I recently wrote a review for AADL Pulp of Works in Progress, a group show at Ann Arbor Art Center. Consisting of work by 24 (mostly) Detroit/Ann Arbor-based designers at varying stages in their careers, the exhibit illustrates the creative process of gifted thinkers and planners who bring functional works to life through fashion, graphic design, furniture, architecture, and industrial design. To read more about them, 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
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
Vertical Vision by Tim Gralewski
Crown House by Tom Baker
The Golden Cage by Genie Gao
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
The winners of prizes for Ann Arbor Art Center’s 94th All Media art exhibit Free Wet Hugz which opened October 14 have been announced. They are:
Jean-Paul Aboudib (Chaos In Captivity), Louis Boyang (Mother’s Day), CJ Breil (Conduct Becoming: Surveys #3 and #4), Yuling Chuang (Exist, Coexist: Harmony 2), Analicia Honkanen (Dallying (Free Wet Hugz), Nathan Margoni (No Fear), Robert Mirek (No. 681), Julia Pangborn-Harley (A Brown, Gravelly Road Framed by Barren Plants), Cristin Velliky (Hull), Yuge Zhou (Green Play)
The award winners were chosen by Juror Paul Kotula, who has worked as a gallery director for Pewabic Pottery, Swidler Gallery, REVOLUTION (Detroit and New York) and paulktoulaprojects. Working with an international list of artists, he has formed over 200 solo and group exhibitions pertinent to the field of contemporary art and visual culture.
For my review of the show in Pulp Magazine go here.
Everybody knows that the mainstream print media is in trouble and that as a result, arts coverage in our region has dropped to near zero. But while the rest of us have been whining about the situation, the Ann Arbor Public Library has done something about it.
Pulp, an online arts and cultural magazine, has started to fill the hole that was left when M-Live and others decided to pull the plug on arts reporting, with articles by some great writers like Patrick Dunn and Jenn McKee.
I just posted my first story on Pulp about the Pop-X Art Festival and featuring Ann Arbor Women Artists’ Side-By-Side, a community-based art project that crosses all lines of race, gender, age and disability to promote one-to-one connection. Check it out, and while you’re at it, take a look at some of the other coverage of music, theater and dance.
To investigate Pulp and what it has to offer, go here.
The sprawling multimedia, multi-artist show Re: Formation which recently closed in Toledo has moved to a smaller venue in Gallery 117 at the Ann Arbor Art Center where an edited version will be on view from now until October 8. Toledo’s Re: Formation was overwhelming in size and scope. Installation and video dominated the cavernous former department store, contributing to an immersive experience that viscerally conveyed artists’ current outrage over racism, war, environmental degradation and urban decay.
The rage, the politics, the anger at injustice and environmental ruin remain in this new iteration but in a lower, more thoughtful key. Smaller work which was somewhat eclipsed by larger and noisier art in Toledo now gets some well deserved attention.
Moving an exhibit from one very large venue to another smaller one presents unique challenges for Gallery Project’s curators Rocco DePietro and Gloria Pritschett.
Pritschett explains, “In downsizing the exhibit for Ann Arbor, I look for the core of the work, so that the artist’s essential intent stays intact and can at least be glimpsed… we want to downsize the installation without giving the sense that we just lopped off a part of it.”
“ It’s a challenge, but a fun challenge,” adds DePietro.
Pritschett continues, “In reassembling the exhibition in a much smaller space, the work is tightly placed, so the specifics of relationships among the works is more crucial. No one piece has a place apart to sprawl on its own as it could in Toledo. I really enjoy the challenge in the patient work of positioning and repositioning individual works and groups of works, until they cohere visually and conceptually and relate to each other comfortably and meaningfully. For example, the group of Mark Hereld, Endi Poskovic, Tohru Kanayama and Barry Whittaker, and the interactive works Yusuf Lateef, John Anderson and Anthony Fontana, each in some way expresses formation and reformation as a process. Placing them was really satisfying”
“After spending a month with the exhibit in Toledo, we discovered new relationships among various pieces — themes, shapes, colors, concepts — that we exploited in installing the exhibit. For example, the interplay of blacks and reds, strong concept works, and the iconic water towers in Flint,” says DePietro.
Pieces with an environmental theme, such as Jessica Tenbusch’s Veil and Mark Hereld’s white-on-white Becoming@42Mx are often necessarily scaled to the size of the natural objects they contain, and this new, smaller space allows them to shine. Tenbusch’s work, which frequently includes taxidermy such as preserved frogs, snakes and the like, can be seen and appreciated for its meticulously detailed and finely produced craftsmanship.
Paintings which were a bit overwhelmed in the large, dim Toledo space come into their own here. John and Sandy: Voices for Social Justice, a large painted allegory (notice the small winged figure of Governor Rick Snyder in the upper left hand corner) by Ken Milito is impressive, and Michael Nagara’s Garden of Watery Lead seems at home in this smaller scale and more brightly lit gallery.
Equally successful in both Toledo and Ann Arbor is John James Anderson’s photo series 189 Hydrants, which documents, hydrant by hydrant, Washington D.C.’s decaying infrastructure. His Omikuji also stands up well to the move. Based on a Japanese cultural custom meant to end a curse, gallery visitors are encouraged to participate in a ceremonial exorcism to end police killings.
“In the wake of the recent deaths of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling, I took a moment to consider the thousands of other lives lost in recent years during an encounter with the police,” says Anderson.
He adds, “While the circumstances behind each are different, in sum, it is as though there was a great curse within our culture that causes these issues to persist.“
In this improvised and sobering ritual, the name of a young man of color who has died at the hands of the police is printed on a strip of paper along with the Kanji for “end curse” and tied to the wooden structure in the gallery.
The single most memorable work in Re:Formation remains The Reconditioning, an experiential performance and personal encounter designed and executed by Toledo artist Yusuf Lateef in collaboration with Chris Rogers, Kevin Gilmore, Daren Mac and James Dickerson. Lateef was initially apprehensive about reproducing The Reconditioning for an Ann Arbor audience after a previous cathartic experience with audiences at Re:Formation in Toledo. He was afraid he would be “reproducing this thing that wasn’t a personal and individual experience.” The placement of the installation at the entrance of the exhibit made him feel as if he and his fellow performers were in danger of becoming objects in an art show. But The Reconditioning, once again, found an audience of eager participants willing to engage the artists/performers on the subject of race and connection. Lateef, encouraged by recent experience, plans to refine and simplify these encounters in the future.
“It took time to get out of my own way,” he says.
For more information about Ann Arbor Art Center go here
Artists exhibiting in Re:Formation are: Heather Accurso, Hiba Ali, John James Anderson, Michael Arrigo, Siobhan Arnold, Nick Azzaro, Darryl Baird, Barchael (Barry Whittaker and Mike Bernhardt), Morgan Barrie, Carolyn Barritt, Beehive Design Collective (Meg Lemieur), Mark Bleshenski, Jada Bowden, Seder Burns, Ruth Crowe, Dana DePew, Rocco DePietro, Desiree Duell, Dianne Farris, Susan Fecteau, Anthony Fontana, Mark Hereld, Dan Hernandez, Stephanie Howells, Tim Ide, Doug Kampfer, Tohru Kanayama, Yusuf Lateef, K.A. Letts, Kate Levy, Julianne Lindsey, Jeremy Link, Melanie Manos, Shanna Merola, Ken Milito, Michael Nagara, Jefferson Nelson, Endi Poskovic, Gloria Pritschet, Sharon Que, Raizup Collective (Antonio Cosme), Boris Rasin, Roger Rayle, Jesse Richard, Arturo Rodriguez, Gary Setzer, Meagan Shein, Anna Schaap, Sheida Soleimani, Brian Spolans, Jessica Tenbusch, Alex Tsocanos, Ellen Wilt, Robin Wilt, and Viktor Witkowski.
It’s August and it’s hot. I’m tired of thinking about politics…and art and politics. But it looks like it’s going to be at least 76 more days until the end of our collective season of discontent, so I’m treating you and me to a staycation of some fun art that’s available for your viewing pleasure in the Detroit metro area right now.
First up, there’s the fizzy pop-up show Ultimate Stars in Gallery 117 at the Ann Arbor Art Center from now until September 3. Musician and photographer Doug Coombs and his talented friends have put together this eclectic free-for-all: drawings, paintings, puppets, posters, music. It’s all playful, colorful and occasionally silly (but in a good way). Check out a wall full of tacked- up, un-framed doodly watercolors by Jim Cherewick or take a look at the funny/creepy black and white ink drawings of Chris Pottinger. And, if you want to hear catchy tunes by the musicians who performed at the opening go here.
Artists in Ultimate Stars are: Scott Allen
Misty Lyn Bergeron, Sarah Campbell, Jim Cherewick, Michael Dykehouse, Patrick Elkins, Greg McIntosh, Tadd Mullinix, Chris Pottinger, Fred Thomas.
Wasserman Projects, near Eastern Market in Detroit, is hosting its Summer Selections right now in a portion of the gallery, while also working on their upcoming installation Cosmopolitan Chicken by Dutch artist Koen VanMechelen. (Cosmopolitan Chicken, opening this fall, features–yes, you guessed it–chickens.) The Summer Selections paintings are smart and humorous and well worth a look while we wait for the poultry to make its appearance. Artists in Summer Selections are: Ken Aptekar, Peter Zimmerman, Jason Yates, Michael Scoggins, Emilio Perez, Kent Henricksen, Ed Fraga, Jose Vincench, Nancy Mitchnick, G. Bradley Rhodes-Aubrey, Josh Bolin, Koen Vanmechelen, Willy Verginer.
Anemic Royalty by Josh Bolin
Smile Everyone by Jason Yates
God Complex by Michael Scoggins
Just down the street from Wasserman Projects is Tyree Guyton’s current solo show, Face-ology, on view throughout the month of August at Inner State Gallery. These appealing, simply composed pictures with their bright, flat house paint colors on recycled grounds have the rough urban feel of the Heidelberg Project but in a gallery-friendly format.
“Face-ology is a reflection of everything that is changing about Detroit; the face of the landscape, the face of the people and even my own face,” says Guyton.
And last but not least, you still have time (just barely) to see Intersection: Jef Bourgeau/ Matt Eaton at Galerie Camille. Until August 27, these bright and sophisticated paintings and digital prints from two of Detroit’s best known independent curator artists are available to soothe your sore eyes.
Comics Unbound, an exhibit that examines the art and the craft of the comic, is on view right now through June 24 at Ann Arbor Art Center’s Gallery 117. The show aims to illustrate the process through which comics, both in short and longer form, are created. It “reveals what is usually an invisible narrative in comics–the journey from artist’s vision to clear transmission of meaning. ” according to jurors and comic artists Jerzy and Anne Drozd. The exhibition contains original drawings by cartoonists who will appear at the Ann Arbor Comic Arts Festival to be held at the Ann Arbor District Library, June 18 and 19, 2016.
Ever since humans began making marks on flat surfaces, visual storytelling and the interplay between picture and text has been an important part of western art history. From neolithic cave painting to Egyptian hieroglyphs to medieval panel painting, the extent to which pictures and text cooperate to tell a story has depended on the literacy (sometimes more, sometimes less) of the general population. The invention of movable type in the mid-15th century in Europe revolutionized literacy and consequently, visual storytelling. Once most everyone could read, the path was paved for the first comic book, generally thought to be The Adventures ofObadiah Oldbuck in 1837. From there the scope and reach of comics has only increased, until now there is a whole section in the New York Times Review of Books devoted to graphic media. Numerous superhero movies based on comics appear every summer and Fun Home, a musical adapted from a graphic novel is currently running on Broadway.
Rather than dwelling on the history of comics though, this exhibit is organized to convey an idea of how comics are produced: from script and hand sketched storyboards, to drawing and coloring of the finished comic, with printed versions also on display. The show also gives a fair idea of the range of subject, mode of visual expression, variety of intended audience and level of literary ambition currently available to this medium. The pictorial styles on display range from the intentionally rudimentary but elaborately composed stick figures of Matt Feazell’s Too Much Help to the the 1950’s-retro washy ink drawings of Apooko by Mike Roll to the classic super-hero comic style of Tom Mandrake in Creeps. The subjects likewise range from personal and autobiographical (El Deafo by Cece Bell) to comic myth (Dragons Beware by Rafael Rosado) to historical (Feynman (Tuva) by Jim Ottovani and Leland Myrick ). And the literary language from one comic to another is just as varied as the pictorial expression.
All of the artists in Comics Unbound display impressive levels of drawing ability personal to their individual style and loads of storytelling originality. A particular favorite of mine was Old Man, Dog and the Ocean by Emily Zelaszko. Her drawings are deft and idiosyncratic and her compressed language rises to the level of poetry. I also especially liked Mike Roll’s Apooko drawings and Carolyn Nowak’s Nichols Arboretum but this probably reflects my own personal taste for certain drawing styles rather than any defensible aesthetic preference.
The conclusion I draw from Comics Unbound is that comics, while they contain visual media, are not primarily a visual art. Rather they are more literary in nature, with visual augmentation, and their narrative strengths lie mostly in the area of dialog. This might explain the frequency with which comics are developed into movies. The storyboards in this exhibit certainly have a cinematic quality. It seems to me that as an art form graphic novels and comics have most in common with theater and film. They are meant to be consumed as literature or performance, rather than to be contemplated as fine art paintings and drawings.
The great advantage of comics over film however, is in the personal nature of their content and the relative ease with which the artist can translate private stories and concerns into a public medium without the necessity for elaborate technical support. The comic artist can, literally, express on the page anything she/he has the imagination to invent and there are far fewer practical barriers to self expression than in more public media like theater or film. The artists in Comics Unbound make full use of the broad scope of visual and literary expression that the medium offers them.
Artists in the exhibit include: Mike Roll, Emily Zelasko, Rob Stenzinger, Carolyn Nowak, Zack Giallongo, Cece Bell, Rafael Rosado, Ben Hatke, Ruth McNally Barshaw, Samantha Kyle, Cyndi Foster & Jeramy Hobbes, Jim Ottaviani, Matt Feazell, Dan Mishkin & Tom Mandrake.
It’s a well-known fact that few visual artists working here in the Rust Belt have a realistic hope of making a living exclusively from selling their art. So many find themselves teaching to make a living while also trying to keep up their studio practice and actively showing their work. This requires energy, dedication, resourcefulness and maybe an ability to do without a full night’s sleep. The show currently in Gallery 117 displays the diverse skills of the hardworking artists who give instruction at the Ann Arbor Art Center, from printmaking to painting to ceramics to animation and more. In a show of this kind the technical mastery of each artist is on display, and the artworks have to be enjoyed for their individual charms rather than appreciated in relation to an overarching theme. The level of skill on display is impressive, as one would expect from an instructional staff that is tasked with teaching the technical aspects in their area of expertise.
I came to the exhibit already knowing the work of some of the artists represented, among them Heather Accurso. I’ve liked Accurso’s drawings ever since I discovered them at Packer Schopf Gallery in Chicago. Yet another MFA graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, she is a skilled draftsman who employs the image of a baby repeatedly– possibly obsessively –in her precise and surreal drawings.
Another artist with whom I was already familiar and whose work I like is encaustic painter Beth Billups. Her charming, childlike compositions occupy the aesthetic space between innocence and sophistication. I find the waxy surfaces and subdued pastel palette and the formalized but allusive shapes immensely appealing.
Several other artists with whom I was not previously acquainted also caught my eye. Painter Brian Skol displays a really impressive level of technical skill in his paintings and their mood put me in mind of Thomas Eakins. Rebecca Pugh’s landscapes made me think of plastic in new ways, and I found Deb Scott’s claymation animations fun and entertaining. Marc McCay’s small prints reminded me of how much I like the economy and elegance of black and white.
There are 19 artists in this exhibit and I’m sure I didn’t give each the attention he/she deserves, but the Instructor Show is open until June 4, so you will have the opportunity to see for yourself what these artists have to teach. The exhibit includes: Heather Accurso, Morgan Barrie, Beth Billups, Payton Cook, Kim DeBord, Jerzy Drozd, Dave Dziedzic, Michael Garguilo, Chris Kamykowski, Angela Lenhardt, Emily LoPresto, Marc McCay, Rebecca Pugh, Deb Scott, Claudia Selene, Larry Sekulich, Brian Skol, Daria Paik White
For more information about hours and directions go here