This year is swiftly coming to an end; and it seems appropriate to look back at 2023 with gratitude and fondness for the artists who shared their work with us, enabling us to create outstanding exhibits. This appreciation also extends to the collectors and art enthusiasts who make it possible for us to support those artists.
Winter and early spring of 2023 began by celebrating the work of two outstanding artists who capture the Wisconsin landscape from distinct perspectives. “Steadfast”, a solo show of oil paintings by Diane Washa, followed her journey of building a new body of artwork while rebuilding her health during the height of the pandemic. Relentlessly testing her will to make art, she dug deep into her soul to find the perseverance and determination to overcome those obstacles and produced a collection of work that speaks to them. This show was followed by “Just on the Other Side” by Allan Servoss. Servoss works in several medias, but this show was entirely composed of his colored pencil works on paper. There is a stillness and quiet he creates in his landscapes that with examination seems almost uncanny. The surreal element in Servoss’s work is so subtle, demonstrating how masterful he is at his craft.
Steady by Diane Washa
Another Atmosphere by Allan Servoss
Abel Contemporary has consistently been interested in contemporary figurative artwork. This year we curated a group show that celebrated fantastic examples of artists who employ the figure across a variety of media. Jessica Calderwood’s sculpture “Tousle” is a excellent example of expertly crafted work that has a unique perspective on the human figure. The work in this show was personal, provocative, and sometimes humorous. It exemplified why we love curating group shows to see the many different perspectives on a theme.
Right On the Edge by Sklyer Simpson
Lower Left: Tousle by Jessica Calderwood
I Know Where Home Is by Pranav Sood
Perennially, our Ceramics Invitational continues to be one of our favorite exhibitions. This year was our 20th annual invitational, and the artists, both those who have been with the gallery for years and those who were joining us for the first time, showed us why the area of ceramics continues to be so exciting.
Vessel by Kyle Johns
Teapot by Wesley T. Brown
Vessel by Timea Tihanyi
Red Right Hand by Ryan Myers
In gallery no.5 every artist featured this year transformed the space creating a remarkable experience. Whenever I see blue flowers, I will think of Rebecca Krinke’s installation “Anomaly Field Station (Wisconsin)”, which transformed no. 5 into the site of an otherworldly apparition. It was great fun to have the young artists from Cultural Connections Club Express Kids take over the space in January to show their art. Perhaps the most meaningful show we hosted this year in no. 5 was “In Memoriam: Carol Chase Bjerke”. Before her death in 2022, Carol Chase Bjerke organized and catalogued her life’s work, essentially co-curating the show with us through written instructions she drafted prior to her passing. The show included the four large binders that catalogue her life’s work as well as examples from these bodies of work. It was an honor to celebrate her life and her art which were intrinsically intertwined.
Left - Rebecca Krinke’s installation Anomaly Field Station (Wisconsin)
Lower Left - In Memoriam: Carol Chase Bjerke
Lower Right - Cultural Connections Club Express Kids - Safe Space
Abel Contemporary also hosted a series of exceptional artist talks this year. While I am usually in the position of interviewer, two of my personal favorites in 2023 were conversations where I was not the questioner. Assistant Gallery Director Lauren Miller had a fascinating conversation with Rebecca Krinke about her show in gallery no.5 which delved into topics including unidentified arial phenomenon, seances, and spiritualism. Most recently I had the opportunity along with Kelli Hoppmann to be interviewed by the collector, John Brogan, wherein we discussed our latest show show, Stones and Stoics, and our creative partnership. All of these talks can be seen on our video archive available at our website.
Theresa Abel, December 22, 2023