I just completed a review of Detroit artist/gallerist Adnan Charara’s terrific new show at North Campus Research Center’s Rotunda Gallery in Ann Arbor. To read the full review in AADL Pulp, go here
It’s a given that an artist’s solo show will reveal to public view some previously hidden connections and influences in her creative life. In the case of Deborah Maris Lader, accomplished artist and printmaker, musician and member of the well-known folk trio Sons of the Never Wrong, founder/director of the Chicago Printmakers Collaborative, those expectations are met and exceeded by her exhibit Welcome to My Planet at Firecat Projects, on view from September 22 through October 14.
Lader considers herself primarily a printmaker (she earned an MFA in printmaking from Cranbrook Academy of Art in 1987 and recently received the 2016 Mid America Print Council Outstanding Printmaker Award). But she is, in fact, much more than that, and each facet of her diverse resume informs and amplifies the others. Stan Klein of Firecat Projects actively encouraged Lader to show her work in all its diversity, so in Welcome to my Planet, her figurative etchings, collages, paintings, hand-painted narrative maps and three-dimensional objects will be on display and in dialog. Lader says “I usually show my paintings separately from my prints…it makes me a little nervous because even though I do all of these things simultaneously, I don’t usually get the opportunity to [show them together.]”
Lader’s artistic practice can be hard to describe, as it depends on a free associational dialectic of image and narrative that coalesces during her process into a finished composition. Lader maintains that she often doesn’t realize these connections until after she has created an artwork. “I don’t always know why I’m doing things… so I’m working [on a piece] and suddenly [when I’m finished] I think, ‘Oh my God, that’s why I’m doing this!’“ But what her work lacks in everyday linear logic it more than makes up for in poetic resonance. Lader seems to be mining a rich vein of sub-conscious visual gold, which she intuitively combines into a non-specific narrative that leaves plenty of room for interpretation. In scale and tone, her work slightly resembles the work of Eleanor Spiess Ferris, but is more varied in format and relates specifically to people and events in her own life.
Her etching The Heron and the Fish is exemplative of her intuitive interweaving of printmaking, performance and her personal connections. The heron is a recurring image in her work, and after speaking in only a general way to her son Evan Silver about a theater project called The Heron and the Fish that he was working on in Bali, she created a visual scenario based on the subject. She realized only later how closely it was related to the Asian fable. The image ended up on the poster for the show, even though it hadn’t been created for that specific purpose. Lader says of her interaction with her son, “Sometimes we unknowingly collaborate because we are on the same wave length.”
In contrast to the veiled content of The Heron and the Fish, Lader gets more specific in her group of three 12” x 12” hand painted etchings humorously called “Too Much Stuff: The Ongoing Movie in My Head.” These small map-like compositions actively illustrate events in her life, and form meaning-laden visual pictographs.
The artist is particularly excited to show the beginnings of a new body of work in Welcome to My Planet. Using the technique of etching, she engraves images on glass objects–vintage spectacles, glass fragments and the like– then tints them with ink to make them visible. These small-scale glass artworks are carefully displayed, using metal and wood supports; each is one-of-a-kind. She says, “I started working on the glass etchings and really the idea so intrigued me because I work on them like I work on etchings, but they’re not meant to be multiples… they break easily, they’re ethereal things.” She has completed one glass-etched object, a 2” x 2” lens, that points the way to future work. The tiny etching of a heron is not inked, but instead the light shines through it and the shadow of the bird appears on the wall behind.
Welcome to My Planet provides a rich overview of work by this multi-talented artist, almost a kind of mini-retrospective. The wide array of approaches, subject matter and media represented in Deborah Maris Lader’s etchings, collages, paintings and three-dimensional objects shows a busy creator at work, and points the way to her future path. To read more about Deborah Maris Lader, go here. To find out more about programming and future exhibits at Firecat Projects go here
I recently wrote a review of In Transit for Pulp. Over 70 photographs by current and former students in the Photo Technology Department of Washtenaw County Community College are on display in Gallery 117 at the Ann Arbor Art Center through September 30. To read the full review go here
In Otherworlds, a 2-man exhibit of paintings and prints by painter-digital collagist Dan Hernandez and master draftsman-printmaker Craig Fisher, is on display now through September 30 at 20 North Gallery in downtown Toledo. These two Toledo art visionaries allow imagination to take them—and us—to places that seem at once familiar and uncanny. The source materials for each artist, along with differences in technique and material, result in two very different, but complementary, bodies of work.
Craig Fisher, who works as a designer of business-to-business learning tools in addition to his prolific artistic output, works within the confines of traditional fine art printmaking. For this exhibit, he has created worlds that incorporate recognizable elements in improbable ways, transforming and recombining features from renaissance landscapes, natural history illustration, classical architectural drawings and more, into intriguing and often surreal scenarios.
The print Astronomie Nova illustrates Fisher’s method: He juxtaposes an aerial view of a gothic church ruin with a schematic drawing of a complex geometric form, setting up a complex tension between physical environment and the unseen— but just as real– universe. One of his most satisfying pieces, Tower of Babble combines an over-scale rotary phone in the foreground with a period illustration of the tower itself in the background, Communication technology-related superstructures surround and top it and it’s difficult to tell if the tower is being built or destroyed.
Sometimes less is more, and Fisher’s strengths as a draftsman can occasionally result in over-elaborate and confusing compositions. But it’s hard to argue with or second-guess the artist’s commitment to his vision and his single-minded pursuit of it.
Dan Hernandez, currently an Associate Professor of Art at University of Toledo, creates paintings where saints and angels mix freely with computer gaming figures. Elements of Persian miniatures, Renaissance urban landscapes and Chinese pavilions collide and morph into a persuasively imagined and often beautiful world. This oddly convincing pastiche of styles and periods is the product of Hernandez’ youthful gaming hobby and his studies in art history, which included a trip to Italy as a college student, where he was captivated by the ancient frescos of Pompeii.
Hernandez maintains a large archive of online images, from haloed renaissance saints to invading space ships, which he repeats and re-combines imaginatively in his world-building endeavors. He uses photo transfers of these seemingly incompatible images to create realities that have internal consistency and project a mood that is both comic and mysterious. In The Annunciation, he has imagined a funny and improbable street rumble between the Virgin Mary and the Angel Gabriel in a medieval Italian town. In another artwork, The Massacre at Intelari Chapel, a battle between computer gaming figures and renaissance-era characters rages across the bottom of the composition, while above, three levels of coins similar to those in a computer game imply ample rewards for the victors, and saints look on from the heavens while consulting a Super Mario map.
In Otherworlds provides a provocative look at imaginative visual storytelling by two talented Toledo artists and is well worth a visit. 20 North Art Director Condessa Croninger comments, “Despite the dramatic differences in media, visual style and subject matter, the works of these two distinguished area artists juxtapose like themes of science & technology with spirituality, as well as the combination of old and new media, to explore the metaphysical concept of the ‘otherworld’—the varying layers of existence between humankind’s experience of the “real” world and the world of belief. This combination creates an intriguing, thought-provoking and unquestionably beautiful exhibit.”
Gallery hours are Wednesdays through Saturdays from noon to 4p.m. Patrons also have extended opportunities to enjoy the exhibition during after-gallery hours at Venue, 20 North Gallery’s cocktail lounge, which is open Wednesdays through Saturdays from 4:30 to 9 p.m. (This review is re-posted from the August 15th edition of the Toledo City Paper.)
I just wrote a review of a compelling installation by Parisa Ghaderi and Ebrahim Soltani for Pulp. To read about it go here
I recently reviewed Nature Morte by conceptual glass artist Joanna Manousis for the Toledo City Paper. The exhibit is on view until June 17th at River House Arts in Toledo. This is the artist’s largest exhibition to date and includes pieces made during her residencies at The Toledo Museum of Art in January, 2017 and Alfred University in March, 2017. Read more here
We live in a hyper-literate age of endless imagery and short attention spans.
We seldom pause–and really, when do we have time?–to consider the process by which we create meaning for ourselves from the constant interaction of words and pictures in books, magazines, on television and the web, on our phones.
In Text/Image, now on view until June 3 in Ann Arbor Art Center’s Gallery 117, Detroit-based artist/curator Jack O. Summers has thoughtfully collected for our consideration some artworks that refer to everyday objects whose meanings “are enhanced or subverted by the multi-dimensional interplay of text and images.” The exhibit concentrates on still imagery, leaving aside the more kinetic treatments of text and image interaction such as video and animation.
There are several artists represented in Text/Image who are well known in Detroit for their absurdist take on the news and pop culture, using the vocabulary of comics and newspaper to communicate their point of view. Ryan Standfest, gifted printmaker, founder of the Rotland Press and trickster artist, composes headlines for his imaginary tabloid newspaper the Modern Vulgarian (#1) that raise more questions than they answer and classified ads that go gleefully off the rails.
William Schudlich, illustrator and self-proclaimed “social zoologist” is clearly a kindred spirit. Schudlich’s images employ the visual vocabulary of disposable print media such as comic strips and have the look of early to mid-20th century comics. He approaches visual challenges, he says, “with a dark sense of humor whenever possible.” Tom Carey’s large relief prints, while ostensibly mining the same classic content as Schudlich and Standfest, project a more modern effect with their vivid colors and lively compositions. The small wooden mutoscopes (flipbooks in wooden boxes operated by pushbutton) created by Andy Malone also fit comfortably with the sensibilities of Schudlich and Standfest by appropriating of a vintage craft and re-purposing it to make a modern statement.
Two notable Detroit photographers, Christopher Schneider and Bruce Giffen, appear in Text/Image. In Schneider’s Underdog, the word “Hamtramck” printed on the young football player’s jersey adds context and pathos to the inward-looking figure, isolated as his teammate looks away toward the light and movement of the game. His fellow photographer Bruce Giffen, whose sharp and poetic eye is trained on Detroit at all times and in all seasons, juxtaposes text with context for special resonance in his photo Stay In School.
Taurus Burns, Dencel Deneau, Jaye Schlesinger and Amy Fell all engage in the reification of the ordinary, each one observing with care and archiving with skill the unglamorous objects and often unsightly minutiae of the urban landscape. Deneau’s small glass mosaics, in particular, are improbably lovely memorials to fleeting moments in the life of a city.
Moving from the grittily observational to the poetic, Scott Northrup’s gauzy collages are cinematic and nostalgia-soaked. Self-Portrait with Fruit by John Gutoskey is somehow both cheerful and sad, and recalls the innocence and the pain of a young boy growing up gay in the Midwest. Like Gutoskey’s quasi-installation, Believers by Catherine Peet hardly needs text to make its point, harking back to medieval altars of a pre-literate age.
Before the printing press and universal literacy, the visual impact of letters was as important as the narrative meaning. Randy Asplund creates contemporary works using the same methods as medieval illuminators; the pigments, grounds, text and image are all carefully chosen for their symbolic resonance, each re-enforcing the meaning of the other elements. Taking the opposite tack, Alvey Jones subverts the meaning of text in Language Text and Circuit Board. Each element of the artwork is designed to be unintelligible–the book is (literally) Greek to us, the circuit board holds its meaning in a code we are unable to penetrate.
Barbara Brown, eminent Ann Arbor book artist and curator of a yearly survey of all things art and book-related, entitled Beyond Words, here uses her collection of handmade building blocks, Metropolis, to think playfully about the way reordering words or letters can alter narrative.
Text/Image can be understood best as a survey featuring a cast of accomplished artists, any one of whom could fill the gallery with well-crafted and well-thought-out work. The art in this exhibit thoughtfully uses language and image together to address a variety of themes from autobiography to social commentary, and while curator Jack O. Summers has put together an interesting and beautiful exhibit, the subject is far from exhausted and possibly never can be.
For more information about Text/Image go here
The mother/child relationship over time, through sickness, care and–finally–death, forms the emotional core of Kathyrose Pizzo’s moving solo exhibit After A Thousand Mornings, now on view through March 25th at Hatch Gallery in Hamtramck. Multiple sclerosis, her mother’s diagnosis, has given the artist a front row seat at this most mysterious and universal human rite of passage, and she has clearly thought long and deeply about the experience of her mother’s decline and her part in it. She observes in herself the shifting emotional dynamics of care and conflict, love and resentment, grief and recovery, rendering them in physical space through the patient assemblage of sticks and strings.
The artworks are binary in nature, with wooden constructs that seem to either support or confine cloud-shaped gray pillows. The softness of the cloth clouds, juxtaposed with the hardness of the provisionally composed structures, shifts in meaning from piece to piece, the cloud in one artwork seeming to refer to the artist, in another, to her mother. Sometimes the cloud is imprisoned by the scaffolding and at others it seems to float above and away. Throughout, the two elements circle and collide, metaphors for a kind of emotional dialog between these intimately connected human beings.
Caught eloquently captures the dilemma of the cared-for and the caregiver, mutually trapped by circumstance. A wire net that mimics the failing synapses of her mother’s brain confines both the cloud and the wooden support to the ground, metaphorically trapping both mother and daughter beneath the disease.
Pizzo is also interested in examining the end of life through the lens of social rituals in cultures past and present. She particularly acknowledges the influence of Joseph Campbell, a philosopher known for his work in comparative mythology and religion. She says of these rites, “Tributes to the departed are the events that make us human, that define the distance between us and the stars.”
This influence is most directly referenced in Departure. The artist has created a small scale replica of a funeral pyre, upon which a lovingly pillowed figure rests. Underneath, a chaotic and disordered pile of kindling mirrors the artist’s mental state.
Many of the works in After a Thousand Mornings refer to the passage of time and convey a sense of waiting. Wall pieces such as Calypso and Episode 1: The Ladder are improvised and complex structures created by the artist using aluminum tape, which is then partially stripped away as the composition emerges. The title work of the show takes on the theme of time’s passage most directly, with 30 tiny wooden scaffolds topped by cotton clouds and arranged in a grid –a kind of calendar–quietly and elegantly filling one wall of the gallery.
The incremental passage of time that forms the rhythm of life and death is the ultimate theme of After A Thousand Mornings. The artworks are a physical manifestation of this process, small moments turning into large ones, one moment adding to another, making up a life and bringing us inevitably to its end. Kathyrose Pizzo has found meaning here: “Personally witnessing both how disease can bring forth greater understanding of the human condition and the unavoidable destiny of all life is central to my work.”
For more information about Hatch Gallery and After a Thousand Mornings, go here.
It’s a challenge to write about the current exhibit Art Now: Printmaking, installed in Gallery 117 of the Ann Arbor Art Center, not because there is so little to say but because there is so much. Art Now is the third in a series of large group shows of artworks sorted by media. No less ambitious than the first two (devoted to painting and photography), Art Now: Printmaking shows us how fine art printing in all its variety stands at the busy crossroads of traditional media and advancing technology.
Juror Tyanna Buie, an accomplished printmaker in her own right, has selected artworks by 86 artists from all over the country that describe the ways in which the methods of printmaking can be stretched to their outer limits and combined with other techniques such as collage, painting, drawing and photography, to name only a few.
Traditional printmaking is a craft as well as an art. The process is exacting and rewards methodical attention to draftsmanship, registration, consistency– and there is no shortage here of artists well qualified to work within the constraints of the media. I especially liked many of these traditionally produced prints –silkscreens, woodcuts etchings and the like– because the artists have found freedom of expression within the limitations of their means. A particular favorite is the dreamlike suburban landscape I Dreamed I Could Fly, an etching/aquatint by Art Werger, where the warm, low light of the late afternoon sun washes over a scene of perfect order, the world held in stasis for an eternal moment. Hunter’s Moon Dancer by North Dakota artist Linda Whitney, a finely observed and expertly drawn mezzotint (and winner of Second Prize) is deeply satisfying in its symmetry and rhythmic patterning. Winning my own personal and unofficial prize for staying on topic is a pair of deeply saturated green and gilt silk screen prints, Gold Nah Dar Gold by Chad Andrews, in which the image and the process are synonymous.
Although there are many excellent examples of well conceived and well executed printmaking here, a visitor’s attention is inevitably drawn to artworks that surprise us with their idiosyncratic juxtaposition of media. It is entirely unexpected that taxidermy would figure in a print show, but there it is in Ashley Shaul’s But She Looked Friendly, which features a furry raccoon with a meticulously rendered tattoo on her backside.
Combining different types of printing, painting, collage and photography seems to be a favorite strategy for many of the artists represented in Art Now: Printmaking. These works are technically monotypes and utilize the syntax of various print media in combination to arrive at artworks which go far beyond the technical simplicity of the traditional monoprint.
One of my favorite one-of-a-kind prints, Mud Philosophy by H. Schenck of Grand Prairie TX, makes the most economic statement possible, using Washington mud marked on glass and run through a press. Another multi-technique monotype success is Cul-de-Sac by Zack Fitchner of Charleston, West Virginia. He uses lithography, woodcut, monotype and chine colle to evoke the overhead racket of planes taking off from an urban airport. The artwork that won Best in Show is one of these everything-and-the-kitchen-sink type multimedia extravaganzas too. Ebb and Flow, by Carolyn Swift of Traverse City MI, combines woodcut, relief, etching, acrylic paint, ink and colored pencil in a large, energetic abstraction that practically jumps off the wall.
A show with this much material in it can’t be adequately described in print. Art Now Printmaking requires your attention –and attendance. As a nice bonus, if you have an interest in collecting relatively inexpensive works on paper, you really should take in this exhibit. Even works that are clearly one-offs are a bargain here. The exhibit is open until March 4. For more information go here
Art Now: Printmaking is on view until March 4. Featured Artists are: Chad Andrews • Miguel Aragon • Robert Aronson • Tom Baker • Naomi Ballard • Jennifer Belair • Karen Benson • Shirley Bernstein • Laura Beyer • Benjamin Bigelow • Allison Blair • Ben Bohnsack • Jan Brown • Josh Christensen • John Cizmar • Abraham Cone • Schuyler DeMarinis • Tess Doyle • Andrea Eckert • Stacy Elko • Travis Erxleben • Craig Fisher • Frank James Fisher • Zach Fitchner • Cindi Ford • Arron Foster • Jenie Gao • Eric Goldberg • Helen Gotlib • Tim Gralewski • M. Alexander Gray • Brett Grunig • Tatsuki Hakoyama • Dominica Harrison • Tom Hollenback • Richard Hricko • Joyce Jewell • Rhonda Khalifeh • Tonia Klein • Joshua Kolbow • Alexis Kurtzman • Emily Legleitner • Geneviève L’ Heureux • Alexandria McAughey • Tyreese McDurmont • Dante Migone-Ojeda • Zachary Miller • John Miller • Eric Millikin • Ashley Nason • Nick Osetek • Carole Pawloski • Polly Perkins • Liv Perucca • Sylvia Pixley • Tatiana Potts • Linda Prentiss • Morgan Price • Laurie Pruitt • Christine Reising • Karen Riley • Benjamin Rinehart • Celeste Roe • Mary Rousseaux • R Ruth • Blake Sanders • H Schenck • Melissa Schulenberg • Terry Schupbach-gordon • Kayla Seedig • Sarah Serio • Ashley Shaul • Sarah Smelser • Barbara Smith • Jillian Sokso • LaNia Sproles • Emily Stokes • Lonora Swanson-Flores • Carolyn Swift • Olivia Timmons • Donald VanAuken • Roger Walkup • Annie Wassmann • Ian Welch • Art Werger • Linda Whitney • Maryanna Williams • DeWayne Williamson • Connie Wolfe • Mary Woodworth • Cameron York
In this dreary and discontented winter season, Public Pool in Hamtramck aims to treat our tired eyes to Printers Without Presses, an exhibit of informal and mostly one-of-a kind printed artworks that “by hook or crook explore ingenious methods of printmaking.” This loosely organized collection of Public Pool regulars (and their friends) showcases artists who are fully literate as conventional printmakers but who, for the purposes of this show, have discarded the more technical aspects of the printmaking process to create work that is personal and playful. Several of the artists are gifted writers as well as visual artists, so text and narrative content play an important role, resulting in a roomful of fresh, unassuming and conversational artworks.
Chicago/Milwaukee artist and accomplished printmaker Tyanna Buie seems not limited but liberated by the simplicity of her means. She employs hand applied ink, hand-cut stencils, collage and photo-based digital images to create Object and Ritual an ambitiously scaled, three-dimensional sculptural print that dominates the center of the gallery.
The seamless connection that the artists display between their online worlds and the lo-tech, hands-on life in the studio is striking. Matthew Milia describes “What’s a Print”, his hand-stenciled rendition of a cell-phone text complete with reception bars and battery status, as an attempt to playfully “subvert the instantaneous, sometimes mindless facility modern technology has afforded correspondence.” Dessislava Terzieva freely admits her piece “We didn’t Start The Fire” is the result of an internet search.
Three of the artists share an interest in the urban natural world of Hamtramck and have clearly influenced each other. In Baby’s Breath and Obsolescence, Keaton Fox compares and contrasts the marks created by inked baby’s breath with the trail of a computer mouse as it is dragged along the surface of the paper. Teresa Peterson and Anne Harrington Hughes have each put together a collection of leaves which they have subsequently used to create print series that are visually related but thematically distinct.
Jeffrey Evergreen and Bayard Kurth III rely on text to convey their colloquial content. Evergreen’s small printed brown bags fit seamlessly into the world of Hamtramck’s bars and he has humorously directed gallery visitors to take one but only “wrapped around a beer.” In addition to prints in the exhibit, Kurth has produced a zine “Improve Your Fishing” which establishes that he is a writer and thinker as well as a doodle-ist. Though not formally included in the show, another zine Stupor/Soft Gun, part of an ongoing series by Knight Fellow Steve Hughes and with illustrations by Alexander Buzzalini (who is in the show), merits attention and you can buy it for the low, low price of $2.
More purely visual, as opposed to text-based, pieces are provided by Jide Aje and Tim Hailey. Although they trend toward painting with a more distant nod to printmaking, they still fit within the rather loose parameters of the show and provide some nice shots of color.
Alexander Buzzalini contributes a Giacometti-esque branding iron that somehow also recalls his characteristic gloppy painting style. This is accompanied by several branded discs that might be coasters, and the whole thing ties in with his ongoing interest in imagery of the mythic old West. For more about Alexander Buzzalini you can go here to read an essay written (not too co-incidentally) by Steve Hughes, his collaborator on Stupor/Soft Gun.
Like many of the non-profit art spaces in Hamtramck, Public Pool has limited hours, but it’s well worth your time and effort to see this work, on view until February 25. Artists in Printers Without Presses are: Jeff Evergreen, Jide Aje, Bayard Kurth III, Teresa Petersen, Alex Buzzalini, Mathew Milia, Tyanna Buie, Keaton Fox, Anne Hughes, Tim Hailey and Dessislava Terzieva. The gallery is open on Saturdays from 1 to 6. For more information on Public Pool, go here.