Or maybe it’s a five-fer… anyhow, until October 1, visitors to River House Arts in Toledo’s Secor Arts Building can see work by three young painters from Cleveland in the ground floor space, while on the building’s second floor a collection of intriguing objects by a young glass artist from Bowling Green State University lurk. As if that weren’t enough, some small nocturnal landscapes by yet another accomplished BGSU graduate occupy the gallery on floor 6. Any one of these shows is worth a trip to Toledo.
Portraiture is having a moment these days, especially among young Black artists who are busily inserting themselves into the contemporary art conversation through figurative painting. This small group show, Waking Dream, provides two current students and one recent B.F.A. from the Cleveland Institute of Art with space to examine the contradictions inherent in our societal ideas of beauty, race, gender and femininity.
Eruwesi Archer’s paintings aim to disorient and provoke, and they do. Verging on caricature, Archer’s acid toned, oversize subjects confront with us with questions and propositions and observations about the world as they find it.
Samantha Schneider (B.F.A. 2021) paints larger-than-life pictures of young women in exaggerated cinematic colors reminiscent of sci-fi movie stills, and Crystal Miller embellishes her neon-colored beauties with craft materials like yarn, rhinestones, beads and foam, evocations of not only of how a young Black woman looks, but how she feels.
British artist Theo Brooks (BGSU M.F.A. 2021) has created a collection of sculptural glass artworks that present an exotic past–or future– through ritual objects from the artist’s imagination that reference his Cypriot heritage.
On the sixth floor of the building, Amber Koprin (BGSU M.F.A. 2020) delivers some low key, voyeuristic thrills with her tiny, exquisite nocturnal views of deserted suburban scenes.
For more information about the artists and gallery hours, go here.
Well, here we are in the “summer of uncertain vibes.” It’s not the summer we were hoping for, with masks discarded and indoor dining routine. The pandemic has decided it isn’t quite finished with us yet, but there’s still art out there to see in Detroit.
The folks at David Klein Gallery are taking a glass-half-full attitude to our current predicament, with a colorful and energetic exhibit of work by seven resolutely upbeat artists. Best Times might relieve your Covid anxiety, at least temporarily. The show is on view until August 28, and you can read my full review here.
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.
You Are Here, a comprehensive survey of recent work by well over 45 Detroit artists on display throughout the Carr Center in Detroit through December 17, aims to take a snapshot of where the city stands at this inflexion point of both local and national change.
Curator Anna Schaap says, “Work in this show will explore location, time/place, Detroit’s future, urban development, ideas of identity, … gentrification, creative and empathetic ingenuity, and whole-brain thinking/making.” In media ranging from painting to photography to printmaking and especially to installation, artists provide a guided tour of the changing psychic and physical contours of Detroit.
Progress in Paradise, a small installation by Julianne Lindsey and Elton Monroy Duran is one of the most pointed–and poignant –illustrations of the fugitive nature of Detroit’s built environment in You Are Here. On a simple desk furnished with pens and paper (and with a toy wrecking ball on the side) visitors are invited to describe a place in Detroit that exists now only in memory. There are, needless to say, plenty of examples, the Carr Center soon to be among them.
The modestly funded non-profit cultural organization now located in the historic Harmonie Building can no longer afford its increasingly attractive commercial location. They will vacate the premises in April of 2017, possibly moving to a city-owned property in another part of Detroit. The building and the area surrounding it will be redeveloped into the Paradise Valley Cultural and Entertainment District, “a commercially driven entertainment district of retail, restaurants and nightlife reflecting the spirit of Detroit’s once thriving center of African-American economic and cultural life.”
Sophie Eisner’s installation, in a notably beautiful but decrepit staircase, enlists the Harmonie building itself as a component in her meditation on the city’s substance. Idiosyncratic art objects of unknown provenance are thoughtfully placed, and visually incorporate architectural elements of the stair and landing, creating complex cross-currents of past elegance and present squalor.
The city’s architecture isn’t the only element in flux and on view. People too, make up the city, and there are numerous references to the diversity that characterizes Detroit. The African-American population, with its triumphs and discontents, gets its due in works like Prism Works’ YDNA and Fuck the Police by Monique Gamble. Brian Day’s Boys on Mother’s Day strikes a more cheerful and hopeful note.
Parisa Ghaderi ‘s installation The Sheer Presence, with its photographs on voile, creates a ghostly family portrait, at once monumental and intimate. Sunita Gupta, a highly accomplished painter of the domestic environment, employs meticulous pattern painting and well drawn but hazy female figures in a meditative exploration of culture and ethnic identity.
Bits and pieces of the city find their way into artworks and installations describing Detroit as it is now. Anna Kell has carefully painted tromp l’oeil lace patterns onto found mattresses. Fishing For Small Gods, by Jak Vista and Bill Bedell, an installation that takes up much of the third floor of the building, features tree branches, stumps and the occasional cross stuck in dirt, conjuring up a desolate forest floor.
At the Carr Center, we see Detroit right now, a city that will necessarily be different tomorrow and the day after that. Technology, politics, demography and economics will all have their say in ways that can’t yet be quantified. The artworks in You Are Here are a glimpse of this singular moment in the life of Detroit.
Lewisburg White Lace by Anna Kell
Peace Love and Understanding by Archana Aneja
Number All My Bones by K.A. Letts
Suburban Camouflage Detection #1 by Seder Burns
Artists in You Are Here: Celeste Roe, Eric Zurawski, Archana Aneja, Brian Spolans, Geno Harris, Dominique Chastenetnde Gery, Parisa Ghaderi, Sophie Eisner, John Neely, Anna Kell, Katina Bitsicas, Morgan Barrie, Jenna Kempinski, K.A. Letts, Donn Perez, Jennifer Glance, Tamar Boyadjian, Molly Diana, The Sien Collective, Donna Shipman, Dawud Shabazz, E. Ingrid Tietz, Darren Pollard, Renee Rials, Neil Allen Flowers, Michael Ross, Kristin Adamczyk, Monique Gamble, Patrick Ethen, Doug Cannell, Jennifer Brown, Seder Burns, Desiree Duell, Jack Vista, Bill Bedell, Sunita Gupta, Jon DeBoer, Benjamin Forrest, Julianne Lindsey, Elton Monroy Duran, Brian Day, Fatima Sow, Prism Views, Kelsey Shultis, Wall of 100 Makers, Mint Artist Guild
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.
As summer draws to a close and harvest time approaches, Jessica Tenbusch, Elize Jekabson and Maggie Spencer invite us to consider the honeybee.
The exhibit For Forage celebrates, in collaboration with the 4th Annual Ypsilanti Festival of the Honeybee, the many ways in which this indispensable insect contributes to the natural environment and human well-being. Participating artists were invited to “share visions, critique relations between humans and honeybees, share new perspectives.” And share they have, with a variety of intriguing and insightful artworks that are well worth a trip to 22 North Gallery, in Ypsilanti MI, where the exhibit will be on view until September 30.
In the cooperative, hardworking and self-effacing spirit of the honeybee, the anonymous collective Ann Katrine has created a series of small, wall-mounted artworks that combine the production of insect, bacteria, yeast and humans in a creative relationship. The bees provide the honeycomb and the artists riff on the hexagonal shapes with red embroidery thread, sometimes echoing, sometimes augmenting the shapes. The translucent coating visible on the surface of the works is dried kombucha, a microbial cellulose material which is derived from symbiotic colonies of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY). These subtly glowing objects echo the interconnectedness of nature from the microscopic to the insect to the human.
A more playful tone is set by two fashionable and off-beat hats created by Lush Lapel. In Pursuit ofPollen, the honeybee appears as a decorative motif, along with seed pods, feathers and other bits and pieces. The results are fit for a queen bee of any species.
Also seriously fashionable are the brooches, necklaces and rings created by Riva Jewell-Vitale. Her multi-piece wall-mounted installation of jewelry, entitled Colony, demonstrates her considerable talent as a collagist. She creates inventive combinations of unexpected components that somehow result in elegant and mysterious wearable sculptures.
A more reverential note on the honeybee as Nature’s martyr and saint is struck by Ryan Bogan. His insect reliquary, Blessed is the Fruit of Thy Womb, features the tiny body of a honeybee suspended in a glass dome surrounded by precious gold leaf. Lovingly crafted and carefully composed, this piece wouldn’t be out of place in a modern religious setting.
If you are planning a trip to Ypsi to see For Forage, remember that 22 North, like many other arts spaces in the Detroit metro area, is open during limited hours during weekdays and on weekends, or by appointment. To find out more about the gallery’s exhibits and events go here.
Or call: 501.454.6513
Artists in For Forage: Meagan Shein, Brad Naftzger, Heather Leigh, Ann Katrine Collective, Owen Wittekindt, Marshelia Williams, Michael O’Dell Jr., Rive Jewell-Vitale, Jonathan J. Sandberg with Kevin Kwiatkowski, Ryan Bogan, Lush Lapel
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.
Okay…maybe not, but there is definitely something going on in the town we, here in Michigan, affectionately know as “Hipsilanti.”
After years of suffering by comparison to nearby Ann Arbor’s more affluent economy, Ypsilanti shows signs of becoming a magnet for area creatives. Cheap work space and the presence of a particularly vibrant studio arts department at Eastern Michigan University are making the logic of locating an arts practice in Ypsi inescapable for many. Look no further for confirmation of this than the terrific work from Ypsi Alloy Studios, on view now until August 28 at 22 North, a newish art gallery on Huron Street in Ypsi’s downtown.
Echos is the inaugural exhibition for this talented collective of artists and makers, many of them graduates of Eastern Michigan University’s art program. 22 North’s exhibit space is thoughtfully renovated, with the rich patina of vintage plaster walls still visible behind pristine white gallery panels that show off these uniformly excellent and well-conceived artworks. Objects on display range from an industrial strength rocking chair by Rob Todd to ethereal layered weavings by Cathy Jacobs. The exhibit is notable for the variety of approaches and processes demonstrated in the production of artworks.
I particularly liked the aluminum, white gold and thread piece Broken Flag by Aaron Patrick Decker, as well as the felted wool and burl Invasive by Ilana Houten and Stripped/Burned by Lauren Mieczko and Molly Doak. And as ever, I remain a fan of the death-in-nature sensibility of Jessica Tenbusch’s delicate metal, wood and bone pieces.
My hands-down favorite piece, however, was the grave and comic Fascia by Riva Jewell Vitale. This collection of found fragments from the back yard of the artist treats us to a kind of implied storytelling through the curation of objects. Each shard and scrap seems both ancient and recognizably contemporary. The careful arrangement of these bits of detritus hint at the unobserved, untold and unknowable everyday history of things and people.
Fascia is also typical of a trend that I notice in art being made right now. Artists are collecting and curating existing objects and images rather than creating them. It is as if there is already so much rich material in our world that we no longer need to produce fresh content. And judging from the satisfyingly complex and poignant emotional effect of Fascia, maybe that’s true.
Ypsilanti’s downtown is clearly on the upswing. Many of the gallery’s adjacent storefronts have been purchased and are under renovation according to 22 North gallerist Maggie Spencer. A number of new restaurants and retail stores (and an ice cream shop!) have opened recently. There is ample parking and an active First Fridays program, the next one of which is scheduled for September 2.
22 North, like many other arts spaces in the Detroit metro area, is open during limited hours during weekdays and on weekends, or by appointment. Find out more about the gallery’s exhibits and events (it’s also an active music venue) here.
Or call: 501.454.6513
Artists in Echos:Kenzie Lynn, Aaron Patrick Decker, Cathy Jacobs, Riva Jewell-Vitale, Ilana Houten, Jessica Tenbusch, Meagan Shein, Lauren Mleczko, Molly Doak, Alexa Borromeo, Elize Jakabson, Lorraine Kolasa, Rob Todd
Are you an Ypsi artist? What do you think about the art scene there right now? I’d be interested to hear what you think.
When Rocco DePietro and Gloria Pritschett of Gallery Project began planning for the comprehensive dual site art exhibit Re: Formation, now on view through August 31, 2016 in Toledo’s One Erie Center, they felt as if “something had shifted” since last year’s exhibit Wish List in the same location.
“We saw that a tipping point had been reached, and artists were beginning to speak out and push back,” said Pritschett.
By addressing some of the most pressing issues facing the region — environmental degradation, infrastructure failure, the crisis in social and racial justice– regional artists are expressing a new mood of activism that reflects their unease with the status quo. The artists of Re: Formation (over 50 of them) seem eager to address the current troubled state of the nation in the most direct terms.
“Our humanity is being tested” says Rocco DePietro, “Unless we say something, we are all complicit.”
The cavernous space at One Erie Center in Toledo, with its two rose windows, filtered light and massive pillars, resembles a cathedral, lacking only a cruciform floor plan to complete the devotional effect of a sacred space. There are “side chapels” edging the exterior walls of the former department store in the form of display windows. Toledo artist Yusuf Lateef (in collaboration with Kevin Gilmore, Daren Mac and James Dickerson) has even supplied a confessional of sorts with his installation/performance called The Reconditioning. Individuals at the opening on August 5, were invited to sit in one-on-one booths facing young men of color, who made direct eye contact and recited a litany beginning, “I am not your enemy, I am your Brother.” The performance was powerful and left many in tears.
The artworks that benefit most from the enormous space and filtered daylight at One Erie Place are large, strongly graphic artworks, installations, videos and performance. In Toledo artist Dan Hernandez’s Radical Series 1-6, impressively scaled and domineering war machines rumble along the walls. Also large in size and impressive in impact are two soft sculptures of suffering Islamic women by Sheida Soleimani (Cranston, RI), with accompanying archival inkjet prints on the same subject.
Installations such as Detroit’s Julianne Lindsay and Elton Monroy Duran’s Del Ray Project and Flint artist Desiree Duell’s Bodies of Water address a theme which appropriately dominates the consciousness of Great Lakes regional artists: water, its availability, its contamination, its infrastructure. There are too many to artworks addressing this theme to name them all, but I particularly liked 189 Hydrants by John James Anderson of Saline, MI. These are small photographs of broken water hydrants arranged in a grid. It tells the story of crumbling infrastructure with matter-of-fact but devastating eloquence. I was also struck by Detroit Raizup Collective’s video Water Shut-off During Ramadan, which is both an artwork and a sociological case study of citizens and city personnel working at cross-purposes despite the best intentions.
Some of the more intimate art works in Re: Formation seemed to me to be swamped by the larger, kinetic videos and installations. They suffer, as well, from the relatively subdued lighting. These quieter pieces are likely to enjoy a more compatible environment when the show is re-installed in the Ann Arbor Arbor Art Center’s 117 Gallery. For now, installations, videos and large scale works in the Toledo location supply more than enough reasons to make the trip to Re:Formation.
Re: Formation contains multitudes and I am glad I will have the opportunity to write more about some of the works when they are installed in Ann Arbor’s Gallery 117 in September. For more information about hours and dates for Re: Formation in Toledo, go here
Have you seen the exhibit? Did you have a favorite piece? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Despite its prosaic title, Book+Paper Arts packs plenty of charm and interest into a tiny gem of an art exhibit on view from now to July 30 at WSG Gallery in Ann Arbor. The art books and some additional paper-based art works represented are approachable, interactive, playful. Travel and globalization, the book as historical artifact and its position in relation to new media, and the components and ordering of meaning within an artwork are just a few of the themes addressed. The participating artists are clearly in an ongoing creative dialog through “book shaped objects” in various configurations, each type with its conceptual strengths and limitations.
This is the seventh in a biennial gallery exhibit series, Beyond Words, curated by Barbara Brown, noted book artist and lecturer in book arts at the University of Michigan Penny W. Stamps School of Art and Design. She describes her curatorial aims for this particularly varied selection of paper based artworks:
In previous show statements, I have put forth the assertion that the term ‘artist’s book’ often triggers much discussion, even bickering and irresolution amongst book artists, and the point has sometimes been made that at the very instant one uses that term, one must then be ready to define it and to defend the definition! There will probably never be a determination that everyone agrees on, but I like ‘book inspired art’ (or even BSO – book shaped object), and for me, that is a good beginning”.
Travel, through time, through space, is a recurring theme throughout this exhibit. The molded paper mini-installation entitled Memorial to Thylacines and Our Slaughtered Michigan Wolves by Ted Ramsey describes his trip to Tasmania during which he encounters memories of the extinct Tasmanian Tiger, a species of carnivorous marsupial.
Norma Penchansky-Glasser, inspired by a trip to Idaho, has created a varied and beautifully hand-crafted suite of books. A particular favorite of mine was Boise Aquarium, a tunnel book that features tiny silver fish swimming within a paper proscenium. (The tunnel book was new to me, and several artists created these for the exhibit. This form had its origin in the 18th century as an easily portable souvenir for tourists.)
Jack O. Summer’s Mapaloopsa, in which he meticulously re-configures various maps into an invented world atlas, humorously illustrates globalization and mass migration. In one map, Dearborn meets Quebec, which has sidled up against Burma. We are sharing a smaller and smaller planet with new neighbors who make strange bedfellows.
The block book form receives special attention from several artists in this exhibition. These collections of wooden blocks lend themselves to the exploration of multi-sided meaning and the ordering and reordering activity it allows. In Blocks of Time by Ruth Bardenstein, each constituent block side contains ancient alphabets or astronomical images or clock components. Alvey Jones’s Encrypted Alphabet addresses the written word and constructed meaning. One side of each block has a picture inscribed with a written word that bears no obvious relation to the accompanying picture, leaving the viewer to puzzle out the implied relationship.
Books with digital components make an appearance here too, with Barbara Brown and Howard White’s Midsummer, a tunnel book with video. The most conceptually complex artwork in the exhibit, to my mind, is Algorhithms by Ian McLellen Davis and Meghan Leigh Forbes. This is a collection of pamphlet musical exercise books which can be played in any order with an accompanying “music box” of recorded fragments which can be activated by the listener (who then becomes the “player”). Added to all this are some beautifully produced pamphlet books containing bits of Roland Barthes’ intriguing thoughts on music available for the taking (I took one).
I spent quite a bit of time in Book+Paper Arts without ever feeling I had completely grasped all the formal and thematic intricacies of the exhibited works. I only wish that more space within the gallery had been devoted to the exhibit. I realize that in a commercial gallery space is money, but these pieces deserved more room than they got. A few more inches around each piece (or even an additional wall) would have contributed a lot to my enjoyment of this museum-quality small show.
Artists in this show include: Ruth Bardenstein, Barbara Brown, Meghan Forbes, Alvey Jones, Ian McLellan Davis, Norma Penchansky-Glasser, Susan Skarsgard, Jack O. Summers, Ted Ramsay, Howard White.