Fall Exhibitions 2018 @ Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center

The Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center kicked off its 2018 fall season with contrasting exhibitions by Dick Goody and Anne Gilman. 

Dick Goody exhibition at the BBAC main gallery, Install image. 2018

At the Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center, in the Kantgais / DeSalle Gallery, Dick Goody, Professor of Art and Chair of Oakland University’s Department of Art and Art History, serves up expressionistic painting that continues along on his path of depicting a universe of figures, landscape and still life that feel at times autobiographical. The oil on canvas works are flat, nuanced, ambiguous and reflect a somewhat consistent color palate, especially his repeated use of his selected color of red.  What has left his subject matter from previous work is the direct use of words and writing passages, that in the past work would often dominate the composition.  In this exhibition, The Garden City, Goody’s painting seems like a cross between early figurative work by the English artist David Hockney, and the black outlines used by the German expressionistic painter Max Beckmann as in his work Quappi in Grey, 1948.  These Goody paintings are not copied from any reality, but rather are a style of painting where the artist seeks to express an emotional experience reflecting his environment: cutting the grass, reading a book, playing the piano, observing an object or having a meal.

Dick Goody, Haberman Cutting the Grass, Oil on Canvas, 54 x 36″, 2017

In the painting, Haberman Cutting the Grass,  we see Goody’s persona, Haberman, cutting a small patch of grass,  maybe in an English village, or an older Detroit 1920’s neighborhood, perhaps fueled by nostalgia from growing up in England. There is a real economy of form and color that accompany this figure-centered composition. With the character’s mouth open, we wonder what he is saying. Not that it matters.

Dick Goody, Zeilwand Lieb, Oil on Canvas, 82 x 65″, 2018

Clearly, these images are figments of an imagination that is autobiographical and asks the question: Can you ever really get beyond yourself? In the work, Zeilwand Lieb, the character is sitting at the piano in a theatrical form of “white face” while spring trees shed their pedaled flowers, Goody’s figurative persona ponders a musical manuscript. He selects his objects carefully and adds a touch of serialism to this expressionistic picture.  Inside or outside… or both?

I sat down with the artist and asked a few questions.

Ron ScottHow would describe your interest in painting from an earlier age onward?

Dick Goody – When I was a kid – I loved old sailing ships – like the ones Admiral Lord Nelson commanded at the Battle of Trafalgar. I spent hours and hours drawing rigging and sea battles. Out of the blue, when I was eight, I did a painting of popsicles: primary colors outlined in black – really, if you think about it, not a lot has changed – and the teacher put it on the wall. I remember it because things like that never happened.

At the art school interview, they said: “Tell us about your vision?” I had difficulty being serious about being serious. So I stared into space and said I wanted to do horses and astronauts. At the end, they said: “Ah, so you’re a history painter. “My first painting was of Clint Eastwood against this brutalist architectural background. My tutors hated it. They said: “Chill out and loosen up.” After three years of this I ended up doing simplified paintings of aeroplanes, but the moment I graduated I started doing scenario paintings again, pictures of food or people. I did a huge painting of a hunk of Stilton followed by a small roll of toilet paper picture – bought, incidentally, by an art historian, of all people.

Ron Scott – What kind of personal experiences best inform your work?

Dick Goody – All sorts of things. I mean it’s my life. Someone asked me why there’s an ironing board in one of the paintings. I live in a 1920s Tudor in Detroit and I saw this photo of David Bowie in his first house, Haddon Hall, which was a large Tudor revival in Kent, and there’s an ironing board in the living room and it made me remember how people in the UK do their ironing wherever there’s a TV. There’s a piano in several paintings and there wouldn’t be if I didn’t have one. There’s another painting of two people having dinner called Too Many New York Dinners and it’s about the whole adventure of dining out there, which after a while becomes no adventure at all, just something that’s going to eat up three exhausting hours.

Ron Scott – A few years back when we had lunch, you mentioned to me that you thought painting was “dead”? Am I right about that and has that idea undergone a change?

Dick Goody – If it was before 2006, I may have said that, but I can’t remember. It’s a stupid thing to say. Painting is immortal, isn’t it? But sometimes we go through periods when it seems to be on life support. Right now, it’s full of life. So yes, it’s changed, but it’s always changing. There’s a lot of diversity in painting right now in every sense.

Ron Scott – Do you see any relationship between your curatorial work and your painting?

Dick Goody – Don’t do both on the same day. I wouldn’t want to defuse a bomb when picking up my brushes either. In the studio, I shut everything else out. There has to be a firewall between the two things. Curating is about the macro; it’s all-encompassing. It follows protocols. There are all sorts of systems in place and multiple external reasons for one’s decisions. Painting is like getting in a car in your painting clothes without a clear idea of where you’re going – let’s just say that when I’m painting I’m not thinking about the skill and discernment it takes to organize exhibitions – I only care about the paint and the action in front of me. Truly, in the studio, on any given day, I have no idea where I’m going to end up.

Ron Scott – Could you explain more about the environments that you create in this universe of yours. ? 

Dick Goody – There are not that many things: reading, playing the piano, a long evening meal, work, my house, the garden, traveling. It’s a very narrow universe, but it has to be. But the universe of one’s paintings is an immense region and full of digression, hidden pathways and side trips – and adventures, infatuations, and fixations.

Dick Goody, What are you taking about?, Oil on Canvas, 36 x 48″, 2018

As the artist explores his Garden City with its landscapes, personas, domestic norms, and objects of interest, he has created this imaginary world.  The work, now void of literary statements, books, and characters from his dystopian novella, Goody has turned introspective, and I contend, nostalgic. Strong compositions, are supported with vivid color palette and black line.  In the work What are you talking about?, Goody has his painting, Haberman Cutting the Grass,  inside the composition and a target on his back, where he becomes the center of the universe, asking the female character, what are you talking about? They’re talking about art.

Dick Goody earned a Master of Fine Arts degree from the Slade School of Fine Art in London. He also holds a Post Graduate Certificate in Art and Design Education from Middlesex University. Goody’s own paintings have been featured in nine solo shows and over forty group exhibitions in London, New York and Detroit.

 

Anne Gilman – Up Close / in the Distance / Now,  Conceptual Works on Paper

Anne Gilman, BBAC Robison Gallery, install image, 2018

As part of the opening season at the Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center, the Robinson Gallery hosts the work of Anne Gilman, a native of Brooklyn, NY whose work is made up of drawing and writing on large sheets of paper where she displays her thoughts and feelings combined with color patches that in some cases reflect a mood or psychological state of being.  These works could be described as maps that delve into personal explorations of the artist combined with events in the outside world.

Anne Gilman, Boiling Point, Ink, pencil, on Mulberry paper, 2018

What this viewer experiences in the piece Boiling point,is a combination of literary expression, a confluence of material, and a concern for composition and color. The work on paper is often monochromatic in that there is a preference for a red theme, or blue theme that combines horizontal line work with cursive writing, intentionally not legible.

Gilman says, “I often work on paper that is larger than my body so I can sit on top of it and become immersed in its space. I rule out lines for extemporaneous writing and create confined spaces that contain layers of color, texture and tape. I use my own response to personal, political, and social concerns as the starting point for creating a mapping of information, thought, and emotion. Keywords and phrases reference ideas that emerge as I work while large expanses of texture reference an inscrutable landscape or atmosphere that I create as a safe or calm space.”

Anne Gilman, You might wait forever, Pencil, graphite, ink, BIC pen, tape on paper, 2018

 

Often her work is triggered by an event, be it political, social or personal, where she makes her selection of color and writing, where the mapping of information is secondary to the layout of space, color and composition. I refer to the work as conceptual in the open, meaning work where the concept or idea behind the work is more important that the finished art object, but this work could be easily described as drawing / installation.  Her concerns as an artist address her concerns as a person that seems to be launched based on a psychological state of being.   What is added to this exhibition alongside each work is a passage where the artist articulates background information that takes on an educational component designed to inform the work.  Here is an example of what accompanies this work of art, You Might Wait Forever.

“This drawing was made after a protracted illness, so much of the text is a referencing to a reorganizing of priorities.”

An excerpt from Gilman’s extemporaneous writing:  “Thinking about the degree of calm or letting go I had when I was sick, the paradox of finding some strange peace or knowledge that there was no fighting the state I was in.  I was able to finally enter a non-doing state, a place where I gave into each moment and had complete clarity of what my limitations were.  When you are that sick, there’s no more pushing and thinking of all the “shoulds.”  When you are that sick, each moment has a particular kind of clarity about what is needed or not needed. Maintaining that clarity as you get well, that is the hard part.”

Anne Gilman, The Place of possibility, Pencil, paint, tape on paper, 2016

More abstract than others, Gilman”s The place of possibility, conveys as a reminder that you never know the end of a story. More open space, perforated line, less color,  and various text that addresses the steps taken to achieve clarity, perhaps at the center of the piece.

Anne Gilman earned her BFA/Painting, State University of New York at New Paltz and MFA/Drawing and Painting from Brooklyn College, NYC.  She teaches in the graduate and undergraduate programs at Pratt Institute, NYC.

Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center current exhibitions run through October 11, 2018.

Obsession @ Met Breuer, NYC

Nudes by Klimt, Schiele, and Picasso from the Scofield Thayer Collection

The exhibition Obsession at the Met Breuer Museum in New York City is both a revelatory exploration of early 20th Century modernism and a fascinating study of frank portrayals of female nudity by Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, and Pablo Picasso.  The Met Breuer is housed in a landmark building on Madison Avenue and East 75th street that was once the home of the Whitney Museum of American Art from 1966 to 2015, and is now leased for ten years by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in an attempt to provide needed space for contemporary exhibitions. The building was designed by Hungarian-born Marcel Breuer (1902 -1981), a former student and teacher at the Bauhaus who first specialized in furniture design and then went on to devote himself to architecture and immerse himself in the new developing technology of concrete and plate glass.

Gustav Klimt, Serpents II, (Women Friends), Oil on Canvas, 32 x 57”, 1906

These paintings, as in Water Serpents II, were considered unconventional for the times, depicting nude women together in attitudes of pleasure.  Many of Klimt’s paintings included small symbols, lines and objects and often used a metallic oil paint that sets the space around the figure in abstract fields of color and design.

Gustav Klimt, The Bride, Oil on Canvas, 65 x 75”, 1917

The oeuvre of Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) consists of two hundred paintings and more than four thousand drawings, most of them devoted to women.  His fame as a draftsman rests on works executed after 1905 and his earliest depictions of the nude body was for the ceiling at the University of Vienna which already illustrated a break with conventions and taboos.  After 1912, Klimt made numerous independent drawings, including many erotic compositions showing lesbian couples or masturbating women.

Gustav Klimt, Reclining Nude with Drapery, Graphite on Paper, 1913

The drawing, Reclining Nude with Drapery, belongs to a group of fifty Klimt drawings showing women pleasuring themselves. With her eyes closed, the model seems unaware of both her surroundings and the viewer.

Egon Schiele, Self-Portrait, Watercolor, gouache, and graphite on paper, 1911

In the course of his brief life, Egon Schiele, (1890-1918) created more than three hundred paintings and some three thousand drawings and watercolors.  He was known to draw constantly and everywhere: in his studio, on trains, in restaurants and in nature.  He looked to Gustav Klimt as a friend and a father figure.  He became well known for his ethereal contour lines and made over 170 self-portraits between 1908 and his death in 1918.  In this early work, he reduced his already thin body to skin and bones, and poses naked in front of a large mirror in his studio. In these seemingly decaying bodies, Schiele is posed in a sexually exhibitionistic way, displaying his groin and genitals.

Schiele’s nudes are more explicitly and provocatively erotic in this exhibition.  In his insatiable curiosity about the female figure, he showed no restraint, sometimes veering toward the clinical as in the watercolor Observed in a Dream.

Egon Scheile, Observed in a Dream, Watercolor and graphite on paper, 1911

Contented after masturbating, the model keeps her vulva open with bejeweled hands. The exaggeratedly large genitals in a reddish-orange hue echoed in her nipples and generous lips, evoke a carnivorous plant.  From the title, she may have existed as an epitome of the sexual object, and the viewer is led to believe this is something that lived in a dream.

Egon Schiele, Standing Nude with Orange Drapery, Watercolor, gouache, graphite on paper, 1914

By 1914 Schiele had replaced the tense bodies with fuller and more relaxed ones as in this watercolor. He probably drew her while she was lying down, but the placement of his signature turns her upright.

The heavy graphite drawing depicts the titillating nude touching herself from a slightly elevated position.  During the final two years of his life, Schiele made hundreds of these drawings, mostly female nudes that appear more facile than his previous work.  His erotic drawings lost some of their intensity, and gradually his work became more baroque.  In the autumn of 1918, the Spanish flu epidemic that claimed 20 to 50 million lives in Europe reached Vienna. Edith, his wife, who was six months pregnant, succumbed to the disease on 28 October, followed by Schiele, who died only three days after his wife. He was 28 years old.

Pablo Picasso, Erotic Scene, Oil on Canvas, 1902

The earliest work in this exhibition is Erotic Scene 1902, an imaginary re-creation of Picasso’s sexual initiation in a Barcelona brothel. He made this work during what became known as his Blue Period, a bleak phase during which he painted the poor, outsiders and beggars.

Pablo Picasso, Youth in Archway, Conte crayon on paper, 1906

What followed in the years around 1906 were drawings that displayed bodies with ease and unselfconscious classicism.  Art historians trace the figure and the pose of this youth to antiquity as well as to Michelangelo. Although the boy’s features reappear in many other works, there is some disagreement about the intent of this pose.  Innocent nudity or strangely voluptuous?   Much, if not all of the work during this period took place in the remote village of northern Catalonia, high in the Pyrenees and close to the border with Andorra, at Gosol, where it was recommended he would find “good air.”  The artist visited the town with his lover at the time, Fernande Olivier and stayed at a lodging house surrounded by a romantic environment that influenced the work.

Pablo Picasso, Boy Leading Horse, Oil on Canvas, 1906

While Pablo Picasso’s work had been shown in the United States, Gustave Klimt and Egon Schiele were unknown in this country at that time, but eventually became known throughout Europe and then this country. Much of the exhibition is drawing, and these works on paper have rarely been exhibited because of the exposure to light over time.

The curators responsible for Obsession:Nudes by Klimt, Schiele, and Picasso from the Scofield Thayer Collection, for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, are Sabine Rewald, Jacques and Natasha Gelman, all part of the Department of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC.

Obsession: Nudes by Klimt, Schiele, and Picasso through October 7, 2018.

 

Dustin London @ Holding House

Exterior, Holding House Gallery, 2016

Heading west on Michigan Avenue in Detroit, about five blocks past I-96 you will find the Holding House Gallery on the north side of the street, almost invisible in this older urban neighborhood. Those are glass blocks you see covering the front of the building (void of any signage), providing beautiful interior illumination that diffuses light evenly. It has an appeal unto itself.

Dustin London, Installation image, Oil on Canvas, Courtesy of Holding House, 2018

As part of Detroit Art Week, the gallery opened with the abstract work of Dustin London, Daybreak, an artist who also is an Assistant Professor in the School of Art & Design at Eastern Michigan University.  Holding House Director Andrea Eckert says, “Signals of information marked with repeated intervals of paint shows London’s preference for mesmeric processes. London presents the value of accumulation in a series of chromatic oil paintings. Through planned layers of color, the paintings resolve into a playful landscape of shape and form.”

Dustin London, Palindrome, 52 x 62, Oil on Canvas,

When I first experienced the work, especially the painting Palindrome,I was attracted to the forms and color combinations.  I immediately did a mental search for a broader context. The first thing that came to me was Russian Constructivism, circa 1920.  Artists like Paul Gadegaard, or Alexandra Exter, who did their work nearly a hundred years ago. Compared to London’s abstractions, there are similar elements you would find in Russian Avant-Garde Constructivism, recently on exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, 2017.

London’s overall green-based composition contrasts shape, line and form.  Standing at a distance, the viewer gets a hard edge that defines the shape, something like Frank Stella, who used tape to create the edge, but upon closer observation, London’s edge is produced using a brush in a very consistent square stroke of oil paint. The circular gradation is created by the line work.  Lines are solid and perforated, while the picture plane is divided in half.  The foreground on a light green background juxtaposes to this olive green background, both engulfing an amoeba-like shape.  What is powerful is that we are left not sure what we are seeing or where it fits into our universe, often referred to as original.

Dustin London, Oil on Canvas, Detail, 2017

When asked in a recent interview in Artspace 2013 why impermanence is important to his work, London answers, “Just before I started making these I was interested in ephemeral visual moments but was making paintings on canvas that were essentially descriptions of experiences. For example, a simple line may have referred to a shape caught out of my periphery while walking my dog. At a certain point, it seemed more appropriate to cut out the middle-man, as it were, and allow the work itself to become impermanent rather than refer to impermanence through a rather concrete form. This corresponded to an ongoing desire for freshness and openness in the work, never wanting to close anything down. It seemed appropriate to shift the work to a place where it was more about a process, where a piece became an action or decision in a specific place and specific time, inseparable from me as a living, breathing human being, where the piece also had a certain lifespan. Documenting these actions just felt natural.”

Dustin London, R-A-T-Q, 70 x 60″, Oil on Canvas, 2017

Constructivism was the last art movement to flourish in the 20th century as a modern and influential movement in Russia.  It evolved just as the Bolsheviks came to power in 1917, and its purpose was to replace traditional composition with a focus on the construction of materials. Concerned with the use of ‘real materials in real space,’ the movement sought to use art as a tool for the common good, much in line with the Communist principles of the new Russian regime. Many of the Russian Constructivist works from this period involve projects in architecture, and bled into typography and graphics, ultimately having an effect on Western art.

This journey into abstraction goes back in time and comes out new.  This is the way of visual art, hence the saying “there is nothing new under the sun.”  The vastness and variety of visual art today is a reconstitution of our past, whether a thousand, hundreds or even only ten years past.

Expressionism, Impressionism, Cubism, Minimalism, Figurative, Landscape, and Abstract art live on in time as demonstrated here by the work of Dustin London.

Dustin London’s work has been exhibited at venues including NURTUREart in Brooklyn, Manifest Gallery in Cincinnati, Emily Davis Gallery at the University of Akron, the Untitled Art Fair in Miami Beach, and TSA Gallery in Brooklyn. He has been an artist-in-residence at Yaddo, Willapa Bay AiR, Jentel, Vermont Studio Center, and the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts. London is a recipient of the New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship and his work has been featured in New American Paintings, Fresh Paint Magazine, Paint Pulse Magazine, and The New York Times. He received a BFA from Michigan State University and an MFA from the University of Pennsylvania.

Holding House –Dustin London,  Daybreak,  Solo Exhibition, July 22 – 28, 2018

 

Carole Harris & Allie McGhee @ Detroit Institute of Arts

Installation Image, Courtesy of the Detroit Art Review

As part of the kick-off for the Detroit Art Week events, the Detroit Institute of Arts mounted an exhibition coordinated by Laurie Ann Farrell, department head of contemporary art at the museum and curated by Amani Olu, Repetition, Rhythm, and Vocab, features the visual art of Carole Harris and Allie McGhee. Both artists have been prominent in the Detroit art community for over forty years, each delivering their own individual language of abstraction. The celebration commenced with a talk, and this writer was pleasantly surprised to see a full house of guests in the DIA auditorium where the artists gave a part biographical, part philosophical, talk just before the opening of their two-person exhibition in the second floor Robinson Gallery.

Allie McGhee & Carole Harris portrait Image Courtesy of Kate Gowan

Introduced by DIA Director Salvador Salort-Pons, with remarks by Farrell, the talk was moderated by Amani Olu, the producer/organizer of the new Detroit Art Week.  Originally from Philadelphia, later working in New York City, Olu moved to Detroit in 2016 and founded a business to provide marketing and business consulting services to individuals, companies and organizations in the arts.  He said, “The overall vision is that we want to do our part to establish Detroit as a global destination for contemporary art just like every other major city.”

As the talk got underway, both artists shared many common themes, as they both were educated at Detroit’s Cass Technical High School and attended state colleges, Harris at Wayne State University, and McGhee at Eastern Michigan University.  They both mentioned the importance of early family support in their pursuit of art, as each told stories about their mother’s influence, and both did not see their work as part of any political movement, or part of Detroit’s revitalization, but more about a constant internal energy to create and evolve as an artist, regardless of politics or race. Harris mentioned her work was continually evolving, and McGhee suggested the influence of science, and both gave credit to the impact of the Kresge Foundation for the Arts.

I have written about both artists multiple times for exhibitions at the N’Namdi Center for Contemporary Art and most recently at the Hill Gallery where both artists’ work were present. Allie McGhee has a long exhibition record starting back in in the mid-1970’s.  McGhee says he favors using sticks to apply paint rather than brushes. Rejecting the brush, he pulls and scrapes the paint across his material, whether it is canvas or paper. The action of the stick allows McGhee’s hands to interact with the paint and the surface in a visceral way, where the thin paint spatters as he arranges his lathe-like constructions. He has often folded thick painted paper into shapes that display themselves as objects on the wall.

Allie McGhee, Strata Data, Acrylic and Enamel on canvas, 2008

Music is an apt metaphor for McGhee’s methodology. Miles Davis, one of the artist’s favorite musicians, was an explorer of musical forms who gave up traditional jazz in favor of improvisation. Likewise, McGhee has talked about the art of experimentation, and working every day to explore a variety of paint mediums on a vast range of materials, from canvas to paper, window shades, fiberglass, wallpaper and cardboard.

As I wrote about his exhibition Now & Then at the N’Namdi Center for Contemporary Art, “ [McGhee’s] emphasis on discovered and spontaneous correlations that are twisted, crushed and crumpled, remind this writer of John Chamberlain, who worked in a similar fashion but mostly with metal and automobile parts. Given the time period of Allie McGhee’s formative years, the obvious influence here is Abstract Expressionism with shades of Willem de Kooning and Franz Kline that, despite a seemingly spontaneous appearance, maintains a balance of chaos and control.”  The steady march of fluid and spontaneous abstract expressionism has elevated the work of Allie McGhee to a significant force in Detroit alongside artists like Al Loving, Sam Gilliam and Charles McGee.

Allie McGhee, Birthday Eclipse, 48 36″ Acrylic & Oil on canvas

Carole Harris has been called a needle artist, a quilt artist and a fiber artist, but her work and life seem to have always been in transition.  Now her works of art are titled mixed media textile, and she seems most comfortable being described as a visual artist. It has been a journey for Harris whose mother introduced her to needle arts at an early age while teaching her embroidery and crocheting.  She has had a career as an interior designer working with architectural firms, but the road has led her to express herself with stand-alone mixed media constructions that hang on the wall.  “My work relies on improvisation. I am fascinated with hue and pattern, often drawing inspiration from the color, energy, and movement. It’s like the rhythms of ethnographic rituals as well as jazz, blues, and gospel music that I have learned growing up in Detroit.”

Carole Harris, Mixed Media Textile, 42 x 53″, 2017

The first thing that jumps out from the work Bearing Witnessis not her choice of material, but her use of color, form and composition.  The strength she demonstrates draws on her informal use of space, the counter-play of color, and the texture given to torn shapes and line work.

When I wrote about her work in April 2016, I described it like this: “For visual artists who quilt, Harris’s work transcends the traditional expectations we think of when mentioning quilting. In a web-based reproduction, we see an abstract painting, dynamic in the use of color, line, shape and form. It’s only on closer observation that one realizes these are compositions executed using embroidery, stitchery and multiple patterns of cotton, silks and hand-dyed fabric.”

Glen Mannisto wrote for the Detroit Art Review about Carole Harris’s solo exhibition at University of Michigan NCRC Rotunda Gallery. “Bearing Witnessis a tour de force of contemporary image making. It amalgamates not only Harris’s quilt-making magic with the disparate influences of her far-reaching eye, but is a profoundly rich metaphor for the deep struggle of living, of the balancing of life’s experiences, of listening and watching and caring for the world. This sublimely visual layering of color, shape and line is not only an act of art but — what resonates through in this process of layering the fabric of life by hand— is an act of deep caring. The title “Bearing Witness” is thus not misplaced on Carole Harris’ practice as a whole.”

Carole Harris, Things Ain’t What They Used to Be, Mixed Media Textile, 41 x 53, 2018

Carole Harris and Allie McGhee’s distinct abstract language has evolved for more than forty years. McGhee is a painter whose abstraction rises to the top based on day-in and day-out hard work where he pours his pigment and allows himself to release an intuition to create variations in composition, color and shape.  Carole Harris rises beyond the confines of fiber or quilted art, revising her decisions that are usually set in place by a medium that progresses linearly. Both of these artists have endured using a distinct abstract aesthetic that has created an homage to the harmony of an improvisational language of abstract expressionism.

In mid-July, during the dog days of summer when the art scene usually lays back and starts to plan and prepare for the fall season, the concept of Detroit Art Week provides some attention to Detroit artists and hopefully creates a tradition for years to come.

Museums, galleries, and sites participating in Detroit Art Week include Detroit Institute of Arts, David Klein Gallery, Playground Detroit, Heidelberg Project, Red Bull Arts Detroit, K. OSS Contemporary Art, Wasserman Projects, Public Pool, N’Namdi Contemporary Art Center, Library Street Collective, Holding House, What Pipeline, Charles H. Wright Museum, Simone DeSousa Gallery, Dell Pryor Gallery, Popps Emporium, and Reyes Projects.

Detroit Institute of Arts, Repetition, Rhythm, and Vocabruns through November 4, 2018

 

 

 

 

 

Punk Rock Graphics 1976 – 1986 @ Cranbrook  Art Museum

Installation Image, Cranbrook Art Museum, Punk Rock Graphics 1976 – 1986, 2018

Punk Rock is a music genre that developed in the mid-1970s in the United Kingdom, the United States and Australia. Rooted in 1960s garage rock, punk rock bands rejected perceived excesses of mainstream 1970s rock by typically producing short or fast-paced songs, with hard-edged melodies and singing styles, stripped-down instrumentation, and often political, anti-establishment lyrics. Punk Rock embraces a “do it yourself” ethic; many bands self-produce recordings and distributes them through independent record labels and other informal channels.  Accompanying the music is byproduct: a distinct style of graphic art.

Installation Image, Cranbrook Art Museum, Punk Rock Graphics 1976 – 1986, 2018

Although I was there during this time, and in the early throws of raising a family, I was not drawn to the anti-establishment, but rather seduce by the  music of Motown, Detroit Jazz, and the 60’s music of the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Sting and Bob Dylan. Punk Rock was a distraction for this writer and as an observer, I missed the graphic art side of the cultural phenomenon. If that resonates, no matter what your age, this exhibition opens up a trove of information and design that can take you on a journey and easily introduce you to a culture defined, in part, by its graphic design.

The Cranbrook Art Museum opened a large and sprawling exhibition of Punk Rock Art Graphics (600 pieces), Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die: Punk Graphics, 1976 -1986, 0n June 15, 2018.

The exhibition features several hundred posters, flyers, fanzines, handbills, record sleeves, badges, clothing and other graphic materials from the New York collector Andrew Krivine.  In addition Robert St. Mary, a local author and music historian, helped to curate the Detroit portions of the exhibition at the request of Cranbrook Art Museum. St. Mary was asked to contribute his knowledge of the Detroit punk scene as an extension of a project he is working on as a recipient of the 2017 Knight Foundation Arts Award. In his 2015 book, “The Orbit Anthology,” St. Mary focused mainly on the punk scene at Bookies, known as the original punk nightclub in Detroit. Most people know about the famous London, New York City and Los Angeles bands, but St. Mary points out that the origins of punk are really right here in Detroit.

He says, “When we talk about punk, the primordial ooze of it is here,  with The Stooges and the MC-5”

Jamie Reid, Sex Pistols, God Save the Queen, Poster, Collection of Andrew Krivine, 1977

“That’s the arc of the show — from a black-and-white gritty feel to this explosion of color and pattern,” says Cranbrook Art Museum director Andrew Blauvelt. “The graphic language of punk was much broader and really paralleled what was happening — and was even ahead of — contemporary art in the 1970s and 1980s.”

Blauvelt says patrons will be quick to recognize the work of a featured artist who, in many ways, defined the visual representation of the punk rock movement. “What most people think of when they think of punk is the work of Jamie Reid,” says Blauvelt. “They may not know him by name but they would certainly know him by his work with the Sex Pistols.”

Installation, Punk Rock Memoirs 2018

 

While Too Fast to Live isn’t an exhibit based on musical history, it does present a chronological timeline tracing the evolution of the punk and new wave music genres overseas and in the U.S. via New York City. During this era, New York served as ground zero for a critical mass of counterculture musicians and artists who were forging an aesthetic that continues to be an influential force in contemporary design.

Robert L. Heimall -Design, Robert Mapplethorpe – Photographer, Patti Smith, Horses, Poster, 1975

 

In her debut album, Horses, 1975, Patti Smith became a fixture in the New York punk rock scene.  Critics have viewed the work as one of the most influential albums in the history of the punk rock movement.  Her three-cord rock was a simplistic cord structure, with rudimentary guitar work, and lyrics channeled by influences from William Blake to Arthur Rimbaud. Her performances often provided room for musical improvisation, and drew at times on Reggae, and jazz riffs. Horses mixed philosophical elements with traditional rock elements. Her early biography bleeds over into the life of Robert Mapplethorpe, who took the black and white image for the cover, as the two live together for a short time in lower Manhattan.

Smith says, “Horses was a conscious attempt to make a record that would make a certain type of person not feel alone. People who were like me, different … I wasn’t targeting the whole world. I wasn’t trying to make a hit record.”

The B-52’s, American rock group, 1979

Go-Go”s, American all women rock group, Poster, 1981

The design of punk graphics ran concurrent to postmodern art practices of the times by raiding popular culture, scavenging history, subverting messages, and transgressing aesthetic rules. Punk fed the alternative music scene that would emerge in the late 1990’s as well as today’s do-it-yourself cultures that blur and erase the lines between professionals and amateurs.  Punk’s trangressive spirit emboldened people from all walks of life to reimage themselves as creative agents and active participants in a culture driven by music, art, and design.

The legacy of punk has permeated modern culture and society, and its visual vocabulary infuses much contemporary art, while the punk spirit resonates in particular with the anti-elitist, DIY ethos of today’s young, blogging artists and musicians.  Too Fast to Live…, recalls the anarchic spirit of authenticity and amateurism, the volatile and ambiguous celebration of negativity, and the creativity that was punk.

Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die: Punk Graphics, 1976-1986” and the related Shepard Fairey. Salad Days,1989-1999 run June 16-October 7, 2018.

Cranbrook Art Museum