Installation at Cranbrook Museum of Art, Mixing Chamber in foreground
With Eyes Opened surveys the history of Cranbrook Academy since its official founding in 1932. With more than 250 works representing the various programs of study at the school, the exhibition is a huge, somewhat disorganized, survey that’s full of treasures. To read the official account you can go here. I wrote a review of the show for Detroit Art Review which you can read here.
The Detroit art scene is in the midst of changes. Over the last year or two, shiny new galleries like Wasserman Projects, David Klein and Gallerie Camille have established themselves in downtown and midtown, with regular hours and regular shows. But for those of us who like to hunt for art in less established–and less gentrified–corners of the city, there are still new discoveries to be made.The Factory at 333 Midland in Highland Park is one of them.
This rambling, 23,000-square-foot industrial complex, formerly the Lewis Manufacturing and Stamping plant, was recently purchased by New Zealand-born sculptor Robert Onnes and provides studios for himself and 17 other artists. The space is still in the process of being upgraded–they are raising money to put in heat this winter– but that hasn’t stopped them from putting on an ambitious group show that is installed throughout the main building and its nearby, newly-opened exhibit gallery. Big Sculpture@The Factory includes work by over 50 artists and displays more than 200 sculptures and installations, both large and small. It is open on weekends only until October 22. Music, food, drink, and scheduled artist talks are thrown in for good measure. On the day I attended there were plenty of visitors taking it all in.
Artists in Big Sculpture range from emerging to eminent, with a few of my favorites represented by some of their most ambitious work. Mega Bat, by Tim Pewe, has a wingspan of over 17 feet, and hovers overhead in the studio of the owner, Robert Onnes, who makes visually massive but lightweight formalized figurative sculptures. His Kiwi, a birdlike shape that rests outside the building in an open courtyard with other large scale sculptures, elegantly references his land of origin.
Some of the smaller works in Big Sculpture are displayed in a room adjacent to the main studio, and include the delicate, toy-like yet slightly sinister assemblages of Catherine Peet. Wall sconces made of old metal toy trucks by Alvaro Jurado light the hallway. One of my favorite pieces in the show, Hell in a Handbasket by Sandra Osip, leans up against a wall nearby. A collection of tiny houses made from scraps of demolished Detroit homes is piled high in a wheelbarrow, stacked and ready to be discarded like so many of the city’s derelict structures. It’s both playful and sad.
It’s impossible to describe all of the imaginatively conceived and well-made works in Big Sculpture. In spite of the rough surroundings, the overall mood of the exhibit is light-hearted and inventive. There were plenty of visual puns like Melancholy Hammer by Adnan Charara and Chris Zagacki’s Hook, Line and Sinker. Single Digit, by Rick Cronn, literally gives us the finger.
The new exhibit space in the smaller building adjacent to the main structure houses yet another trove of excellent work; Inuit Spirit by Tom Phardel and Beings Connected by Charles McGee were standouts. A newly constructed balcony wraps around the periphery of the gallery. It provides a more intimate venue for smaller works like Architectural Exploration by Leah Waldo, one of a series of block-like objects of cast glass, steel and low-fire soft brick. Also notable are the felt and wood constructions of Susan Aaron-Taylor. I particularly liked Fears, which shows a mouse-like creature trapped in a ribbed structure. Ann Smith, one of the artists I met during my visit, told me that other exhibits will be scheduled in the new gallery space, though there is no published schedule yet.
Hook, Line and Sinker by Chris Zagacki
Fears by Susan Aaron-Taylor
Bird Clown Listening to the Messenger by Catherine Peet
Beings Connected by Charles McGee
Architectural Exploration by Leah Waldo
Single Digit by Rick Cronn
There’s still time to see Big Sculpture! The exhibit is on view until October 22 and by appointment. For more information and to check on scheduled events, go here.
Artists exhibiting in Big Sculpture: Susan Aaron-Taylor, Anita Bates, Richard Bennett, Peter Bernal, Robert Bielat, Betty Brownlee, Coco Bruner, Scott Campbell, Doug Cannell, Cruz Castillo, Hannah Chalew, Adnan Charara, Christina Cioffari, Leslie Cislo, Rick Cronn, Joe Culver, Olayami Dabis, Pam Day, Sergio De Giusti, Todd Erickson, Mark Esse, Eric Froh, Sean Hages, Al Hebert, Alvaro Jurado, Ray Katz, Dawnice Kerchaert, Eno Laget &Jerome Brown, Terry Lee Dill, Jay Lefkowitz, Lindsay McCosh, Charles McGee, Steve Mealy, Robert Mirek, Carlos Nielbock, Israel and Erik Nordin, Robert Onnes, Sandra Osip, Catherine Peet, Tim Pewe, Scott Pfaffman, Tom Phardel, Kathy Rose Pizzo, Sharon Que, Hayden Richer, zmichael Ross, John Sauve, Robert Sestok, Richard Skelton, Ann Smith, Jeanette Strezinski, Lois Teicher, Kathy Toth, Eric Troffkin, Leah Waldo, Graem Whyte, Albert Young, Chris Zagacki.
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.
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.
… If you did, you missed it. I didn’t think it was possible for the hours at Whitdel Arts to get shorter. But I was wrong. Whitdel Arts, like many volunteer-run art spaces in Detroit, keeps its doors open only on 1 day a week for 3 hours per month-long show, a total of 12 hours. I have often struggled to get to Whitdel’s well-conceived and well-installed shows during that window. But the most recent show, One Year Later: Work by Tisch Mikhail Lewis was open only for 5 hours total, on Friday, May 13 and Saturday, May 14. This pop-up exhibit was held in a recently renovated and still empty craftsman-style house on Commonwealth Street in Detroit. More about that later.
The stated theme of One Year Later is our societal obsession with body image, weight control and conventional ideas of beauty. Lewis says, “I use my work as a way to make sense of the world around me by deconstructing my experiences and examining them in terms of sociological theory pertaining to identity, body image, race and intersections between the three.”
These predominantly blue and yellow figures, mostly painted on raw canvas, didn’t strike me as being hard-edged political statements though. Instead I found them to be lyrical and virtuosic figure studies, deftly done, and quite pretty. The paintings are relatively small scale, which gives them an air of intimacy that I enjoyed even though it undercuts somewhat the stated theme of the show. It’s fashionable these days to make a political point with one’s art, but it seems to me that lovingly created and well drawn traditional figures have value too.
Now, as to why Whitdel Arts is open during shortened hours in a pop-up gallery. I have some bad news:
Through no fault of their own, the collective recently found itself out on the street following a sudden notification from their landlord that their presence in the space was no longer welcome. While I understand that nothing lasts forever, and that a landlord who has been generous in the past is under no obligation to be generous in perpetuity, the behavior of Southwest Solutions was abrupt and shocking. It also points to a growing hazard for non-profit collectives in the city. As higher real estate prices come to Detroit, there will be increased economic pressure to displace worthy but underfunded arts organizations of all types.
In spite of losing their Hubbard Street space, the Whitdelians have vowed to soldier on, and are currently planning to maintain an active schedule of pop-up exhibitions until they are able to secure more permanent gallery space. So, for now, it will be a little more difficult to keep track of Whitdel events. You can go to the Whitdel Arts page on FaceBook for updates here.
When I originally published TAA-95 a year and a half ago, I expected this blog to serve as a way for the artists participating in the Toledo Area Artists 95 exhibit at the Toledo Art Museum to keep in touch and to spread news on their art exhibits, projects, professional accomplishments and the like. It turns out that I vastly over-estimated the appetite of my TAA artist friends for self promotion! Either because they are way too modest or just don’t have an appetite for verbal self-expression, very few posts have been forth-coming. I find I am writing about regional artists and art issues pretty much on my own. That’s not a bad thing, just different from what I intended at the outset.
On the other hand, I find that the more I express my opinion and share information about art events in Southeast Michigan and Northeast Ohio, the more I enjoy it. Recently, with a bit of (perhaps ill-considered) encouragement from talented arts writer and Kresge Fellow Sarah Rose Sharp, I’ve started to cover regional art news in more detail. I’m not writing because I’m a great writer (though I hope to improve over time) but because I don’t think there is enough coverage of visual artists and the arts in our region.
To reflect the more personal nature of this blog going forward, I will be making some changes in its format. Soon the domain name will change from taae95artists.wordpress.com to rustbeltarts.com, and I’ll be tweaking the home page appearance. Other than that, those of you following the blog won’t notice much difference (except I will be posting even more frequently). I still hope to hear from the artists in last year’s Toledo Art Museum exhibit whenever they have something to report, but in future I will be the sole author on this blog.
This is the second year for this community-based installation project. Artists are invited to submit work and/or proposals for installations. POP•X 2016 will run September 22 – October 1 in Liberty Plaza Park, Ann Arbor.
Entry Deadline: April, 5, 2016 Submission fee: $35
Requesting proposals for art installations in 100 sqft. art pavilions.
• Open to all interested artists, designers, and curators, submitting as an individual or team. One entry per individual artist or curator or per team.
• A $1,000 stipend per installation will be given to the individuals and teams selected for exhibition.
Ideal proposals for the interior installations value sustained or interactive engagement of visitors, inspiring them with thought-provoking or fun expressions of contemporary arts. Installations may include any form of artistic expression, including, but not limited to art that responds to the immediate environment or encourages community engagement through social practice.
I am delighted to be included in the upcoming juried exhibition Borders, hosted by River House and the Owens Community College Center for Fine and Performing Arts. The opening reception will be held on Thursday, March 3, from 6-8. The juror, Sarah Rose Sharp will be speaking at the opening reception. She is a 2015 Kresge Literary Arts Fellow for Arts Criticism.
The exhibit will run March 4-31 at the Walter E. Terhune Gallery in the Owens Community College Center for Fine and Performing Arts, located at 30335 Oregon Road, Perrysburg OH 43551. Check here for more information.
A total of 17 artists have been selected to exhibit 27 pieces of work in the juried exhibition. Artists were asked to consider these questions in submitting their works: Where do we find borders and how do they shape us? Why do we embrace or reject them? When does a unifying contour become a divisional line?
The selected artists: David Burke – PA, David Cuatlacuatl – IN, Mary Fortuna – MI, Maureen Joyce – PA, Lindsey Landfried – PA, Yusurf Lateef – OH, K.A. Letts – MI, Zach Lihatsh – IL, Mary Mazziotti – PA, Laurenn McCubbin – OH, Sidney Mullis – PA, Gabrielle Roach – IN, Whitney Sage – OH, Jina Seo – IL, Meagan Shein – MI, Kathryn Shinko – OH, Jessica Tenbusch – MI