The James Watrous Gallery is a place to explore and learn about art from Wisconsin. Our focus is sharing the work of Wisconsin artists past and present and investigating ideas at the intersection of the sciences, arts, and letters. Solo exhibits present a significant body of artwork by a single artist, while our curated shows often draw connections between art and other disciplines. We strive to create a welcoming environment that encourages engagement and inquiry.
Future Possible: Imagining Madison
FRI, FEB 16 – SUN, APR 15, 2018
The things Madisonians appreciate most about their city today didn’t just happen: they are the result of vision, creativity, and planning. For Future Possible: Imagining Madison, the James Watrous Gallery has invited a group of artists, architects, and designers who know and love the city to envision what it could look like 75 years from now.
Why 75 years? The accelerating rate of technological, social, and environmental change greatly complicates any vision of the world beyond the next ten to twenty years. But that uncertainty also opens up space to dream. It gives us permission to open our minds and imagine a better tomorrow. We hope that the ideas and questions raised by Future Possible will inspire visitors to reflect, think outside the box, and envision their own set of fresh possibilities for the city.
Anne Kingsbury & Helen Lee
FRI, MAY 4 – SUN, JUN 24, 2018
Although their work is very different, Helen Lee and Anne Kingsbury share a fascination with language and letter forms, from the physicality of the alphabet to the mysterious process of translation.
Trained as a glassblower and graphic designer, Helen Lee uses glass to think about language and the body. She is interested in our relationship to words through both physical and linguistic experience. Lee has proposed an installation of cast glass glyphs that develops relationships between the rules of orthography and the physical space of the gallery.
Anne Kingsbury combines text and image in meticulous, brilliantly colored beadwork. Her exhibition will feature a set of playful beaded letters that combine human, animal, and plant forms, recalling both medieval illumination and children’s alphabet books. Kingsbury describes them as a pataphysical alphabet, referring to a French absurdist concept that parodies modern science and is often expressed in nonsensical language.
Rob Nielson & Will Pergl
FRI, JUL 6 – SUN, AUG 19, 2018
In this body of sculptural works, Rob Nielson exploits the traditional genre of portraiture busts in a way which combines iconography and incongruity. Concentrating on the exchange between the idiosyncratic and collective readings of each figure’s image, Nielson explores the construction of identity and the space where the iconic encounters the absurd. His work asks what this reveals about how we see ourselves, what we value, and the meaning we give to individual narratives.
Will Pergl is interested in giving physical form to invisible aspects of our culture. For example, his piece “The Most Boring Day of the Twentieth Century,” is based on a computer analysis of more than 300 million facts that identifies April 11, 1954 as devoid of any major news events, athletic achievements or births or deaths of famous people. His carved image of this date in ornately carved cursive illustrates the contradictions inherent in a day that has become notable for being boring. Producing a sign with this information functions as a humorous symbol for the incomprehensible amount of data available, and underlines the relationship between trivia and celebrity.
Free and open to the public, the James Watrous Gallery is located on Overture Center’s third floor. Gallery hours are noon-5pm Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday and noon-8pm on Friday and Saturday, or by appointment.
The Watrous Gallery is a program of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts & Letters, which improves life in Wisconsin through programs that explore, explain, and sustain Wisconsin thought and culture. For more information on James Watrous Gallery exhibitions and Wisconsin Academy Talks, a regular lecture series in Overture Center for the Arts, click here.