Nearly 600 Objects On View in American Folk Art Exhibition at Milwaukee Art Museum

Posted on November 5th, 2013

Duck decoys, quilts, and Grandma Moses
Milwaukee Art Museum showcases its treasure trove of folk, self-taught art in an all-ages exhibition

Milwaukee, Wis. – Nearly six hundred objects of folk and self-taught art, from duck decoys and quilts to the work of Grandma Moses, will be on view at the Milwaukee Art Museum in Uncommon Folk: Traditions in American Art. Opening January 31, 2014, the exhibition will present a whimsical installation of American paintings, drawings, sculpture, photography, textiles, furniture, and decorative arts, drawn from its celebrated collection.

“The exhibition highlights the breadth and depth of the Museum’s world-class collection of American folk and self-taught art, from paintings and photographs to walking sticks and quilts,” said Daniel Keegan, director of the Milwaukee Art Museum. “This eclectic grouping of American folk and self-taught art is a demonstration of the Museum’s long history of collecting works by untrained creators.”

The Museum’s commitment to the work of folk and self-taught artists began as early as 1951 with the gift of two paintings by Wisconsin artist Anna Louisa Miller. During the 1960s and 1970s, when very few American museums were acquiring non-academic art, the Museum’s collection was appreciably expanded with the purchase of a number of important works, including a major group of Shaker furniture. In 1989, acquisition of the Michael and Julie Hall Collection of American Folk Art positioned the Museum as a leader in the folk and self-taught field, a position further established with the more recent gifts of the Anthony Petullo Collection and the Lanford Wilson Collection.

Significant works from the collections of Ruth and Robert Vogele, Colonel Edgar William and Bernice Chrysler Garbish, Herbert Waide Hemphill, Jr., Robert Bishop, and Lewis and Jean Greenblatt again enriched the Museum’s holdings.

Among the artists represented in Uncommon Folk are Grandma Moses, Edgar Tolson, Felipe Archuleta, Howard Finster, Sister Gertrude Morgan, and Morris Hirshfield. The exhibition will additionally highlight several Wisconsin artists including Prophet Blackmon, Josephus Farmer, Michael Lenk, Simon Sparrow, Eugene Von Bruenchenhein, and Albert Zahn.

“Some of the works included were created within the cultural traditions of a particular geographic area in the United States. Other traditions are rooted in the function of an object, such as duck decoys and walking sticks, and are represented by both historical and contemporary examples,” said Margaret Andera, exhibition curator. “The authentically American artistic expression identified in the work of folk and self-taught artists in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries gave American art its own voice separate from the classical European style that dominated the art world at the time. These artists, operating outside the art establishment, created work that was influenced by their communities and cultural traditions, rather than by art historical movements.”

“Thanks to the Museum’s rich holdings, Uncommon Folk: Traditions in American Art is able to overview the far-reaching variety in folk and self-taught art through a lively and visually compelling installation that has something for all ages,” said Keegan.

Uncommon Folk: Traditions in American Art runs January 31–May 4, 2014 at the Milwaukee Art Museum and is presented by the Caxambas Foundation and International Autos Group. 

The Museum is open Tuesday–Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and on Thursdays until 8 p.m. Admission is $17 for adults; $14 for students, seniors, and active military; and free for Members and for children age 12 and under.

The first Thursday of each month is Target Free First Thursday and admission is free for individuals (does not apply to groups).

The Milwaukee Art Museum houses a rich collection of over 30,000 works, with strengths in 19th- and 20th-century American and European art, contemporary art, and American decorative arts, and is the world’s leading repository for work by untrained creators. The Museum campus is located on the shores of Lake Michigan and spans three buildings, including the Santiago Calatrava-designed Quadracci Pavilion and the Eero Saarinen-designed Milwaukee County War Memorial Center. For more information, please visit mam.org.