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 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
Artist Leslie Sobel both loves nature and fears for it. An avid hiker and outdoorswoman, Sobel’s encaustic paintings, monoprints and three dimensional assemblage celebrate the mystery and majesty of nature while describing the effects of human-caused climate change. They are often based on personal observation of the landscape but can also be inspired by online aerial images of glaciers or maps of open territory at the poles. One of Sobel’s great ambitions is to see the lands of the far north and Antarctica before they are forever changed by global warming. “I am affected by solastalgia,” she says. Sobel describes solastalgia as “nostalgia for a place one has never been and that is no longer there.”
Three of Leslie Sobel’s encaustic paintings are on view now in Ann Arbor at WSG Gallery, as part of their 16+16 members invitational show, on view until February 4. All 3 works in the exhibit relate to a single transcendent moment Sobel experienced while hiking at the crest of the Sleeping Bear Dunes. She and her companion were alone, a rare occurrence. As she looked out over the brooding seascape of Lake Michigan and the clouds rolling above, Sobel had a profound sense of the small and temporary nature of human existence in the face of nature. These somber thoughts inspired the creation of several encaustic paintings which feature only the stormy sky and Lake Michigan, separated by a distant horizon.
In addition to these private meditations, Sobel does public commissioned artworks, most recently her downtown PowerArt Box. Based on her painting “Row of Pines”, it is one of several selected by online popular vote through Ann Arbor Arts Alliance’s PowerArt Project. The aim of the program is to install reproductions of works by Washtenaw County artists on power boxes throughout the city in order to add visual interest to the streetscape and to discourage tagging on utility boxes. Phases 1 and 2 have been completed and now Phase 3 is in the planning stages. The Arts Alliance is actively soliciting sponsors for individual power boxes. For more information go here.
Sobel’s interest in the natural environment has also led to her participation in numerous artist-in-residence programs in national parks, where she is often paired with scientists and naturalists working there. She recounts with special pleasure a recent residency in Colorado’s Canyon of the Nations National Monument, where she worked alongside archeologists, biologists, anthropologists and geologists. “I was surprise how much these ruins tied in with my interest in climate change–the people who lived here didn’t die. They had to move because they had depleted and degraded the local natural resources. When archeologists searched the middens (trash heaps) of the abandoned settlements, they found that earlier ones held the remains of deer and antelope, while the later ones had the bones of chipmunks and mice.” In the later middens. they also encountered human remains showing signs of cannibalism, a grim reminder of true scarcity that led to their departure for points further to the southwest where it is believed they became the Hopi nation.
In at least a partial fulfillment of her dream to see the far north and south latitudes before they are changed forever, Sobel is planning an extended visit to the Yukon in 2017. She will camp and create in Kluane National Park at the invitation of scientist and researcher Seth Campbell of the University of Maine. Like so many worthy projects, this is an unfunded labor of love; Sobel will be soliciting funds for the trip soon in a GoFundMe campaign. For more information about Leslie Sobel, go here.
I recently posted a profile of street artist David Zinn in Pulp magazine. Zinn is a master of the ephemeral and has a unique take on art, who makes it, who can make it and to what purpose. Check it out here.
From Above, a small collection of paintings on view until November 26 at WSG Gallery in Ann Arbor, shows Karin Wagner Coron continuing her ongoing exploration of the Midwestern landscape. Working with photos taken from an airplane, this accomplished contemporary artist has created a select group of views of Midwestern fields and vistas punctuated and bounded by the fresh water lakes and rivers of the region.
These birds-eye views emphasize the agricultural geometry of Michigan and Ontario fields, delivering the illusion of flying over the limitless sweep of land that is the Midwest.
Many of the landscapes feature a kind of vertiginous diagonal composition, as if she is looking from the window of a steeply banking airplane (which in fact she is). She describes her process:
“I use photography as a basis for my compositions, to capture a particular time of day, interesting light or composition. I perceive and interpret nature while constantly finding a new palette or color scheme to match mood and feeling.”
Landscape paintings from an aerial point-of-view are nothing new, of course. Chinese painters from the Tang Dynasty onward painted nature as if from a neighboring mountaintop, each landscape a transcendent retreat from the banal and everyday. And painters of the Hudson River School such as Thomas Cole and Frederic Edwin Church painted landscapes from overlooks that emphasized the limitless grandeur of the newly discovered American West.
In contrast to the escapist romanticism of Chinese landscape painters and the romantic imperialism of American painters of the West, Coron’s aerial landscapes revel in the orderly section and bisection of the land, with farmers’ fields cut by dirt roads and softened at the edges by hedgerows. This overhead perspective is especially appropriate for topography that is essentially flat. Pattern and color measure the paintings’ depth with the slightly diagonal compositions of many of the artworks leading us into the painted distance.
Coron’s vision of nature only lightly ordered by humans contrasts with that of other noted contemporary landscape artists such as Yvonne Jacquette and Rackstraw Downes, who emphasize the built environment over natural features and imply human habitation and activity. Coron, being a Great Lakes artist, also gives equal weight to the meandering of rivers and the inchoate shadows of clouds passing overhead even as she accepts the tamed land below her.
In the end, although these paintings clearly reference the Midwestern landscape they can also be appreciated for their more formal qualities. The color palette she has chosen for this series, with its acid yellows, juicy greens, muted pinks and aquatic blues, is more expressive than descriptive. Coron invites us not only to enjoy these paintings as descriptions of regional topography and atmosphere, but also to appreciate their sophisticated abstract sensibility.
Karin Wagner Coron has been exhibiting her paintings and prints professionally since 1992. A graduate of Eastern Michigan University with a BFA in painting, she is owner and manager of Format Framing and Gallery in Ann Arbor, and is a member of WSG Gallery, also in Ann Arbor.
For more information about WSG Gallery and this exhibit, go here.
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.
Takeshi Takahara believes in the handmade, the one-of-a-kind, the idiosyncratic. This might seem a counterintuitive attitude in an accomplished master of intaglio printmaking, a medium which embodies the aesthetic of the multiple and reproducible. But in his first solo show at WSG Gallery he demonstrates that his unique, eco-friendly hybrid intaglio/woodcut process for creating small print editions (often only 5 to 9 per title) can deliver artworks that pack all the punch of a one-of-a-kind painting.
Imperfection, a meticulously curated and well arranged grouping of prints on the theme of the lotus, is on view in the gallery from now until October 22. Images that might seem banal in the hands of a lesser artist–who hasn’t seen a thousand pictures of a lily pond?– gain a kind of archetypal resonance through his drawn line which manages to be both awkward and graceful, with an effortful visual stutter that is reminiscent of the knowing clumsiness of Henri Matisse or Paul Klee. Through constant experimentation in the studio he has adapted the process of intaglio printmaking, replacing the metal plate and acid with a less toxic combination of materials while still retaining the sharpness of the cut line. His beautiful-but-not-pretty colors are carefully mixed from watercolor and dry pigments purchased in Japan.
Takahara relishes the way in which each print is a document which can be seen through multiple stages on its way to the final version. “In printmaking, you can actually print images step by step and have it. By looking at that proof, you make additions or deletions and move onto another print again and compare those two and see the differences…You get to rethink, revise and remake your original ideas.” He describes himself as uninterested in producing large editions of his prints, preferring instead to experiment with the infinite possibilities of changing and adapting each plate and combining them in endlessly varied ways. “Repetition is not my forte,” he says, laughing.
Born in midcentury China to Japanese parents, Takeshi Takahara came to the U.S. to escape his future as the eldest son of a traditional Asian family. He was expected to get a good education and to enter a respectable profession, which fine art certainly wasn’t. “If I’d stayed in Japan, I’d be working in a bank,” he says.
His first stop in the U. S. was Smith College, where he studied with renowned sculptor and printmaker Leonard Baskin. Studies at the newly formed school of printmaking at the University of Iowa followed, where he was mentored by Mauricio Lasansky, considered by many to be one of the fathers of modern printmaking. Although he is now a veteran artist and teacher, this is Takahara’s first experience with an artist-run gallery.
Takeshi Takahara is currently hard at work creating new prints on the theme of the lotus, which has deep symbolic meaning for him. The lotus rises from the muck and produces a beautiful pure flower, a metaphor for the human condition. “We all come from the same muck, and what we become as human beings is the flower,” he says.
For more information about WSG Gallery’s hours and programs 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.
Cathy Jacobs doesn’t remember not being an artist. As a child she sat at the vanity of her upstairs bedroom drawing obsessively for hours.
“I was always drawing from the time I was 3 or 4. When I was 7 or so, I thought I can be an artist! I had a vision of a sort of Salvador Dali character in a beret and a pencil mustache.”
In fact, she remembers dressing up as the surrealist master for Halloween one year. This seemed perfectly natural to her, since art was a man’s world at the time.
“I always thought I’d grow up to be a man” she says, laughing.
The image Starry Sky that was chosen for the PowerArt Project box now installed at Miller and Main in Ann Arbor, comes directly from her childhood memories. She vividly recalls looking out of her bedroom window at the night sky and the houses in her Ferndale neighborhood. “I didn’t like that they were so uniform, so I invented columns and balconies for them in my mind,” she says.
Jacobs’ interest in painting and drawing was a constant throughout her childhood and adolescence and was followed by college art studies. She studied painting at Wayne State University where she earned a B.F.A. and continued at Eastern Michigan University where she graduated with a Master of Fine Arts in Painting degree in 2015.
Jacobs’s paintings from this period are figurative and show a strong interest in fantasy and storytelling. Fairytale archetypes and mysterious situations, puppets, dolls and queens populate her pictures. They have the quality of half-remembered dreams, fascinating and just out of reach.
Her work at this time was well composed and expertly painted, but Jacobs felt dissatisfied. She wanted the color, translucency and light in her paintings to escape from the picture plane and from narrative imagery. She experimented with various sheer or translucent materials–metal screen, gauzy silk and the like–collaged onto her paintings. The kind of lightness and atmosphere that she wanted seemed impossible to achieve with the media at hand.
But then, in 2014, Cathy Jacobs discovered weaving. Finally, this new medium allowed her to escape the painted canvas and the drawn image.
“It immediately took hold of my imagination. Through weaving, I found that I could express the full spectrum of colors and moods, but in real 3-dimensional space…I learned weaving and all of a sudden all the things I was thinking about in my paintings, the depth you would get through layers of color and translucency, I found I could get in 3 dimensions.”
Cathy Jacobs sees the way before her clearly now. “My current focus is in weaving panels of linen that, when layered together create vibrating fields of color.” She has already had some success, exhibiting her woven panels at Sofa Chicago 2015 on Navy Pier, and in the 2016 Architectural Digest Design Show in New York City. This fall, her work will be featured in World of Threads in Ontario, Canada.
Jacobs enjoys both the process of weaving and “the sense of finality and completion that comes when I finish a piece.“ She seems to have found the means and medium to bring to the real world the contents of her imagination. Every working artist knows that this clarity is a temporary thing in a long creative life. Cathy Jacobs is a young artist and the future may see changes in her art practice, but for now she is happy in her woven world.
“It feels like a really good fit, ” she says, smiling.