Susan Aaron Taylor @ NCRC Gallery, Ann Arbor

Strata is Susan Aaron Taylor’s work at the University of Michigan NCRC Connection Gallery

Susan Aaron Taylor’s dynamic, charged sculptures, on view currently at NCRC Connection Gallery at the University of Michigan, confront the viewer like visitors from another world. Beginning with an image drawn from a dream or an astral journey (Taylor is a student of Jungian psychology and shamanic practice) she curates a collection of challenging, specific materials into forms that utterly transcend craft. Taylor’s sculptures are charged with an eerie liveliness- sharp, appraising eyes, extended claws, bared teeth, sensuous, bejeweled fur- and seem to exist in their own open-ended narratives, in which time assumes a dream-like quality, collapsed and overlapping. Susan Aaron Taylor: Strata is a retrospective, encompassing different bodies of work that explore, from different perspectives, a channeling of massive power.

The studio where Taylor nurses her visions into corporeal forms is a bright, warm space, part alchemical laboratory, part cabinet of natural curiosities. Leading me around her studio, Taylor opens drawers, draws back curtains, pulls out boxes, revealing piles of glittering stones, cords of elegantly twisted wood, curls of birchbark, mounds of multicolored felt. Beginning with an armature of found wood, each form is carefully and lovingly built, of bones, shells, quills, beads, crystals, cacti, and a hand-stitched felt “pelt” into an incredibly powerful assemblage that seamlessly evokes a recognizable animal- cats, polar bears, water rats. These creatures feel both archetypal and individual. Each projects a state of emotional extremity that could vary from viewer to viewer- the half-reclined posture and exposed bones of “Guide,” for example, presents a puzzling paradox between title and content- power invested with touching vulnerability.

Susan Ann Taylor, Guide, Cholla Cactus, Shells, Handmade felt, Petrified Wood, Animal Skull, Banded Iron, 12 x 29 x 14″ All Images courtesy of Susan Aaron Taylor

Each clearly has a story to tell. Though they come from a very personal place, Taylor is reluctant to reveal her own associations with her sculptures- she finds it more interesting to learn what they evoke for viewers. It is a tenet of Jungian psychoanalysis that each symbol that appears in a dream has a meaning unique to the dreamer.

The vivid blue dressing that surrounds “Water Rat” could be a ruffled skirt or a watery environment. The rat is depicted with her forelegs raised toward the sky in a gesture that could be read as despair or exaltation. The rat is clearly a mother- her body is studded with erect nipples tipped with shimmering beads. It’s an unusual combination of signs- lowly rodent and fertility goddess.

Susan Ann Taylor, Water Rat, 16 x 11 x 18″, Handmade Felt, Stones, and Stitching

The ladder that “Polar Bear” climbs straddles multiple worlds- it could represent a conduit to the shamanic upper world, or index a cage through which the defiant, porcupine quilled face of the creature snarls, depending upon the angle by which one views it. Either way, the being’s survival is uncertain. It’s elongated legs balance precariously on diminutive masses of ice that threaten to float apart in warming seas.

Susan Ann Taylor, Polar Bear, 19 x 17 x 13″, Wood, Handmade Felt, Geodes, Porcupine Quills, Cabochons, and Beads

“Tiger Teapot” adds yet another intriguing layer of imagery, being both a functioning teapot (it technically contains an inner chamber, lid and spout, though Taylor points out that her teapots “can only really be used for a return to those childhood tea parties where what was being served was imagination and wonder.”) and a sly, enigmatically smiling creature mid-prowl.

Susan Ann Taylor, Tiger Teapot, 12 x 19 x 10″, Handmade Felt, Wood, Geodes, Cabochons, and Porcupine Quills

The tea service format ropes the ritual act, the gathering around vessels invested with fragrant brew, into the dream-symbol narrative Taylor presents in tantalizingly vague, multifaceted flashes of insight. Expertly weaving the half-remembered visuals of dreams with iconic objects that resonate with ritual, Taylor sets the stage for viewers to have their own experience of journey and revelation. With her incredible command of materials and craft and the profound, yet somehow light-hearted feel of her sculptures, she makes for a good guide.

Susan Aaron Taylor: Strata is on view at Connections Gallery, North Campus, University of Michigan, from September 5 through December 12, 2017

 

Cooper Holoweski @ CCS Center Galleries

Copper Holoweski presents Basement Cosmos at the College for Creative Studies Center Galleries

Cooper Holoweski, Cannibal Universe, Video loop with sound, 4min 30sec, 2016

The Detroit-based multimedia artist, Cooper Holoweski has a solo exhibition of work that opened at the CCS Center Galleries September 15, 2017. Curated by the director of the galleries, Michelle Perron, the exhibition is comprised of two large projected video loops that include an audio track and three sculptures that Holoweski made in collaboration with his three-year-old son, Cassius Oak. The exhibition space is painted entirely black to contrast with the two – wall to ceiling – video images, Cannibal Universe, and Food, Clothing, Shelter. These video loops of images contrast, as one seems to focus on the universe’s celestial night sky with a large variety of imagery and the other illustrates a short series of images from materials that are part of our experience in the natural environment.

Holoweski says in his statement, “One thing that tends to bind my work is a quality of “tension” or “contradiction.” In the past, I have used digital 3D modeling to create piles of virtual garbage. The idea being that 3D modeling is typically used for prototyping new objects; so the medium represents the beginning of a life cycle, while the junkyard represents the end. With the work in Basement Cosmos and my piece in Dlectricity I’m taking on some grandiose subject matter (the creation of the universe, the origin of consciousness, the infinite and the unseen), things that many, including myself, hold quite sacred. With some exceptions, I’ve generally used very banal materials and processes to depict these things. For me, this counterbalances the grandiosity of the subject matter, makes the work more inviting (and sometimes humorous even), and creates a bit of that tension by coupling the sacred with the every day.”

Cooper Holoweski, Food, Clothing, Shelter, Video loop with sound, 3min 28sec, 2017

It was just recently upon my visit to the Venice Biennale 2017 that I experienced video artwork that were an integral part of many countries exhibitions. I mention this because the popularity of video as an art medium seems to grow each year and it is within this context that I energetically viewed the Basement Cosmos installation. Tracing its origins to the birth of video art in the 1970s, it has increased in popularity as production technology has become more readily accessible. Today, video installation is ubiquitous and visible in a range of environments—from galleries and museums to an expanded field that includes site-specific work in urban or industrial landscapes. The only requirements are equipment, electricity, and darkness (for projection). It would be a guess, but the video work on display in this exhibition could have been originated in one’s basement and then projected on a large wall that amplifies the scale. Having a traditional art practice myself, all of this has forced me to better understand video artwork as a fine art, and where fits into the universe of visual art. The best I can do is to perceive video pieces much in the same way I see performance art: a fleeting experience, like a ballet or a stage play (that can be re-performed) for an audience, but not purchased to be placed in a domestic living room, but yes, part of a museum collection. One may think of video screens as a new type of canvas with moving images.

Cooper Holoweski, Cannibal Universe Video loop with sound 4min 30sec 2016

If you have a passing acquaintance with video art, you’re probably familiar with The Clock (2010), by Christian Marclay, which is perhaps the most hyped art video during that period. The premise was deceptively simple: it ran for 24 hours and was a mash-up of movie scenes featuring either a clock face or a reference to the time that was synonymous with the actual time. Other video installation artists include Pipilotti Rist, Cory Archangel, Hannah Black, and Ryan Trecartin. Some of these artists have a narrative; others are purely visual in their use of video imagery.

This review comes on the heels of an exhibition at Oakland University Art Gallery, where I mention the role of a university exhibition space, and now at CCS where they can pursue new ideas without a concern for commerce: a much needed function in the Detroit Art Community, and acknowledgement of those curators who take full advantage of this position.

The exhibition Basement Cosmos includes three sculptures: Mobius Strip, Cala-bi-Yau Manifold, and Ouroboros Ghost Worm Eating its Own Butt and represents a form of eternal cyclicality. It is not clear how these works fit into the video displays of work and seem like somewhat of an after thought or perhaps humorous relief. Cooper Holoweski earned a B.F.A from the University of Michigan and an M.F.A from the Rhode Island School of Design. He lives and works in the Detroit area and participated in this year’s Delectrity 2017.

Center for Creative Studies, Center Galleries           Basement Cosmos, runs through October 21

Matthew Hawtin @ David Klein Gallery

Matthew Hawtin, Installation image at the David Klein Gallery, image courtesy of DAR

In his Solo Exhibition, Matthew Hawtin Presents Minimal Abstraction

It seems fitting to mention that abstraction has been with us since the Russian artist Wassily Kandinsky migrated his landscape to a purely abstract form on canvas sometime in late 1910. I always make the comparison to music, since instrumental music is abstract by nature—it does not try to represent the exterior world, but expresses in an immediate way the artist’s inner feelings, from Mozart to John Cage.

The David Klein Gallery opened the Matthew Hawtin exhibit September 9, 2017, with pure minimalist abstract objects executing perfected forms and pristine surface qualities. These shaped canvases rendered in primary/secondary colors, could not be executed more flawlessly. Some are on “torqued canvas,” others on fiberglass panels, all accompanied by a variety of exquisite surfaces. The copiousness of Hawtin’s invention, and his conception seem to allow him to explore each and every multiplicity of these ideas uniquely.

Matthew Hawtin, Stargazer, 45 x 45 x 19, Acrylic on Fiberglass paner 2017

Hawtin says, “Although each series has its own technical demands, they all live in aesthetic parallel that blurs the line between artistic disciplines. There is a determination to continually push the work forward through aesthetic variations, technical refinements and experimenting with new materials. Within this forward trajectory, there is an overall vision to create art that is ‘other-worldly’ and in a sense, futuristic.”

Matthew Hawtin, Cardinal, 42 x 44 X 12, Acrylic on Fiberglass Panel, 2017

The basic context for Hawtin is the color minimalist from the 1970s, including Ellsworth Kelly, Frank Stella, Kenneth Nolan, and Anne Truitt. The secondary would be the shaped canvas artist, revisited recently in an exhibition by Luxembourg & Dayan in New York, with artists like Lynda Benglis, Elizatheth Murray, and Charles Hinman. Hawtin’s work is a hybrid of these two concepts that fights hard against representational artwork and abstract expressionistic painting, with a large degree of success. The new works that fit into corners are particularly interesting and unique. These works, composed of parallelograms, diamonds, trapezoids, rhomboids, and circles, are reductively streamlined, solid in their color and simplified in their forms that, forty years later, remain robust and encompassing in an array of approaches, especially with respect to the surface material.

Matthew Hawtin, Working in the studio, 2017, Courtesy of Artnet

Born in England, and then moved to Windsor, Canada in 1979, Matthew Hawtin earned a bachelor of fine arts degree from York University in Toronto and an master’s in architecture from the University of East London, in London.

 

Bryan Graf’s Photographic images: DEBRIS OF THE DAYS

Bryan Graf, Interstates, Shortcuts, A Factory an Open Field and a Few Homes, 2016 c-Prints mounted with cleats, 40 Unique, 8 x 10″

In the second gallery at the David Klein Gallery, the artist Bryan Graf focuses on Photograms, one of the earliest forms of photography, to create abstract tension between text and image, in a variety of scale.

Photograms are images made without a camera by placing objects directly onto the surface of a light-sensitive material, such as photographic paper, and then exposing it to light. Like drawing or painting, the process is like creating a collage without the need for scissors or glue. Rather, Graf has become highly skilled at controlling the process in the darkroom using color, shape and composition.

Bryan Graf, Chromatic Aqueduct, 40 x 74″ 2016, Unique Photogram and C-Print

Director of the David Klein Gallery, Christine Schefman says, “The photographs in Debris of the Days originate in a garden. It is a cultivation of ongoing works not limited to themselves, but rather a procession of generative images. Graf integrates his own gestural activity into the work by utilizing materials gathered on site as well the use of manipulations in the darkroom. His inquiry into the positive tension between text and image, as well as literary and musical influences, are evident in the arrangement of works for this show. His practice continues to reveal his interest in the history of photography and its relationship to design, painting and narrative fiction.”

Bryan Graf earned a bachelor of fine arts from the Art Institute of Boston and a master of fine arts from Yale University in 2008.

The exhibitions by Matthew Hawtin and Bryan Graf run through October 21, 2017

David Klein Gallery