Bridge Work: New Art from the Midwest

This group exhibition brings together multidisciplinary work by artists associated with Bridge Work, the Midwestern-based arts initiative. A collaborative endeavor initiated by Jason Yi and Leah Kolb of Plum Blossom Initiative (Wisconsin), Mat Greiner of Chicken Tractor (Iowa), Launa Bacon of Darger HQ (Nebraska), Bridge Work was established to provide opportunities for emerging artists to broaden the scope of their professional connections and experiences. With current chapters in Wisconsin, Iowa, and Nebraska, this multi-state project also endeavors to forge a more interconnected arts community throughout the region by facilitating meaningful artistic exchanges and dialogs among artists and art-centered organizations and professionals.

Bridge Work’s annual exhibition series aims to generate the public exposure necessary for up-and-coming artists to successfully network and establish beneficial relationships within the larger contemporary art world. The eight artists invited to participate in this project express the energy, commitment, and willingness to benefit from the resources and guidance provided by each region’s facilitators. The resulting group exhibition addresses a range of contemporary concerns, both social and artistic—from the multilayered complexities of Blackness in America to the imperfections and awkwardness of the art industry.

Dominic Chambers Apple Spirits 2

Many of the themes I deal with in my work stem from my personal history and my love for literature. For me, reading is the best way to enhance imagination, and the relationship between reality and imagination is crucial to my current practice. I create images that display the black body within invented landscapes as a means to challenge both historical and contemporary associations with the black character, in particular the African-American male.

My desire to deconstruct history, literature, and stereotypical ideas surrounding black masculinity stems from my experiences growing up in the northern part of St. Louis, Missouri—an area marked by racial tensions, poverty, and gang violence. The resulting works are amalgamations referencing everything from literature and American history to my personal past and present imaginations, and they address our perceptions and the social stigmas that surround the black character. As a man of color, I create my paintings and drawings to... Read More

Max Cozzi

I am an artist from Wisconsin who uses photography to explore my awareness and understanding of my own individual place in the world. Whether born out of emotive reactions to my immediate surroundings or from my intimate past, my work is always rooted in personal experience. Open Sky is a short series of photographs and text that loosely explore my relationship with my father’s death. I choose to approach this event through the narrative of a duck’s death. The photographs depict small facets of a story in which I watch a duck get struck by a car while wandering my old neighborhood. I draw a correlation between the duck and my father’s death by alluding to my personal history with interior images of my childhood home. Throughout the work, the concept of life’s continual turnover is addressed by referencing changing seasons and replaced memories. As a photographic series, Open Sky both honors my father’s life and explores my relationship with mortality.

Heidi Wiren Bartlet

My work is concerned with the portrayal, oppression and subversive existence of women in America today. As a white woman raised by a lesbian on the plains of Nebraska, I feel obligated to confront racial and misogynistic injustice and my escape from it, into the prairie. I see my body as an object of power and vulnerability and I see Nature and its processes the same way. Together these inspire a practice that illuminates the overlooked and forgotten. In my hybrid practice I create objects, installations, ritual performances, videos, and collaborative works.

Tatiana Klusak

I produce objects that don’t fit in. They exude mild uncomfortability, uselessness through contradictions, and dark goofiness. Often they provide overly simple solutions to complex problems. They try too hard. They are destructively earnest. My recent work addresses the imperfections of the art industry, and the endearing awkwardness of trying to connect with art as a viewer. My work combines historical artifacts with futuristic contemporary items to appear amorphous in time. References include medical equipment, medieval torture devices, relics, sporting goods, faux traditional home décor, and vintage plastic. Some drive the structure and mechanics of my sculptures, while others are directly harvested for parts, textures, colors, and smell.

Candida Pagen

Using the media suitable to the idea, I make installation, sculpture, drawings, paintings, prints, and artist's books. I use unique and variable edition artist's books to respond to an idea or place, or to record a period of time. I am also the artist behind Digraph Press, a literary fine press, publishing new work by emerging authors and poets. The pieces in this show are tied to a larger narrative theme, looking for connections between our terrestrial existence and its cosmological environment--asking questions about knowledge and the link between what we find familiar and what we find unfamiliar, alienated from our understood experience. I produced the various styles of handmade paper used in these pieces, which was the theoretical and material base from which I started my exploration. 

Sam Hardewig

Physical Attraction
It is important that it’s paint
Because I’m not a painter
But because pushing the material was always the goal
How thick can I make it
How physical can it get
The image was never important
It was always the tactility
Though most of my life is sitting watching paint dry
There is something calming
To see just how the paint comes alive
It spreads
It shrinks
It cracks
It’s Glossy
Who am I to try to control it
The paint hardens as it wishes
And I manipulate it in the end
It’s a collaboration
Between maker and material

Artist Michael Villareal

The way I approach my work is never from any directly observed source. Similar to my childhood, anything I want to convey is completed from memory. I take materials that are common for the construction of houses such as pink insulation foam, joint compound, paint, and configure these materials on a wooden structure to give the work material integrity. By doing this, each work plays on metaphor and becomes relatively domestic. A transformation of material develops a visceral response for objects such as an AC unit, or garden hose. Quirky, bulbous shapes and animated sensibility, or the re-contextualizing of an object from its original purpose transcends the narrative of the objects, but visually keep a familiarity.

Rosana Ybarra

My work seeks to reflect the layered coding at work in the American culture wars and play with how these codes imbed and become different in the subconscious. As a queer radical feminist, my own anxieties around indoctrination and social identity are symbolic fodder for my work. I integrate mixed media artworks into installations that function as an ontological moment. My interest is in intersections. For instance, the construction of white womanhood in relationship to institutionalized power. And how fragility, complacency and escapism form a bond.

Ready to Visit?

Arts + Literature Laboratory is located in Madison’s Schenk-Atwood neighborhood at 2021 Winnebago Street, Madison, Wisconsin 53704.

Gallery hours are Tuesday-Saturday 11am-3pm during exhibitions or by appointment. Please check the exhibitions calendar before planning your visit, as the gallery is closed between exhibitions and other schedule changes are posted here.


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