exhibitions artists about contact


Naives, Seers, Lone Wolves and World Savers XVII

Casting Bread: Wafaa Bilal

Teacher of Us All: Laurence Rathsack and a Few of His Students

Discardedly Yours: Art Made from New York City Junk

Likely Stories

Bruce Nauman on Paper

The 2006 Outsider Art Fair in Soho
Big Bangs, Small Bucks 2
Mayuko Kono High Energy High Energy (2009) : Carved deodorant and casing
7 x 2½ x 1½ : $150

michael k. julian

Mayuko Kono High Energy
Mayuko Kono Falling Gnome
Mayuko Kono Falling Gnome

exhibition information

about the show

Big Bangs/Small Bucks II: Present and Past Tenses

When the initial planning got underway for the first Big Bangs/Small Bucks exhibition we presented in December, 2008, we not only questioned our sanity, but whether we could pull off such an enterprise.

The idea, on the face of it, seemed a bit crack-brained: It would be a sprawling invitational show of one-hundred artworks by about thirty artists, some with star power, others who were young and still largely untested, but impressive in their promise. Certainly these parameters didn’t seem daunting, but here was the rub: Everything in the show would be priced well under $1000, with some pieces, as low as just $100 or $200.

As the whiskery expression goes, though, necessity is the mother of invention. At the time, the stock market was careening downward like a driverless bobsled. And in New York, in London, in cities everywhere, including here in Milwaukee, galleries were being lifted up, and, like Dorothy’s Kansas farmhouse, blown somewhere into oblivion. As was true at most galleries, business was sluggish at the Dean Jensen Gallery. Certainly we didn’t feel we had a lot of immediate prospects for making sales in the five and six figures.

We viewed the first Big Bangs/Small Bucks exhibition as a kind of stimulus plan – one for the participating artists; one for the gallery; one that might provide both new and seasoned collectors an opportunity to acquire some truly amazing artworks at little more than give-away prices. But this was only part of the intention. Certainly we didn’t want merely to bring indoors an “art” fair of the type that museums, to their debasement, spread on their greenswards in summer months, with Ansel Adams knockoffs, rings and things, and paintings that are mostly bloodless. It was our intention that Big Bangs/Small Bucks would abound with art that addressed and reflected contemporary social and aesthetic issues, in other words, real art without a need for bracketing the noun in quotation marks.

The prototype Big Bangs included works by several artists who already had quite substantial reputations, among them Joan Backes, Santiago Cucullu, Francesca Pastine, Susana Raab, the Reeder brothers, Scott and Tyson; Sonja Thomsen and Jason S. Yi. Many of them sharply sliced their customary prices to take part in the exhibition. This was a happy surprise to us. What was also a wonder was the potency of the work that came from a lot of younger artists, some of whom were just a year or three out of school.

Was the Big Bangs exhibition of a year ago an unqualified success, critically speaking, from the first work to the hundredth? Clearly it wasn’t. But then, when has a Whitney Biennial been mounted where every one of the offerings was an absolute marvel?

Whatever the imperfections of the first Big Bangs exhibition, the show, at least in the admittedly prejudiced judgment of its organizers, seemed to have more hits than misses. It also seemed like an effort worth reprising.

Thus, you’ll find the first son of that show on our walls and floors here from the night of Friday, Dec. 11, 2009, through Jan. 30, 2010.

With only a few modifications, the template used to produce the first exhibition was reused in the making of Big Bangs/Small Bucks II: An Exhibition for the Post-Bust Economy. In all, the exhibition will include about one-hundred objects in all media, and there will again be about thirty artists represented, many of them from Wisconsin, but others from across the US as well as from abroad. While $750 was the top price on any of the works offered in last year’s Big Bangs, this time around we’ve raised the ceiling to $900,although there will still be pieces available for as little as $100 or $200.

Some of the artists who were in the first show will be back again, but there will also be a lot of newcomers, some of whom already have imposing credentials in the art world, others who are just starting to phosphoresce. We wish we could have re-invited all the artists from the first show, of course, but it seemed to us that outings like this are worth re-presenting only if the mixes are refreshed from year to year. Look for some of the artists who were in Big Bangs I to be back again for Big Bangs III or IV.

Big Bangs/Small Bucks II will include painting, drawing, sculpture, photography, graphic media and installation works.

We’re certain about at least two matters:

+ Among those who take in the show, there will be differences of opinion about which of the one-hundred objects sound the biggest bangs.

+ Whether a visitor is only a casual looker, a beginning collector or a connoisseur, she or he will leave the exhibition with this impression: Art, real art, isn’t defined by the number of zeroes that follow the ordinal number on the pricetag.

--Dean Jensen