Tag Archives: Hamtramck

Kathyrose Pizzo: After A Thousand Mornings

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Installation: After A Thousand Mornings by Kathyrose Pizzo

The mother/child relationship over time, through sickness, care and–finally–death, forms the emotional core of Kathyrose Pizzo’s  moving solo exhibit After A Thousand Mornings, now on view through March 25th at Hatch Gallery in Hamtramck. Multiple sclerosis, her mother’s diagnosis, has given the artist a front row seat at this most mysterious and universal human rite of passage, and she has clearly thought long and deeply about the experience of her mother’s decline and her part in it.  She observes in herself the shifting emotional dynamics of care and conflict, love and resentment, grief and recovery, rendering them in physical space through the patient assemblage of sticks and strings.

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Departure (foreground)

The artworks are binary in nature, with wooden constructs that seem to either support or confine cloud-shaped gray pillows.  The softness of the cloth clouds, juxtaposed with the hardness of the provisionally composed structures, shifts in meaning  from piece to piece, the cloud in one artwork seeming to refer to the artist, in another, to her mother. Sometimes the cloud is  imprisoned by the scaffolding and at others it seems to float above and away.  Throughout, the two elements circle and collide, metaphors for a kind of emotional dialog between these intimately connected human beings.

Caught eloquently captures the dilemma of the cared-for and the caregiver, mutually trapped by circumstance. A wire net  that mimics the failing synapses of her mother’s brain confines both the cloud and the wooden support to the ground, metaphorically trapping both mother and daughter beneath the disease.

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Caught

Pizzo is also interested in examining the end of life through the lens of  social rituals in cultures past and present. She particularly acknowledges the influence of Joseph Campbell, a philosopher known for his work in comparative mythology and religion. She says of these rites, “Tributes to the departed are the events that make us human, that define the distance between us and the stars.”

This influence is most directly referenced in Departure. The artist has created a small scale replica of a funeral pyre, upon which a lovingly pillowed figure rests.  Underneath,  a chaotic and disordered pile of kindling  mirrors the artist’s mental state.

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Calypso

Many of the works in After a Thousand Mornings refer to the passage of time and convey a sense of waiting.  Wall pieces such as Calypso and Episode 1: The Ladder are improvised and complex structures created  by the artist using aluminum tape, which is then partially stripped away as the composition emerges. The title work of the show takes on the theme of time’s passage most directly, with 30 tiny wooden scaffolds topped by cotton clouds and arranged in a grid –a kind of  calendar–quietly  and elegantly filling one wall of the gallery.

The incremental passage of time that forms the rhythm of life and death is the ultimate theme of After A Thousand Mornings. The artworks are a physical manifestation of this process, small moments turning into large ones, one moment adding to another, making up a life and bringing us inevitably to its end. Kathyrose  Pizzo has found meaning here:  “Personally witnessing both how disease can bring forth  greater understanding of the human condition and the unavoidable destiny of all life is central to my work.”

For more information about Hatch Gallery and After a Thousand Mornings, go here.

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After A Thousand Mornings

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Printers without Presses

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What’s a Print by Matthew Milia

In this dreary  and discontented winter season, Public Pool in Hamtramck aims to treat our tired eyes to Printers Without Presses, an exhibit of informal and mostly one-of-a kind printed artworks that “by hook or crook explore ingenious methods of printmaking.” This loosely organized collection of Public Pool regulars  (and their friends) showcases artists who are fully literate as conventional printmakers but who, for the purposes of this show, have discarded the more technical aspects of the printmaking process to create work that is  personal and playful.  Several of the artists are gifted  writers as well as visual artists, so text  and narrative content play an important role, resulting in  a roomful of fresh, unassuming and conversational artworks.

Chicago/Milwaukee artist and accomplished printmaker Tyanna Buie seems not limited but liberated by the simplicity of her means.  She employs hand applied ink, hand-cut stencils, collage and photo-based digital images to create Object and Ritual an ambitiously scaled, three-dimensional sculptural print that dominates the center of the gallery.

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We Didn’t Start The Fire by Dessislava Terzieva

The seamless connection that the artists display between their online worlds and the lo-tech, hands-on life in the studio is striking.   Matthew Milia describes  “What’s a Print”, his hand-stenciled rendition of a cell-phone text complete with reception bars and battery status,  as an attempt to playfully “subvert the instantaneous, sometimes mindless facility modern technology has afforded correspondence.” Dessislava Terzieva freely admits her piece “We didn’t Start The Fire” is the result of an internet search.

Three of the artists share an interest in the urban natural world of Hamtramck and have clearly influenced each other.  In  Baby’s Breath and Obsolescence, Keaton Fox compares and contrasts the marks created by inked baby’s breath with the trail of a computer mouse as it is dragged along the surface of the paper. Teresa Peterson and Anne Harrington Hughes have each put together a collection of leaves which they have subsequently used to create print series that are visually related but thematically distinct.

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Situations with Mushrooms by Teresa Petersen

Jeffrey Evergreen and Bayard Kurth III rely on text to convey their colloquial content. Evergreen’s small printed brown bags fit seamlessly into the world of Hamtramck’s bars and he has humorously directed gallery visitors to take one but only “wrapped around a beer.”   In addition to  prints in the exhibit, Kurth has produced a zine “Improve Your Fishing” which establishes that he is a writer and thinker as well as a doodle-ist. Though not formally included in the show,  another zine Stupor/Soft Gun, part of an ongoing series by  Knight Fellow Steve Hughes and with illustrations by Alexander Buzzalini  (who is in the show), merits attention and you can buy it for the low, low price of $2.   pp-buzzalini-aje

More purely visual, as opposed to text-based,  pieces are provided by Jide Aje and Tim Hailey.  Although they trend toward painting with a more distant nod to printmaking, they  still fit within the rather loose parameters of the show and provide some nice shots of color.

Alexander  Buzzalini contributes a Giacometti-esque branding iron that somehow also recalls his characteristic gloppy painting style. This is accompanied by several branded discs that might be coasters, and the whole thing ties in  with his ongoing interest in imagery of the mythic old West. For more about Alexander Buzzalini you can go here to read an essay written (not too co-incidentally) by Steve Hughes, his collaborator on Stupor/Soft Gun. 

Like many of the non-profit art spaces in Hamtramck, Public Pool has limited hours, but it’s well worth your time and effort to see this work, on view until February 25. Artists in Printers Without Presses are: Jeff Evergreen, Jide Aje, Bayard Kurth III, Teresa Petersen, Alex Buzzalini, Mathew Milia, Tyanna Buie, Keaton Fox, Anne Hughes, Tim Hailey and Dessislava Terzieva. The gallery is open on Saturdays from 1 to 6.  For more information on Public Pool, go here.

Re-imagining the Art Gallery

 

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Steel Skin 2016 by George Rahme

 

Usually when I walk into a contemporary art gallery, I expect to see a clean white space with curatorially approved artworks tastefully displayed and carefully lit.  So I found my visit to The Other Limits at Popps Packing last week a disorienting experience at first.  The exhibit illustrates how the gallery model in Detroit is evolving to allow a more experimental approach to showing, thinking and talking about art. Popps Packing is a rough and intimate space, open at irregular hours. The lighting is ad hoc. Two big, friendly black dogs lounging on their beds in the gallery add  a feeling of domesticity. The  grand piano and what, at first, seem to be random objects strewn about, suggest a party about to begin or just concluded.  On the day I visited, the back room of the gallery was occupied by several artists-in-residence from Germany, working furiously at their own projects. I could see I was in for a different kind of experience from what I had been conditioned to expect.

The gallery’s exhibit space is currently given over to the work of long-time friends and artists George Rahme and Chris McGraw. This is the latest in several exhibitions they have mounted together in the ten years since they graduated from Detroit’s College of Creative Studies. The two  feel very close in their life circumstances and in their art.  The pieces are conceived individually, but installed so as to resonate visually and thematically with each other. The result isn’t exactly collaboration but rather symbiosis.

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Installation by George Rahme and Chris McGraw

Georg Rahme  was on hand to talk to us, which made our visit feel more like a studio consult and less like a gallery exhibition. He described how his earlier work, a tumultuous phantasmagoria of painted figures collected from both pop and fine art sources, has given way to work that features a single central image. It appears at first to be an explosion, but is in reality a photographic image of sparking from a factory floor with the surrounding visuals carefully cut away. In this way he honors the past labor of Hamtramck’s factory workers with whom he shares a common Lebanese heritage. Rahme, like many Detroit artists, has a reverence for work, both in the productive  labor of manufacturing/making and in his own creative process.  This is evident in his choice of rich backing materials and in his appetite for intricate detail.  He uses velvets,  jacquard tapestry or reflective luxury fabrics as grounds for his pieces, these made especially meaningful by their provenance as gifts from individuals in the Hamtramck community.  In spite of the explosive imagery, these pieces are devotional and meditative.

Chris MacGraw seems to feel markedly less commitment to the physical act of making art; he contents himself with  gathering and curating found objects. He depends upon their innate poignancy and nostalgia status to engender meaning and emotion in the mind of the viewer. Two of his more successful efforts are provisionally assembled, slightly comic stand-ins for human figures, one of which could be a kind of homeless Mary Poppins, and the other a ghostly column of cloth and styrofoam. But an artist who depends for his inspiration on the collection and curation of found objects to create successful art needs a very high level of judgement and a keen understanding of the intrinsic emotional content of any given object, something McGraw achieves only in fits and starts. 

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objects curated by Chris McGraw

A visit to Popp’s Packing is a reminder that in life and in art the only constant is change.  What we know as the classic contemporary art gallery,  part temple of culture,  part gift shop,  is only the most recent iteration of a type of cultural institution that stretches back to the late 17th century when the Paris Salon became the first central commercial gathering place for art and the public. There are some very successful examples of the more traditional art gallery in Detroit now (Wasserman Projects, Gallery Camille, Simone DeSousa being only three of many), but the Popps Packing model of exhibition seems to be a thoughtful response to conditions on the ground in Detroit and a useful addition. Maybe what we need most right now is a forum for charting the way forward as a creative community and an opportunity for artists to think out loud in dialog with the art-going public about the direction and content of their work.

For more about Popps Packing go here:

Hatch Art buys Hamtramck Disneyland

The non-profit artists’ collective and gallery Hatch Art  has purchased  Dmytro Szylak’s Hamtramck Disneyland, an extensive outdoor installation of handmade folk art along with the  two homes located on the property. Szylak, a Ukrainian immigrant and former GM autoworker,  created the work beginning in 1992. It was completed in 1999. He died in 2015 at 92, leaving uncertain prospects for the property and its art.

For a time inheritance disputes left the future uncertain, but recently the homes – and the art – were put on the market with the expressed preference of the seller (although not the requirement) that the work remain intact. To the relief of many, Hatch Art has stepped in to purchase and preserve Hamtramck Disneyland.

Hamtramck Mayor Karen Majewski calls Hamtramck Disneyland “a work of a premiere Hamtamck artist,” a “tourist destination worldwide,” a “neighborhood institution” and an expression of the immigrant and working-class experience in Hamtramck. “There is no alternative but preservation,” she adds.

Scott Collins, president of Hatch Arts’ board of directors, said his group purchased the property after obtaining a private loan. He said they plan to open the houses to tenants this summer, and start restoring and sprucing up the backyard artwork.
One goal is restoring the electric lights around the installation that haven’t worked for years. “We are going to make a lot of extra efforts to preserve the art,” Collins said. “It’s been a landmark in the city for a long time. It’s a great example of Hamtramck history, immigrant history and the independent arts scene.”

To get a tour of this unique site-based installation you can go here