July 16, 2021
In the shadow of the Wisconsin Center, the electric hum of power drills pierces the thumping bass of a car stereo and tires squeak against the asphalt on Wisconsin Avenue. On the sidewalk, Matthias Neumann’s geometric masterpiece takes shape as two UWM graduate students layer, stack and weave planks of pale, untreated pine together.
Rising from a pine platform, the sculpture is a wooden optical illusion, drawing the eye into a labyrinth of layered planks. Planks protrude from the sides of a pine rib cage border to create stairs that run up and down the length of the sculpture to meet in the middle.
Work of architectural inspiration
New York-based Neumann’s architecturally inspired work made him the perfect match for Griffith and Dettman, said Mo Zell, chair of UWM’s architecture department. The two students attended a design / build seminar during the spring semester where they helped build mobile furniture for the Mobile Design Box.
Griffith would do a project like this again if he had the chance, he said. He and Dettmann were recommended by one of their teachers to partner with Neumann.
This is the first time that the School of Architecture and Urbanism has partnered with Sculpture Milwaukee to create practical opportunities for students.
“We are thrilled to have this building opportunity for our students,” Zell said. “We look forward to further opportunities for our students when they return in the fall. It will be an inspiration for them to visit Wisconsin Avenue to view the work.”
18 month exposure
Neumann’s work, located on the sidewalk along 510 W. Wisconsin Avenue, is part of an 18-month outdoor art exhibit in downtown Milwaukee. Founded in 2017, Sculpture Milwaukee is a non-profit organization that invites national artists to exhibit their work with the goal of revitalizing the city.
Nationally renowned artists Theaster Gates and Michelle Grabner were the guest curators of Sculpture Milwaukee in 2021. Gates and Grabner selected the 16 artists, including Neumann, to be featured in the exhibition.
The research and projects carried out by faculty and students of the School of Architecture and Urbanism reflect the work of Sculpture Milwaukee. The common interest made the partnership between the two groups possible, Zell said.
The School of Architecture and Urban Planning hopes to continue working with Sculpture Milwaukee in the future, Zell said. The school is also looking for other ways for students to engage with the great Milwaukee community and while gaining hands-on experience.
“Our students have always played a role in the design of Milwaukee’s built environment,” Zell said. “It is increasingly important that we engage with neighborhoods and local communities to make this happen, and that means being involved in the community, listening to their concerns and ideas, and integrating them in many different ways.”
This press release was produced by UWM in Waukesha. The opinions expressed here are those of the author.