September 28, 2021
Emery Blagdon’s “The Healing Machine” at the Art Preserve. Photo by Rich Maciejewski, courtesy of John Michael Kohler Arts Center. All images shared with permission
On the edge of the city of Sheboygan in northeast Wisconsin is a new museum nestled into the hillside. Opened earlier this year, the Art Preserve of the John Michael Kohler Arts Center is home to 40 artist-built environments, or “spaces and places that have been significantly transformed by an artist to embody and express aspects of their history, place, and culture, their ideas and imagination.” The first of its kind, the spectacular, immserive space is an ode to the artists and their intellectual and creative trajectories, displaying a staggering array of installations, sculptures, paintings, and myriad works across mediums.
Ranging from Emery Blagdon’s suspended kinetic assemblages made of sheet metal, holiday lights, and other found objects to Nek Chand’s troupe of more than 150 mosaic figures, the artworks are eclectic in discipline, scale, and aesthetic. Each of the environments consists of thousands of objects, structural components, and ephemera that form a holistic, comprehensive view of the artist’s life and work. Around the circular pathway winding through Ray Yoshida’s reconstructed Chicago apartment, for example, are ritual masks from New Guinea, printed works, pieces of pop culture from Maxwell Street Market, and notes and letters, offering an intimate glimpse into his diverse collection and personal relationships.
In addition to the environments, the 56,000-square-foot space also houses 11 commissioned responses that included standalone works and projects literally embedded into the preserve’s structure. The stairwell, for example, was designed by the Denver-based architecture studio Tres Birds in collaboration with the late Ruth DeYoung Kohler II and uses concrete pavers that jut out beyond the walls to display a series of “hobo symbols,” or emblems travelers historically used to denote safety. Kohler conceived of the Art Preserve while director of the John Michael Kohler Arts Center, where she championed local and international artists and devoted herself to protecting their works and legacies.
Watch the video below for a tour of the expansive space, and dive into the full collection, which includes pieces from sites in Wisconsin, New York City, Mississippi, India, and other global locations, on its site.
Loy Bowlin’s “Beautiful Holy Jewel Home” in McComb, Mississippi
Installation view of works by Nek Chand at the Art Preserve (2021). Photo courtesy of John Michael Kohler Arts Center
The glittery “Beautiful Holy Jewel Home” by Loy Bowlin is flanked by an installation of paintings by Gregory Van Maanen at the Art Preserve. Photo by Rich Maciejewski, courtesy of John Michael Kohler Arts Center
Installation view of works by Jesse Howard at the Art Preserve. Photo by Rich Maciejewski, courtesy of John Michael Kohler Arts Center
Installation view of works by Ernest Hüpeden, Carl Peterson, Fred Smith, and Eugene Von Bruenchenhein at the Art Preserve, 2021. In the foreground is Fred Smith’s “Untitled,” concrete, glass, paint, and wood, 78 x 41 3/4 x 41 inches. Courtesy of John Michael Kohler Arts Center
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