Milwaukee offers art aficionados more than Santiago Calatrava’s landmark

The Milwaukee Art Museum shouldn’t be the only stop on your art tour.
 (Photograph: Sky High Gallery)
Photograph: Sky High GalleryInstallation view of "Monica Canilao: What's Lost Is Safe" at Sky High Gallery, 2011.
 (Photograph: Sky High Gallery)
Photograph: Sky High GalleryInstallation view of "Monica Canilao: What's Lost Is Safe" at Sky High Gallery, 2011.
 (Photograph: Sky High Gallery)
Photograph: Sky High GalleryInstallation view of "Monica Canilao: What's Lost Is Safe" at Sky High Gallery, 2011.
 (Photograph: Sky High Gallery)
Photograph: Sky High GalleryMakeal Flammini and Ella Dwyer, Temporary Mural Project at Sky High Gallery, 2011.
 (Photograph: Courtesy of Inova)
Photograph: Courtesy of InovaVolunteers execute Instruction 14, $3 Sculpture, from "Samuel Williams: Instructions" at Inova, 2011.
 (Photograph: Lynden Sculpture Garden)
Photograph: Lynden Sculpture GardenLynden Sculpture Garden, Milwaukee.
 (Photograph: Lynden Sculpture Garden)
Photograph: Lynden Sculpture GardenBarbara Hepworth, Sea Form (Atlantic), 1964.
 (Photograph: Small Space)
Photograph: Small SpaceA recent show at Small Space, Milwaukee.
 (Photograph: Lauren Weinberg)
Photograph: Lauren WeinbergGreen Gallery, Milwaukee.
By Lauren Weinberg |

Fifteen minutes after I walk into Inova (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 2155 N Prospect Ave, 414-229-5070), curator Nicholas Frank asks if I’d like to make a speech. (I decline.) He needs a volunteer to perform a task assigned by English artist Samuel Williams, who hasn’t made any of the 30-plus pieces in his exhibition “Instructions,” on view through June 19. Each day Inova is open, Williams sends directions to the gallery’s staff, requesting them to, say, make a sculpture within 20 seconds, or film themselves acting out famous works of art. A blog documents the entertaining projects they’ve completed, assisted by about 50 student volunteers.

Much as I love the Milwaukee Art Museum, I can’t imagine it beginning a show with an empty gallery, as Inova did with “Instructions.” If you want to see more art during your road trip, don’t miss these other innovative galleries and institutions:

More than 50 sculptures by artists including Tony Smith, Barbara Hepworth and Clement Meadmore grace the tranquil 40-acre Lynden Sculpture Garden (2145 W Brown Deer Road, 414-446-8794; $9, seniors and students $7, kids six and under free), which opened in May 2010 at the former home of MAM benefactor Peg Bradley. Lynden executive director Polly Morris regularly invites contemporary artists to create installations there, which respond to Bradley’s modernist and minimalist works as well as the grass, trees and water that surround the collection. “Inside/Outside: Amy Cropper + Stuart Morris,” which showcases the Wisconsin artists’ collaborative project Inverse, opens Sunday 12.

Only the “Temporary Mural Project” painted outside Sky High Gallery (2501 S Howell Ave, 414-483-2585) hints that this exhibition space occupies the back of a Bay View skate shop. Faythe Levine, who founded the Art vs. Craft fair and directed the 2009 documentary Handmade Nation, opened the one-room gallery a year ago. It hosts Monica Canilao’s spectacular solo show “What’s Lost Is Safe” (pictured) through July 31. Oakland-based artist Canilao has received national attention for turning a Detroit home—which she’s purchased—into a two-story sculpture called Treasure Nest. At Sky High, Canilao constructs a shrine-like installation out of vintage fabrics, bones, salvaged wood, old photographs and other materials, most of which she found at Milwaukee thrift stores.

Green Gallery (1500 N Farwell Ave, 414-226-1978), which exhibits work by Santiago Cucullu and Anicka Yi through Sunday 12, is among the best places to see contemporary art in the city. Its tiny sibling Green Gallery West (631 E Center St, no. 3B) is near two other edgy Riverwest venues: Jackpot Gallery (825 E Center St, and Small Space (2676 N Holton Ave), which also runs a library of zines and art publications. End your gallery walk with a drink at Art Bar (722 E Burleigh St, 414-372-7880), where “Summer in Wisconsin” is on view through July 14.