and feet.

Exhibition Catalogue
The exhibition catalogue, Unmasked & Anonymous: Shimon and Lindemann Consider Portraiture, with essays by Lisa Hostetler and John Shimon and Julie Lindemann, is published by the Milwaukee Art Museum and includes over 50 full-color and black-and-white illustrations of photographs by Shimon and Lindemann and featured artists in Unmasked & Anonymous. The 68-page publication ($18, softcover) is available for purchase from the Milwaukee Art Museum Store and online at www.mam.org/store.

About the Milwaukee Art Museum
The Milwaukee Art Museum’s far-reaching holdings include more than 20,000 works spanning antiquity to the present day. With a history dating back to 1888, the Museum houses a Collection with strengths in 19th- and 20th-century American and European art, contemporary art, American decorative arts, and folk and self-taught art. The Museum includes the Santiago Calatrava-designed Quadracci Pavilion, named by Time magazine “Best Design of 2001.”

Digital images available upon request