During the winter of 2022, The Detroit Institute of the Arts organized a tightly focused but comprehensive survey of masterpieces by women artists of the Renaissance and Baroque periods. “By Her Hand: Artemisia Gentileschi and Women Artists in Italy, 1500-1800” spotlights compelling stories and transcendent artworks by the anomalous female Italian art stars who managed to make remarkable art—and conduct successful careers–in an age when few women had access to the knowledge and tools to make art at all. You can read my review of the exhibition–which closes on May 29– here.
Most Detroiters are familiar with the murals of W.C. Bevan that dot the urban landscape. Less familiar, though, are his smaller scale ink drawings on paper and shaped wall pieces, now on view at River House Arts in Toledo.
Bevan’s large murals are often characterized by highly graphic imagery reminiscent of 30’s hand-drawn animations. Simple elements that suggest fragments of faces or cartoon gestures are repeated rhythmically over the surface of each composition, keeping our eyes in constant motion. As Ryan Standfest of Rotland Press says in Essay’d:
Bevan believes that every object possesses a quality he terms “vibration.” To a degree, this is a scientific fact; everything we see and hear arrives in the form of waves. But Bevan is likely referring not just to this sensory information but also to some other unmeasurable, auratic quality.
Form Gathering/Jigsaw Assembly consists of two distinct bodies of work. A series of several fairly large black, pink and white wooden cutout pieces was created by the artist during the summer of 2021, while Bevan was at work in Toledo on the Glass City River Wall murals. His usual referential imagery is subdued here in favor of more formal elements. Fluid ovals, waves and curves repeat and undulate, evoking for the artist, “sentiments of summers past: picking sun warmed fruits, dealing with midwestern clowns, walking Metropark trails, and existing 100 feet in the air [while working on the silo mural].”
The second (and to my mind, more successful) series of works are his intimate ink drawings, often on vintage commercial papers such as invoices, bills of lading and the like. The muted blacks and subdued pastel colors of these dimunitive pieces introduce an element of nostalgia. Their small scale allows Bevin to create images that are more nuanced and sensitive than his usual larger artworks. They are both quirky and rigorous, and suggest a dreamy carnival.
River House Arts is located at 425 Jefferson in Toledo, Ohio. Hours are by appointment. Form Gathering/Jigsaw Assembly will be on view until January 29, 2022.
It’s no secret that competent arts writers are hard to find here in the Midwest. Ever since the internet gutted local print media, arts coverage has more or less disappeared from the pages of newspapers like The Detroit Free Press and Detroit News. Independent online culture websites like Hyperallergic and more locally, Detroit Art Review, AADL Pulp and New Art Examiner, have struggled to fill in the gaps with limited personnel and funding.
Finding a good arts writer is a real treasure hunt. (In my capacity as Great Lakes Editor for New Art Examiner I’m always looking.) So I was delighted to discover Sean Bieri, who has a good eye for art and a nice way with words.
Like most Detroit artists, Sean wears multiple hats. He is a co-founder and board member of Hatch Hamtramck, one of the best places to find up-and-coming artists in Detroit, and is also responsible for the design and restoration of Hamtramck Disneyland, an outsider art landmark. Somehow he has found the time to take on the job of writing the occasional art review for New Art Examiner.
You can read his first review on Life is But a Dream at Galerie Camille in Detroit for New Art Examiner here. I hope it is the first of many.
By now, everyone has heard of the Heidelberg Project, Tyree Guyton’s 30 year-long outdoor Motown installation of found objects and eccentrically painted houses, but few know about the many other idiosyncratic ongoing art installations that dot the Detroit landscape. A few endure as more-or-less permanent art projects that reflect their creators’ unique ideas of what art is for outside of the more conventional capitalist gallery system. I have profiled three of them in the current edition of New Art Examiner. You can read the story here
Shirley Woodson, recently named Kresge Eminent Artist for 2021, is the subject of a retrospective exhibit honoring her work and life at Detroit Artist Market. The exhibit will be on display until October 23. Woodson is an accomplished artist, a veteran educator, an avid collector; she has also been a mentor to countless young Detroit artists throughout her 60-year career. A monograph produced by the Kresge Foundation, “A Palette for the People.” is now available at no charge in a print edition and for download. Woodson is also the recipient of a no-strings-attached $50,000 prize. To read my full review, go here
It seems like just yesterday I was referring to Michael Luchs in the present tense. Luchs, a prominent artist from the Cass Corridor movement in Detroit in the 1960’s and 70’s, and still active creatively in Detroit and beyond, had recently shown his new work at Simone DeSousa Gallery and Museum of Contemporary Art. And then he was gone. For the full text of my appreciation in New Art Examiner here
The Alchemist’s Dream, a three-person exhibit of work by metalsmith Tom Muir, ceramicist Tom Marino …and me, K.A. Letts, will open tomorrow night at 20 North Gallery in Toledo. The exhibit will be on view until December 24.
I’m delighted to be showing my work alongside these two distinguished artists. For more information about our work, gallery location and hours, go here
My photographer friend, Chuck Mintz will be exhibiting his photographs of the Lustron Houses–and the people who live in them–at the Crooked Tree Art Center in Traverse City until November 13. The Lustron houses were pre-fabricated, enameled steel houses developed in the post-World War II era in the U.S. in response to the shortage of homes for returning G.I.s. There are still some around. Chuck has focused on the current inhabitants and the changes they have made over the years.
Chuck will be making an online presentation October 22 between 10 and 11 a.m. EDT. For more information go here.
And bonus! Crooked Tree Art Center is selling copies of his book, Lustron Stories. Might be time to make a trip Up North.
Or maybe it’s a five-fer… anyhow, until October 1, visitors to River House Arts in Toledo’s Secor Arts Building can see work by three young painters from Cleveland in the ground floor space, while on the building’s second floor a collection of intriguing objects by a young glass artist from Bowling Green State University lurk. As if that weren’t enough, some small nocturnal landscapes by yet another accomplished BGSU graduate occupy the gallery on floor 6. Any one of these shows is worth a trip to Toledo.
Portraiture is having a moment these days, especially among young Black artists who are busily inserting themselves into the contemporary art conversation through figurative painting. This small group show, Waking Dream, provides two current students and one recent B.F.A. from the Cleveland Institute of Art with space to examine the contradictions inherent in our societal ideas of beauty, race, gender and femininity.
Eruwesi Archer’s paintings aim to disorient and provoke, and they do. Verging on caricature, Archer’s acid toned, oversize subjects confront with us with questions and propositions and observations about the world as they find it.
Samantha Schneider (B.F.A. 2021) paints larger-than-life pictures of young women in exaggerated cinematic colors reminiscent of sci-fi movie stills, and Crystal Miller embellishes her neon-colored beauties with craft materials like yarn, rhinestones, beads and foam, evocations of not only of how a young Black woman looks, but how she feels.
British artist Theo Brooks (BGSU M.F.A. 2021) has created a collection of sculptural glass artworks that present an exotic past–or future– through ritual objects from the artist’s imagination that reference his Cypriot heritage.
On the sixth floor of the building, Amber Koprin (BGSU M.F.A. 2020) delivers some low key, voyeuristic thrills with her tiny, exquisite nocturnal views of deserted suburban scenes.
For more information about the artists and gallery hours, go here.
Well, here we are in the “summer of uncertain vibes.” It’s not the summer we were hoping for, with masks discarded and indoor dining routine. The pandemic has decided it isn’t quite finished with us yet, but there’s still art out there to see in Detroit.
The folks at David Klein Gallery are taking a glass-half-full attitude to our current predicament, with a colorful and energetic exhibit of work by seven resolutely upbeat artists. Best Times might relieve your Covid anxiety, at least temporarily. The show is on view until August 28, and you can read my full review here.