Tag Archives: Drawing

Text/Media

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Underdog by Christopher Schneider

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.

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The Modern Vulgarian #1 by Ryan Standfest

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.

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Whole Foods by Jaye Schlesinger

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.

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School Bus by Dencel Deneau

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

 

Those Who Can…Also Teach

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.

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War Baby by Heather Accurso

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.

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Small Matter by Beth Billups

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