Tag Archives: sculpture

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

New Fibers 2016

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Look Out by David Brackett, New Fiber 2016 First Place Prizewinner

In light of current events, art can seem powerless, superfluous, beside the point.

Gun violence, terrorism and war, racism, misogyny and income inequality are very much in the news and on the public mind. And the result of a political election that highlights the division within the country seems to render an artist’s quiet work irrelevant. Yet, in the absence of an alternative,  artists keep working.

Today’s dark mood is reflected in many of the 39 works selected by artist Jennifer Angus for New Fibers 2016, on view in the University Gallery at Eastern Michigan University until December 7. Angus, known for her Victorian wallpaper-inspired installations of wall-mounted insects, is drawn to work that explores the intersection between fiber arts, technology and nature while maintaining a somber atmosphere throughout. In her juror’s statement she states, “My search was for pieces that I felt had heart, raw emotion, an unapologetic political stance, or were life affirming  There is a great range of work in the exhibition with some very contemporary and original ideas.”

Eric Hazeltine’s monochromatic, minimal squares of charcoal, paper and string (Compositions I, II, III), Xia Gao’s luminous dark arch To Own Buddha-Xuan and Liz Robb’s Icelandic wool and horsehair weaving Icelandic Hestur are only a few of many minimal or post-minimal pieces that set the solemn tone.

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Icelandic Hestur by Liz Robb

However, in spite of the generally somber mood of the work in New Fiber 2016, fresh ideas and unusual uses of material abound.  Teresa Paschke’s Train Station with Kites features a digital photographic print on fabric with applied  embroidery and stenciled clouds, her dreamlike vision describing the border  between  the mundane and the visionary. Also lively and original is a video entitled  I AM MY OWN MASCOT (residue) by J. Casey Doyle. In it, a figure shrouded in yellow ribbons dances silently, performing  a  series of slow-motion gestures that seem to combine a cheerleading routine with yoga poses.

References to natural structures provide inspiration for many of the works in New Fibers 2016. Mount by Micaela Vivero recalls the work of industrious ants. Susan Aaron-Taylor’s cute-but-creepy felted creatures both repel and attract.  Lichen Party Frock by George-Ann Bowers  looks like a wasp’s nest re-imagined as fashion statement, and the very stuff of nature is incorporated into the site-specific grass works braided and woven into swirls and lines by Lucy Ruth Wright Rivers.

Anxiety is also a recurring theme of much of the work in this exhibit.  Michael Rohde’s Asora depicts a menacing hooded figure and  At the End by LM Wood suggests  ghostly limbs confined beneath a hazy screen as they reach for an untouchable thread. Heather Beardsley’s embroidered maps contain packed allegorical figures in a kind of comic horror vacui of unknown dangers and ominous cultural icons.

As might be expected in an exhibition that emphasizes the slow process of craft-based repetition and accrual to make a larger visual statement, New Fibers 2016 reminds us that art is a series of intentional processes that amount to a meaningful whole. And while this whole may seem weak and small right now in the face of current social and political disruptions, it is, nonetheless, important over time. The writer Katherine Ann Porter says it well:

The arts live continuously, and they live literally by faith; their names and their shapes and their uses and their basic meanings survive unchanged in all that matters through times of interruption, diminishment, neglect; they outlive governments and creeds and the societies, even the very civilization that produced them. They cannot be destroyed altogether because they represent the substance of faith and the only reality. They are what we find again when the ruins are cleared away. 

The artists who create the works in this exhibition remind us that life and current events may be fleeting but art endures.      

 

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Train Station with Kites by Teresa Paschke

 

New Fiber 2016  is the seventh biennial exhibit of fiber arts sponsored by the Fiber Arts Network of Michigan, an organization founded on belief in the handmade, one-of-a-kind fiber object and dedicated to promoting its value in contemporary life and art. For more information about FAN, go here.

Artists included in this exhibit: Susan Aaron-Taylor, Heather Beardsley, George-Ann Bowers, David Brackett, Adrienne Callander, Chanjuan Chen, J. Casey Doyle, Holly Fischer, Xia Gao, Eric Hazeltine, Nancy Koenigsberg, Lily Lee, Skye Livingston, Cynthia Martinez, Teresa Paschke, Leslie Pontz, Liz Robb, Michael Rohde, Amanda Ross, Adrienne Sloane, Lauren Sobchak, Peeta Tinay, Betty Vera, Micaela Vivero , Jenny Walker, LM Wood, Lucy Ruth Wright Rivers.

For more information about University Gallery of Eastern Michigan University go here.

Big Sculpture

 

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Kiwi by Robert Onnes

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.

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Melancholy Hammer by Adnan Charara

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.

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Hell in a Handbasket by Sandra Osip

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.

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.

 

 

 

For Forage: 4th Annual Festival of the Honeybee Art Exhibition

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Apis Mellifera x Homo Sapiens: Symbiotic Colony

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.

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Colony (detail) by Riva Jewell-Vitale

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.

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Pursuit of Pollen by Lush Lapel

A more playful tone is set by  two fashionable and off-beat hats created by Lush Lapel. In Pursuit of Pollen, 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. bee-ryan-bogan

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

 

 

Echos in Ypsi

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Fascia by Riva Jewell-Vitale

Ypsilanti is the next Brooklyn!

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.

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Portal by Cathy Jacobs

 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.

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Rocking Chair by Robb Todd

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.

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Broken Flag by Aaron Patrick Decker

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.

 

 

 

Re: Formation Part 1

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Radical Series 1-6 by Dan Hernandez

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.

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American Creed by Dana DePew

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.

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Sakineh, Shirin by Sheida Soleimani

 

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.

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Detroit Gallery Crawl #1

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There’s been some discussion online lately about the state of the art scene in Detroit. Is it healthy?  Has it reached “critical mass”? Where are the collectors? I don’t know how other artists and art lovers define a successful art ecosystem, but to me it revolves around whether you can walk from gallery to gallery for a full day and see art.  I decided to test this theory by doing a Detroit gallery crawl. And yes, it is possible to walk from one gallery to another in the city’s midtown, downtown and Eastern Market neighborhoods and see lots of art in a day.  Although you’d better wear some comfortable shoes, since this crawl was about 6 miles long.

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My crawl companion and I started in the midtown area with Gallery Camille’s Intersection where two of Detroit’s curatorial heavy hitters are showing their artworks. Jeff Bourgeau, artist and art world provocateur, is the power behind the Museum of New Art, artCORE and the Detroit Center for Contemporary Photography. Matt Eaton is the director/curator of Red Bull House of Art and a founding partner  of Library Street Collective. Bourgeau claims to have “digitally eaten the brains and guts of the first hundred years of abstraction” and it shows here in these smoothly rendered digital prints on canvas whose ovoid forms  recall  Jules Olitsky. Eaton’s paintings, while equally appealing, seem to be arrived at more  provisionally through painting techniques commonly associated with street art. Paint is thickly applied to the surface, sprayed, dripped and poured. This is a satisfying show of two talented artists working at a high level, and (even better) the  artworks are amazingly affordable.

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From Camille we put our heads into nearby Simone DeSousa’s opening of EDITION, a companion to her  more traditional space next door.  There is plenty to like in this new approach, which offers reasonably priced limited editions of works on paper, ceramics,  art books and housewares. I particularly liked a series  of (very) limited edition silk screen prints by Wes Taylor of the experimental Detroit design studio Talking Dolls.

The area near Simone DeSousa also features a number of upscale retail stores specializing in designer objects. In  Hugh I stumbled upon a line of cocktail mixers cooked up by Steven and Dorota Coy of Hygienic Dress League in cooperation with Joe McClure of McClure’s Pickles in Hamtramck.   Right next door is Nora, which carries hand made gold jewelry and a whole lot of other cool stuff. Then we headed for Eastern Market

One of the great pleasures of walking from gallery to gallery in Detroit is that lots of great wall painting is right out there on the street.  Eastern Market is awash with murals, many created during last year’s event Murals in the Market.  The second iteration of this  highly successful project is due this September and  will add another 50 works. The show at  Inner State Gallery , Inertia, features three artists from last year’s event.  Jarus, a street artist from Toronto, seems the most comfortable in a traditional gallery which plays to his considerable skills as a draftsman. His fellow Canadian Kwest has a misfire with his aimless and desultory  bas relief panels. David “Persue” Ross of New York  performs in his signature style with smaller scale works. From this aptly named  show it appears that a traditional  gallery isn’t necessarily the best setting for artists used to working outdoors  on a large scale where the grittiness of the streetscape adds energy and verve. All of these artists have better work in the neighborhood outdoors.

We were disappointed that  Wasserman Projects was closed for installation, but you can read a review of their previous show  here. Red Bull House of Art was also closed for installation, so we proceeded to downtown and the next galleries on our crawl list.

On our way we ran into a little street theater and audience development project being conducted  by John Dunivant, creator of Theater Bizarre, a  party/performance piece held yearly in the Masonic Temple around Halloween.  The way he described it, Theater Bizarre sounds exotic, entertaining, unwholesome and irresistable.  He also said cheerfully “It’s the worst business model ever,” due to the labor intensive, immersive nature of the event.

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Our crawl continued to The Belt, “a culturally redefined alley in the heart of downtown Detroit.”  The Belt is full of street art  as practiced by some of its most  famous and accomplished practitioners and curated by the nearby Library Street Collective. I particularly liked Scratching the Surface by VHILS (Portuguese artist Alexandre Farto) and Facet by Tiff Massey, a Detroit sculptor. The Library Street Collective (which, by the way, is not a collective) currently features  banal, overpriced and dispiriting paintings by 70’s graffiti artist Futura (formerly Futura 2000).crawl 15

We perked up, though, when we entered nearby David Klein Gallery, a Detroit outpost of the space by the same name in suburban Birmingham MI. We were greeted at the door by  Revelator to the Diasporic Subterranean Homesick, a terrific plaster, burlap and plywood sculpture by Ebitenyefa Baralaye.  Also impressive were some scrimshawed panels by David Sengbusch and colorful small collages by Liz Cohen.  We were delighted to find two small pictures by noted African American artist Beverly Buchanan in the back room and happy to hear that more of her work will be shown in the fall at the gallery.

We completed our loop tour by walking back to the midtown area, stopping to rest our feet and get a bite at Cass Café, a restaurant and neighborhood gathering place that doubles as a gallery.  Here we saw Writings on the Wall, a one-person show by Vagner M. Whitehead featuring multi-part panels on which the artist has collaged and painted the imagery of verbal communication: hand signals, braille, letters and the like.

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Our last stop (finally!) was at the George N’Namdi Center for Contemporary Art, where the launch party for Essay’d was well underway.  Essay’d, the brainchild of gallerist Steve Panton of 9338 Campau in Hamtramck, is a series of long form essays about artists of note in Detroit. The first collection in this annual series will be coming out in book form in August from Wayne State University Press and can be pre-ordered here.  The diverse exhibit  currently at N’Namdi features works by recently reviewed Essay’d artists and defies easy description, but I did particularly  like  Alexander Buzzalini’s rude cowboys and  and Carl Demulenaere’s unearthly pre-Raphaelite inspired icons.

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So we’ve come to the end of our little walking tour, and it seems to me that the answer to the question of whether the Detroit art scene is healthy and whether it has reached critical mass  is a big “yes“.  We saw a full day’s worth of great artworks both on and off the street. And in the galleries we visited there is lots of beautiful and  accomplished art priced between $300-$2000 that is just waiting to be snatched up by savvy collectors. It’s only a matter of time before the rest of the art buying public discovers Detroit, so local collectors  should be out there  buying now before we are priced out of the market.  Writer Patrick Dunn has written an excellent piece about the Detroit art scene recently, and you can read it here.

Want to take our gallery walking tour? 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:

NOWOH Call for Art

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The Northwest Ohio (NowOH) Community Art Exhibition is looking for Ohio artists to participate in its annual comprehensive survey of regional artwork to be held July 15 – July 30, at the Fine Arts Center Galleries of Bowling Green State  University, Bowling Green OH 43403.  NowOH  supports regional artists by providing a yearly opportunity to display work in a professional gallery setting. Ohio artists living in the following Ohio counties are eligible to participate: Defiance, Erie, Fulton, Hancock, Henry, Lucas, Ottawa, Paulding, Sandusky, Seneca, Williams and Wood. The exhibition is open to work in a variety of media  with awards presented in several categories.

The juror for this year’s NowOH exhibit is Detroit-based writer, activist, photographer and multimedia artist Sarah Rose Sharp. Sharp writes about art and culture for Art in AmericaHyperallergicFlashArtKnight Arts, and others. In 2015, she was named a  Kresge Literary Arts Fellow for Arts Criticism and was a 2016 participant in the Art Writer’s Grant Mentorship Program.

All work submitted that meets the requirements in the Prospectus  will be included in the show.

There is a small entry fee of $15  for artists 16-18, $30 for artists 19 and up.

Deadline for entry is July 1

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Installation detail,  NowOH 2015

 

 

Ypsi Alloy Studio Collective

“Ypsi is the Brooklyn to Ann Arbor’s Manhattan”… or so I’ve heard. What’s meant by that, I suppose, is that despite Ann Arbor’s reputation as a cultural mecca, the increase  in real estate prices and taxes over the last few decades has driven artists and creatives of all kinds to relocate from Ann Arbor to cheaper digs in neighboring Ypsilanti. A vibrant underground arts scene has emerged there recently and I got  a chance to at least start exploring it by visiting Ypsi Alloy Studio Collective during First Friday’s monthly crawl of studios and galleries.

Ypsi Alloy Studio Collective  is a new kind of art animal, part open studio, part maker space. It’s  located in a big warehouse- type building in an industrial park on the outskirts of town.  The  artists share space, tools, utility costs  and inspiration.  I was immediately struck by the collegial atmosphere.

All the artists, most of whom are graduates of Eastern Michigan University, (5 of 12 were in attendance) are very focused on the making of objects that occupy the intersection of craft and fine art. The zeitgeist of southeastern Michigan is still very much  one of the manufacturing of things and these graduates of  Eastern Michigan University’s Art Department seem to reflect that.

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Jaw by Jessica Tenbusch

I knew only one of the artists going in: Jessica Tenbusch, a metalsmith and sculptor with whom I had shown work at the Walter E. Terhune Gallery in Perrysburg, Ohio, earlier this year.  Jessica was awarded a  prize for her sculpture, no doubt  the first of many honors to come. In her art practice, Tenbusch combines silver metalwork and  found natural objects such as bones, antlers, animals preserved in resin and the like. You can see more of her art here. Her work is mostly small scale, reflecting the size of the natural objects she incorporates into her sculptures.  Her objects and silver jewelry evoke her interest in the interplay between life and death in the natural world.

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Window in Aqua by Cathy Jacobs

I had an interesting conversation with Cathy Jacobs about her journey from painter to fiber artist; One particularly thoughtful piece was Window in Aqua, a series of handwoven translucent scrims suspended from a wooden framework.  The artwork is meant to be both seen and seen through.

I was also impressed by the furniture  of Lauren Mleczko and Molly Doak of Lomo Collective. They make furniture from an inventive array of re-purposed chair parts, laminated plywood and found woods, sometimes going so far as to hand weave and dye the fabrics they employ in their upholstery.

Plenty of art remains still to be seen in Ypsilanti (I barely scratched the surface), but I will have to wait until the next First Friday in July.  And I’m looking forward to seeing the work of the other 9 artists at Ypsi Alloy Studio Collective soon.

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Handmade bench with hand woven upholstery fabric by Lomo Collective

First Fridays Ypsilanti is a self-guided art walk that happens on the First Friday of each month.  All venues provide free art events including displayed art, live music, art workshops, puppet shows and more.  For more information go to FirstFridaysYpsi