This past Saturday "Presents" at Rowley Kennerk Gallery closed with an opening. The works shrouded in newspaper since before Santa came were finally released from the inky prisons and Steve Wetzel, delivering a lecture, got fully unwrapped as well. Perhaps seizing on the notion that most people only see shows at the opening, Milwaukee International, who curated the exhibit, chose the last day of the exhibition to be the only day to see it all. So if you were out of town you were out of luck, like I was. I’m not sure if I should be frustrated or amused that I visited the gallery at least three times, more than any I typically visit during any given exhibition, and still didn’t actually see all the work. But I did see the show, as it slowly emerged from its chrysalis.
When I last stopped by Thursday, the night before an early morning departure for Minneapolis, there was a lot of art unsheathed, but also a lot still hidden. The impression was that as wholly unified and regular as the group appeared covered in black and white paper it would be varied when truly on view. Pentti Monkkonen’s lump was revealed to be Michelangelo’s David reduced to a lawn-jockey dressed as a cop. Jessica Jackson Hutchins’ lump, when unwrapped was still a lump, but a brownish glazed ceramic one, Slumped Against the Rock, 2008.
Some of the work was funny, like the Monkkonen, or Peter Barrickman’s stack of Videotapes, 2008, on panel. Others more formal abstraction, Joe Bradley’s The Loner, 2003, for instance was a rust-colored jute painting-like object wrapped in clear plastic. The stand out was Heather Guertin’s Untitled (Yellow Circle), 2008, a ratty gouache on linen number that was either expertly labored over for slightness, or a piece of material found on the studio floor and recognized for it’s aesthetic perfection.
Many of the works when revealed were sort of like puns, objects that embodied the concept or look of what it meant to be wrapped or hidden. Hutchins’ form was essentially the same in both incarnations, Bradley’s remained wrapped and unremarkable when seen. Matthew Higgs’ framed book page perhaps said it best. For the title was written on the checklist, and the page said what the title said, “Look at me.”