The "Savage Mind" of Artist Gary John Gresl
Mt. Mary College Hosts A Final (?) Exhibition
A poignant afternoon marked Gary John Gresls exhibition opening
at Mount Mary Colleges Marian Gallery. On display in Gary
John Gresl: An Assembler (Possible Solo Finale), new and old works,
both large and small drew a captive crowd on Sunday afternoon in tribute
to the revered grand artist of assemblage.
Gresl created six new works for the exhibition, which astonish and inspire
those who walk through the gallery. This "finale" requires adequate
time to appreciate and possibly several visits to explore Gresls
complex and detailed assemblages that loosely refer to rural Wisconsin.
The long time artists hallowed medium revolves around collecting
and assembling assorted objects, stemming from his career as an antiquities
trader. Fishing flies and hooks, hunting tools, seedpods, seahorses, and
seashells while perhaps vintage coins or materials put together with animal
oddities, antlers, bear skulls, fish heads and even a goats head
demonstrate Gresls exceptional ability to construct relationships
between seemingly despairing and disarming objects. His so-called savage
mind develops a narrative by using color, composition, form and
texture to reflect his individual bricolage, or the postmodern reference
to reusing articles from whats on hand to create an alternate structural
German artist and Gresls friend Michael Kutzer mentionedthe
savage mind in his speech to Gresl, an afternoon surprise for those
people filling the gallery. The term derives from the French anthropologist
Claude Lévi Strauss who considered the savage mind similar to untamed
or wild thoughts,or any spontaneous action that symbolizes
patterns of mythological thought. A thought based on imagination and personal
experience that develops from pre-existing images in the mind.
Does that all sound too sophisticated? Kutzer further explains that Gresl
was a collector and an assembler in the spirit of the savage mind, a sophisticated
interpreter of humble objects. That he reconfigured these disparate objects
into picturesque installations, disposed and recycled objects that could
tell a story like the murmurings of a creek." Where the viewer
needs to actively participate in envisioning their own narrative by remembering
personal memories. Revisiting Gresls artwork each time would rekindle
fresh narratives completely separate from a previous one, a new story
for the individual minds eye.
Pegi Christiansen, chair of IN:SITE public art, hugged Gresl affectionately
and immediately on site in the gallery. Her devoted voice noted that,
Gresl became the Father of the Milwaukee and Wisconsin art community
as an incredible artist, citizen and encourager of others.
She continued by explaining, The art community found themselves
richer knowing Gresl, a man generous with his art and his heart that wanted
art to thrive in Wisconsin.
While Gresl appreciated the compliments, he spoke sparingly at the opening
In between giving hugs to all his well wishers. Was this his final solo
exhibition? Probably, he answered softly, because the
physical demands of a solo exhibition become prohibitive. It cost me $1200.00
to do the show, and another $250.00 a month to store my various collections,
and its becoming unrealistic."
He also added with candor and hope, I would certainly do group
shows with smaller standing pieces or wall hung work. And Im moving
into photography. Installations I create on site, often in nature, photograph,
and then they disappear.
Numerous photographs from Gresls series Document Ephemera were
interspersed between the assemblages on the gallery walls. Several images
pictured a plastic. female nude form placed in a barn, a stream or other
unlikely places to evoke those untamed thoughts in print, for the artist
and the viewer.
During this emotional exhibition opening, Gresl had volunteers don werewolf
masks and then photographed them for his own artful initiatives. A spontaneous
"art happening" that will emerge as his Werewolf Project. A
print series based on this collection of werewolf portraits.
Fortunately for Milwaukee, Gresls savage mind continues
to produce Images where another medium unleashes those spontaneous patterns
based on personal experiences and imagination that constructs a mythological
narrative. VisitGary John Gresl: An Assembler because these
new and old works, large and small installations might only be seen, survive
this one time. Afterwards to be dismantled, broken apart and reclaimed
for another purpose and life. While in the future Gresl attempts to transcend
his superb collector and assembler personality into another artistic presence.
Mt. Mary College presents Gary John Gresl: An Assembler (Possible
Solo Finale) through October 27 in the Marian Art Gallery located
at 2500 North Menomonee River Parkway. Gallery hours: Monday through Friday,
9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, 1:00 to 4:00 p.m.
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