Michael Scoggins @ Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center

The Robinson Gallery at the Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center (BBAC) is home to a new exhibition by New York artist Michael Scoggins, opening April 28, 2017.

If you’re expecting landscape, figurative, representational, or abstract artwork, this is not one of those. If I had to place it in context, it would more attuned to the Pop art movement, where Andy Warhol took the image of a Campbell’s soup can and increases its scale, often repeating the image multiple times. Here in the United States, Pop art started with the New York artists Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, James Rosenquist, and Claes Oldenburg, all of who drew on popular imagery that eventually became an international phenomenon. Pop artist’s celebrated commonplace objects and people of everyday life, in this way seeking to elevate popular culture to the level of fine art.

Michael Scoggins, Bart Art #1, Colored Pencil on Paper, 67 x 51″, 2014

The work of Michael Scoggins takes on the politics of childlike imagery and dramatically changes its scale. If this work were executed on an average piece of notebook paper, 8 ½ x 11”, it would be appropriately displayed in an elementary school gymnasium exhibition. The key concept here is scale. These large 50 x 70” pieces of paper carefully simulate the torn out notebook sheet and illustrate the horizontal thin blue lines and the vertical red line on the left. In the imagery from The Simpsons, the character of Bart is reaching out, “Don’t have a Cow, Man.” Well, maybe he’s reaching out to his audience, a kind of confrontation about this iconic image hanging on a gallery wall while appealing to lovers of this character that was first developed by Matt Groening in 1989, and the Fox sitcom now in its 29th season.

Michael Scoggins, I Was Born…(Frida), Graphite, Color Pencil, on Paper, 67 x 51″ 2016

The imagery displayed in Scoggins work is mixed. You have a child’s rendition of a Frida Kahlo work, as in I Was Born…(Frida) with commentary, to a copy of a two-dollar bill, or often an entire sheet of paper devoted to a page of childlike penmanship, repeating a controversial sentence the entire length of the page. There is the possibility that the work is autobiographical, and takes the viewer back to transformative years of Scoggin’s youth. Few of us would disclose our fourth-grade classroom illustrations and present them later in life, after an MFA in painting, as fine art.

Michael Scoggins, Explosion Drawing #4, Marker, Color Pencil on Paper, 67 x 51″ 2014

In many, if not all, of the labels we have given to artistic movements since the beginning of time, is the reason why I go to the Pop Art movement to explain Michael Scoggins work. We have artists, today, that are producing minimal sculpture, impressionistic paintings, abstract expressionistic canvases, and photographic realism, all part of a continuation of movements that began in the past. This concept is an endeavor that transforms youthful memories onto large re-created sheets of notebook paper, to comment on narratives that are nostalgic images and make us take notice. Scoggins uses “Michael S. as a caricature of his younger self, in deliberately creating a signature, and uses nuances of crumpled, folded, sometimes torn or folded paper, to create the facsimile.

“The work I make is always political,” says Michael Scoggins, who satirizes art-world politics and provincialism in penetrating, disarming schoolboy-style doodles and writings. “I feel the ‘Michael S.’ character has definitely transformed over the years and has become more of an extension of my adult self,” Scoggins has said. “I want to present my work with sincerity, and it is truly a reflection of my inter-self.”

Michael Scoggins work is included in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art (New York, NY); the Hammer Museum, (Los Angeles, CA); the Mattituck Museum (Mattituck, CT); the Gettysburg Museum (Gettysburg, PA); The Savannah College of Art and Design (Savannah, GA); along with several prestigious private collections. In addition, Scoggins is one of Wasserman Projects’ artists and his work was first shown in January 2016 at their gallery in Detroit, Michigan.

He lives and works in Brooklyn, New York

The BBAC mission is “to connect people of all ages and abilities with visual arts education, exhibition, and other creative experiences.” They accomplish this by offering classes, exhibits, workshops, camps, and events to the public since 1957.

Michael Scoggins     Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center      April 28 – June 9, 2017

 

Campins & Yaque @ Wasserman Projects

Two Cuban Artists create work from the City of Queen Anne’s Lace

Alejandro Campins & José Yaque, Installation image. All images courtesy of the Detroit Art Review.

Wasserman Projects opened a new exhibition of work by two Cuban-born artists, Alejandro Campins and José Yaque on April 21, 2017, curated by Rafael DiazCasas, a curator based in New York City. The exhibition, City of Queen Anne’s Lace,  grew from conversations when gallery owner Gary Wasserman saw the work of Campins while on a visit to Havana, Cuba in 2015 and had an intuition about the resurgence of art that grew out of a developing transformation, both here in Detroit and Havana.

José Yaque, Autochthonous Soil, Found objects, earth, oil, plants, 16 x 13 x 4′ 2017

I visited the exhibition shortly after it opened to experience an installation by José Yaque that captivates one’s attention anew, a construction, Autochthonous Soil, built on a wood frame, 16 x 13 x 4’. This rectangular mass depicts a cross-section of material indigenous to a collection of debris in and around the vacant lots of Detroit. The bottom is created from fieldstone bonded with mortar, followed upward by human created debris, then burnt housing remains, capped off with sod and flowers growing on the top level. The young Cuban artist, who lives and works in Havana, has created in his exhibitions a combination of works on paper, and installations. Recently, in 2015 while in residency, he created a large hurricane / tornado type installation stretched from floor to ceiling, encapsulating wood and metal debris, all tied together with straps of metal. It is as if once Yaque has an impression in mind, he executes the installation with a construction that communicates permanence, both in material and scale, resulting in a powerful impression.

In a statement from her press release, Director Alison Wong says, “For the exhibition here at Wasserman Projects, Yaque has constructed a large-scale installation on site in the gallery, using recycled material sourced from throughout Detroit. Inspired by the study of earth’s interior, the work visually and conceptually references the layering and archiving of experience and the changes that naturally develop through time.”

José Yaque, Detroit Houses series, Photo Transfer & Charcoal, 2017 All work courtesy of Galleria Continua

Drawn to urban landscape compositions, the installation is accompanied by a series of images on paper. The series Detroit House, mixed media on paper, is a collection of nine images captured on his earlier visit to Detroit photographically, and then a photo transfer is made, and hand rendered charcoal is added to personalize the work. He provides the viewer with an architectural assortment of large dwellings that typifies housing styles constructed from the early part of 20th century in Detroit. His exhibition career began after studies in Cuba at the Superior Institute of Art, but has spread to include venues in Italy, France, London and the United States.

Alejandro Campins, Vientre ll, 102 x 152″, Oil on Canvas, 2017 All work courtesy of Sean Kelly Gallery, NYC

The work of Alejandro Campins provides the viewer with the large canvas of urban structures that speak to both representational imagery and abstraction. The work, Vientre ll, 102 x 152” relies heavily on composition, color, and scale. Although this image may rely on the reference from an architectural photograph, Campins provides the viewer with a romantic vision that blends history and memory. There are multiple elements that deliver on imagery that makes us feel secure. Added to the mix is subdued color and illusion, which draws the viewer into this dark centered box, where the artist decides to not continue with the brown rectangle above the protruding marquee. It is a strong example of combining representation and abstraction.

Alejandro Campins, Vientre, 70 x 102″. Oil on Canvas, 2017

 

Much of the same can be said of Vientre, 70 x 102” regarding representation and abstraction in one painting. The combination of formality presented with a heavy hand plays against the offset square with a red dot. In addition, the viewer is presented with a perspective that leads inward to a dark place, intentionally creating a secluded mystery. The work in these two paintings of abandonment creates metaphysical spaces veiled in silence and an unoccupied beauty of a time gone by.

Alejandro Campins had his first exhibition, Lapse in the United States at the Sean Kelly Gallery in New York City in February 2016, where Kristine Roome writing for ArtFuse said, “Campins’ style and vision are expressly his own. And how could it not be?  Formed by his experiences living on an ostensibly allochronic island, known for its cultural diversity – built from Spanish, African, French and Asian influences – Cuba is a curious place. In a few short years, Campins has developed an impressive portfolio of solo exhibitions in Cuba and Spain, and has been featured internationally in biennials in Cairo, Lisbon and Havana.”  Campins was named a finalist for the Farber Foundation as Young Cuban Artist of the Year in 2015.

Curator Rafael DiazCasas says in his statement, “Campins and Yaque came to Detroit with new eyes, exploring the history and looking toward the future. The Fields of Queen Anne’s Lace that overtake and inhabit the city can be thought of as a temporary stage, one with the potential to spawn new growths of life. Campins’ and Yaque’s mutual gaze encompasses a society in change.”

Wasserman Projects is guided by a spirit of exploration and collaboration in a space that seems to have no limits on its variety of experience and exhibition.

Wasserman Projects   Queen Anne’s Lace, through June 24, 2017

 

 

 

 

Anderson & Youngblood @ Galerie Camille

Carla Andersen, West Fjords 5, Iceland, Archival pigment print, 30 x 40″ 2016

There is a striking contrast between the work of Carla Anderson, photographer, and Elizabeth Youngblood, abstract artist using various mediums, now on exhibition as Chosen Silences, opened in midtown Detroit, at Galerie Camille, April 7 – 27, 2017.

These two artists share an attraction to abstraction and contemplation but deliver their ideas using different media. This certainly must have contributed to the idea of an exhibition together as the work is not presented in different spaces, but is intentionally integrated, with the purpose of bringing the viewer along as they peruse the gallery space. It’s a good idea.

Gallery director Melannie Chard says, “Chosen Silences blends the work of Anderson and Youngblood to create an environment of quietude and contemplation of form, texture, tension and light.  While each artist works in a different medium, both have chosen to communicate in that space of quiet. In that space of what would seem silent, but isn’t.”

Carla Andersen, West Fjords 4, Iceland, , Archival pigment print 44 x 52” 2016

Anderson’s photography reminds me, at times, of how I feel when I am looking at a color field painting. These large, 30 x 40” images (sometimes digital, sometimes film) are about the space in nature, captured beautifully using large format cameras, and presented in a way that does not go unnoticed. And I must mention scale, because these photographs would not have the same impact if they were printed in, say, 8 x 10”. The large-scale print brings the viewer intimately closer to the subject, as in West Fjords 5, photographed in Iceland, in a way that draws you into a universe of these small stones or in the reveal of an oncoming night sky in Emmett County.

Carla Andersen, Emmet County, Michigan, Archival pigment print, 30 x 40″ 2016

There is a large context for Andersen’s work, who was awarded her BFA from CCS, 1976 and her MFA from Cranbrook in 1978. Her influences could have been a combination of Carl Toth and George Ortman, both teachers at the studio-based Cranbrook Academy of Art during the 1970s. Probably more important would be her exposure to the work of Edward Weston who did abstracts of the desert, as in Oceano 1936, Eliot Porter, as in Pool in the Brook, 1953, or more recently, Joel Meyerowitz as in his large color image, Dawn Hardline, 1980. This work, sometimes called non-objective, relies less on representational objects and more on color, light, texture and form that conveys a feeling or an impression. I have always been drawn to the work of Man Ray’s series called Symmetrical Patterns from Natural Forms first exhibited in Germany in 1914, where he experimented with objects, light and form. The American, a Russian immigrant from Philadelphia would become close friends of Marcel Duchamp and engage in avant-garde photography throughout the 20th century. That’s not to say Andersen’s work is avant-garde at this point in time, because of the groundwork laid down for nearly a hundred years of photography.

Carla Andersen, Great Salt Lake, UT 35, Archival pigment print 30 x 40” 2016

The symmetry of Great Salt Lake stops the viewer in their tracks when they notice the reflection of the sky in the lake, and the two objects juxtaposed: the moon and a small log in the lake. The illusion makes one feel as though they are out in the lake viewing the sliver of landscape (when actually they could possibly be on a shore), and upon close observation, there is a one percent downward tilt to the right to the horizon. It is the combination of these subtleties that make this image so powerful. It’s worth mentioning that Larry Melkus at Fine Arts Printing executed the printing and mounting of these prints. He says, “Carla and I came up with a double archival cold mounting process. The print is flush mounted onto a 3mm white archival plastic sheet. This is then float mounted onto a larger sheet of white aluminum composite material. The effect is that the print is displayed on its own “pedestal” within the frame. In addition, John Rowland painted his frames to match the white of the print surround, resulting in a subtle display of visual strength surrounding, framing and showcasing the photographic work.”

Elizabeth Youngblood, #6 Flat Horizontal Wire and porcelain, 14″ 2013

Elizabeth Youngblood’s work is multi dimensional, a mixture of three-dimensional objects made from ceramic and wire, and a collection of black and white drawings on paper. The contrast between the porcelain bars and the strands of thin black wire, as in #6 Flat Horizontal, provide an interesting play between material and as a relief, the shadows from the light adds to the dimension. Youngblood was awarded a BFA from the University of Michigan and an MFA from Cranbrook Academy of Art, where she studied design with the McCoys, who I have turned to several times for design work. No doubt they had an influence on her work, probably more about the process of developing conceptual ideas. It’s possible this eventually led her away from working as a graphic designer, more towards to becoming a fine artist.

Elizabeth Youngblood, Untitled Really, Wire and Porcelain, 2014

Clara DeGalan wrote about Youngblood’s work in fall of 2016 at 9338 Campau for the Detroit Art Review, saying “Youngblood respects making, and, though she is acutely aware of the cultural associations that come with each material she ropes into her vision, her devotion to process and skill-building manage, miraculously, to shed the oppressive political discourse that has hung around craft for decades and present it, unilaterally, as a vast conduit for exploration of an artist’s conceptual vision.”

It’s always a challenge to decide how large to make a three dimensional piece of work. If I were to dare to offer a constructive idea for her work, it would be to pay more attention to scale, pretty much across the board.

Elizabeth Youngblood, Large No. 3, Graphite on Paper, 42 x 45”, 2011

In contrast to the more didactic and delicate wire pieces, and in a minimalist fashion, Youngblood makes the drawing, Large No. 3, where she applies more graphite than is necessary to make a point about the material and the pressure applied. In this drawing, she illustrates ‘no fear’ in executing a powerfully bold and massive block composition, challenging her viewer to ponder her intent.

Chosen Silence, Galerie Camille     April 7 – 27, 2017

 

Cody VanderKaay @ Oakland University Art Gallery

Cody VanderKaay, Installation image

Cody VanderKaay’s solo exhibition, Terrestrial Celestial, opened March 3, 2017, at the Oakland University Art Gallery, where Dick Goody, Art Chair, and curator at OUAG, turns inward to one of his associate professors to exhibit new work that takes the viewer in a variety of visual art directions. On the ground or in the sky, VanderKaay presents three-dimensional work that has delicacy as in the Orange Shed, versus blunt boldness, as in Six Views.

So where is this artist in his creative trajectory? I would say he is exploring an inner sensibility he has developed since his youthful years of art experience combined with his MFA at the University of Georgia, where he gives us his take on three-dimensional form.

Cody VanderKaay, Orange Shed, Latex on Basswood, 2016

The delicate relief, Orange Shed, using basswood and latex, reminds me of relief work from the 1950’s in the United States that was mostly decorative, with the exception of an artist such as David Smith. Smith combined found objects, worked in metal based on his experience working in a car body shop. The shared element with VanderKaay’s work is largely based on Constructivism, a modern art movement that flourished in Russia, then moved to Europe during the early parts of the 20th century. The central concept is placing the priority on the material employed, versus the subject matter or motif. The materials to express an idea dictate the form. The fundamental analysis of the material leads to the function. This idea shapes VanderKaay’s other work as well.

Cody VanderKaay, Six Views, Concrete 2017

Borrowing on ideas presented by Minimalist artists, be it Donald Judd or Robert Morris, the early 1980s brought a shift from Abstract Expressionism to a pared-down, three-dimensional object with little reference to real objects. The new vocabulary was simplified geometric forms created from humble industrial material. VanderKaay provides a repetition of nine “house-shaped” concrete objects in Six Views with an angled bottom that provides the observer with a parallel view.  It would seem variations on this theme could produce a body of work on its own, as the aesthetics are pleasing, even comforting to the eye, whether it appears in relief or as a taped drawing on the wall.

Cody VanderKaay, Bündner Schist, Crepe Tape on gallery wall, 2017

The large black-taped drawing on the gallery wall, Bündner Schist, reinforces elements in the overall exhibition, like a roadmap to his thinking.  He builds an amalgamation of trapezoids and variations that make his statement clear and concise, one that offsets the more three-dimensional work that dominates the overall exhibition. As part of the exhibition, we are confronted with the large assemblage of mixed media, Ball Drop, where the artist has presumably collected and large variety of materials and objects that met his fancy, not so different from when an artist collects things they like, placing them on a table (or wall) in the studio.  Not quite understanding how this fits into the overall exhibition, I asked VanderKaay to explain this in the last question presented in a short interview.

Cory VanderKaay, Ball Drop, 2017

Ron Scott: How and where did you first get interested in visual art?

Cody VanderKaay: I lived in both rural and suburban environments of the Midwestern, Southern, and Western United States. Periodic relocation and travel allowed me to experience a variety of living situations, routines, pastime activities and occupations that inevitably shaped my curiosity. As the son of a residential contractor, I was frequently exposed to architecture, trades labor, carpentry and the graphic art of drafting. As a young man, I trained myself in a number of related skills and techniques, when, eventually my proclivity for making art objects became my principal interest.

I studied sculpture at Northern Michigan University’s School of Art & Design and the University of Georgia Lamar Dodd School of Art, where I received my MFA. After graduating, I relocated to New Orleans to teach visual arts at Loyola University. Today, I am an Associate Professor of Art at Oakland University teaching sculpture, drawing, and fundamental art courses full-time.

RS: How has your worked evolved since college?

CV: The biggest and best change is an ability to identify when my intellect, technical ability and resources are in concert with one another, and encountering that moment again, in the finished artwork.

RS: How is it that you work in such a variety of material?

CV: I’m attracted to the range of qualities and technical constraints that raw materials and objects have; the combinations seem impossible to exhaust.

RS: What artists have most attracted your interest?

CV: Dil Hildebrand, Anne Truitt, Herman de Vries, Ilya Bolotowsky, Norman Dilworth, Tony Feher, and Richard Wentworth

RS: Your work seems to stand alone as single individual pieces. How does the large assemblage on plywood relate to the other work?

CV:The large plywood piece titled Ball Drop wasn’t conceived as an artwork per se, but rather as scaffolding or drawing of sorts. It’s evidence of the forms and subjects I was thinking through in the studio while making the other artworks in the exhibition. The title is a reference to the phrase ‘the penny has dropped’ and points to a realization or discovery that follows a long period of exploration and questioning. Many of the elements comprising the wall are residual, while a few are deeply personal. For example, the small oil painting of the Alps originally belonged to my Grandmother. The painting was given to her by her father when she left the Netherlands for the United States in the 1930’s. I coveted the painting as a child and acquired it after she passed. The wall doesn’t summarize the exhibition, but examining it closely will reveal more about the relationship between the other artworks on display.

RS: Anything else you would like to say?

CV: I find the challenges of working with self-imposed restrictions to be intellectually stimulating and personally significant. A large majority of my artwork is composed of irreducible elements and simplified forms, with surface qualities that raise questions about the substance and physicality of their forms. I often move between disciplines, on two or three projects at a time, and display finished work as a sequence or series of related artworks to bring formal and contextual concerns in closer harmony with one another. I use fabrication, mold making, casting, drawing and collage to produce my sculpture and two-dimensional artwork.

There are artists who focus on a subject for forty years, providing variations in size, color palette, composition and material. Cody VanderKaay is an artist who does not limit his expression to a genre. He is eclectic in his approach to creating his art and, most important, he is curious. Cody VanderKaay is giving an artist’s talk in the OUAG gallery on Thursday, April 6, at NOON.

Cody VanderKaay, Terrestrial Celestial, Open at OUAG – April 9, 2017

 

 

 

 

 

Laszlo Moholy-Nagy @ Guggenheim, NYC

Guggenheim

Guggenheim Museum, New York City. All Images Courtesy of the Guggenheim Museum.

Moholy-Nagy: Future Present

Before a recent visit to NYC, I was set on visiting the new Met Breuer Museum (housed in the former Whitney Museum building) that is hosting a large photographic exhibition by Diane Arbus. But my interest in European Modernism pulled me away to the Guggenheim, which has mounted a major retrospective of work by the Hungarian artist, László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946) who is unknown to me.   The compilation of work is the first comprehensive retrospective of Moholy-Nagy, likely the first artist with a large and diverse field of media, including painting, sculptures, works on paper and Plexiglas, photograms and films. Despite his visibility as a Bauhaus teacher and artist, his profile has been little known to American art schools. This exhibition conveys the experimental nature of his work that includes industrial materials, movement, light, and a variety of photo-based images.

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Installation View: Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Future Present, Solomon Guggenheim Museum, 2016

The Bauhaus School (1919-1933), meaning in German to construct, struggled to exist at three locations in Germany during the early part of the 20th century. Founded by Walter Gropius in 1919, in Weimar, it moved to Dessau in 1925 where it housed an artist faculty that included Wassily Kandinsky, Marcel Breuer, and László Moholy-Nagy, and then finally ended up in Berlin for one final year until the Nazi Party came to power. The school specialized in fine and applied arts influenced by the Constructivism movement that originated in Russia in 1913 under Vladimir Tatlin, where art was practiced for social purpose, and included architecture and typography. Constructivists proposed to replace art’s traditional concern with composition, rather a focus on construction. For many Constructivists, this entailed an ethic of “truth to materials,” the belief that materials should be employed only in accordance with their capacities.

Laszlo Moholy-Nagy

Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, CH BEATA l, 1939, Oil and Graphite on Canvas, Collection of the Solomon Guggenheim Museum

Juxtaposed against German Expressionism, Moholy-Nagy creates an image that reminds this writer of Kandinsky in his large oil on canvas, CH Beta 1. A non-objective abstract composition, the work relies heavily on design and the use of space, line and color on a flat plane void of objective meaning. If Kandinsky is the father of abstract art, then Moly-Nagy is an apostle presenting a new venue of work for the modern world. Born in Hungary in 1895, he attended art school in Budapest before bringing his Constructivist aesthetic to the Bauhaus school in Dessau. The mechanical free-floating geometries influenced many artists in the United States to follow, including Frank Stella, David Smith, Ad Reinhardt, Sol LeWitt and Sean Scully.

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Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Nickel Sculpture with Spiral, 1921, The Museum of Modern Art, Gift of Sibyl Moholy-Nagy

Moholy-Nagy’s nickel plated on iron-welded sculpture, owned by the Museum of Modern Art, demonstrates his industrial design and constructivist approach to the machining of objects and a spiral that inadvertently echoes the Guggenheim’s internal architecture.

gen-press-moholy-nagy-photogram-1941

László Moholy-Nagy Photogram, 1941 Gelatin silver photogram, 28 x 36 cm The Art Institute of Chicago, Gift of Sally Petrilli, 1985 © 2016 Hattula Moholy-Nagy/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Collected by Hilla Rebay and Solomon Guggenheim, founders of the museum, this exhibition is beautifully arranged by Kelly Cullinan, the senior exhibition designer. I especially appreciated the extensive writings of Moholy-Nagy displayed on each level of the museum in vitrines. If I were still teaching painting at the college level, I would spend more time discussing European Modernism, especially the influence of the Bauhaus School and its teachers and artists.

Moholy-Nagy: Future Present is co-organized by Carol S. Eliel, Curator of Modern Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Karole P. B. Vail, Curator, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum; and Matthew S. Witkovsky, Richard and Ellen Sandor Chair and Curator, Department of Photography, Art Institute of Chicago. The Guggenheim presentation is organized by Vail, with the assistance of Ylinka Barotto, Curatorial Assistant, and Danielle Toubrinet, Exhibition Assistant.

Guggenheim Museum