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

 

 

 

 

Cope & Reichert @ David Klein Gallery

Gina Reichert & Mitch Cope, Illuminated Totem – TV Tray 2017, Wood stool, kitchen spice drawer with spices, glass fridge shelf, acrylic display box, milk cartons, crystal bowl, cathode ray tube. 40 x 18 x 16 inches All images courtesy of the David Klein Gallery

We see these documentaries on PBS about people who collect ordinary items over a long period of time, and sometimes a lifetime. They hoard collections in bedrooms, living rooms, bathrooms and the garage. The documentary will usually focus on the psychological anxiety disorder Compulsive Hoarding, a subset of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) where people equate certain mundane objects and material to their own personal identity. In extreme cases, entire houses belonging to such people become fire and health hazards.

Such is the subject of the new exhibition at the David Klein Gallery: Organizational Strategies for the After Life, by architect Gina Reichert and painter Mitch Cope. The exhibition is a combination of sculptures made from found objects, paintings from found fabric patterns, plaster castings and jars of assorted small objects, all of which were meticulously obtained from a deserted neighbor’s house in Detroit.

Gina Reichert & Mitch Cope Stella’s Infinite Clothes Rack, #1 – 15. All paintings based on the fabrics of the ( never worn) clothes.

Gina Reichert & Mitch Cope Stella’s Infinite Clothes Rack, #1 – 15. All paintings based on the fabrics of the ( never worn) clothes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The exhibition represents the culmination of six years of working together as a husband and wife team to distill and categorized the home of a person with Compulsive Hoarding Syndrome. In a statement they say,

“At the risk of being overly nostalgic for a past time, we pressed on in our search to reveal what we now believe is less a picture of the past, and more of the afterlife. Too often we romanticized past generations, especially here in Detroit, as being better or greater, cleaner or safer, than it is now, but we have become quite easily convinced through our research, that although the physical aspect of the houses were in a better shape than now, (they were brand new then) the last hundred years of life on Klinger Street were not necessarily a better time.”

Over time, both the painter and the architect, became increasingly interested in the house next door, abandoned by its owner, forcing them into a process of finding and categorizing thousands of materials produced over multiple generations that went back a century. Part of this exhibition is a video presentation of the documentation process, using four video screens with audio support. The video helps the viewer understand the magnitude of their work and the transformation of materials into objects of art.

Is there a context for their repurposing of an enormous amount of material for an art exhibition? Certainly, there is a history of found art objects. The amassment and display of found objects for their aesthetic qualities dates back to at least the 16th century, when the collections of individual enthusiasts were displayed in private “cabinets of curiosities,” or what the Germans called “Wunderkammer.” But it wasn’t until the 1900s that artists began to incorporate found objects into sculptural works as an artistic gesture in 1917, where Marcel Duchamp created his “readymade” The Fountain, consisting of a porcelain urinal signed R. Mutt.

 

Gina Reichert & Mitch Cope, Gathering of the Scattered – Vision 2017, Electronic tubes, bell jar, tape. 11 x 5 1/2 x 5 1/2 inches

But where this current exhibition breaks from found art objects repurposed as art is this idea presented by Cope and Reichert where they write,

“ What if the things we use and collect in our lives carry more than the representation of what they mean to the individual who owns them, but also carry a small part of their spirit?” They go on to say, “Or if the spirit of things attaches part of it to its user?” They raise many interesting questions about the spiritual relationship between the owner and the object, all of which is explained in their writing that is available as part of the exhibition.

Gina Reichert & Mitch Cope, lluminated Totem – Root Cellar 2017, Marble book ends, preserves in glass jars, acrylic display box, glass furniture feet, enameled steel tub, assorted glass servingware. 32 x 15 x 15 inches

 

Putting this aside, many of the paintings and sculptures are quite beautiful and stand on their own, without the complex environmental project that surrounds and embodies their creations.

Gina Reichert holds a Master of Architecture degree from Cranbrook Academy of Art and a Bachelor of Architecture from Tulane University. Mitch Cope, a native Detroiter, has lectured widely throughout the US and Europe. Cope holds a BFA from College for Creative Studies, Detroit and an MFA from Washington State University.

Banksy on Vinyl: The Record Covers

Banksy, Dirty Funker, Let’s Get Dirty, 12” Single 2006, Record album. 12 x 12 inches

The British artist Banksy – graffiti master, painter, activist, filmmaker and all-purpose provocateur – is also a prolific designer of album covers. Since 1998 Banksy has designed the cover art for almost 40 albums. Many of the albums were produced by small independent record labels for obscure British bands and were usually not commercially successful. As a result, Banksy album covers were not widely distributed and only a small number have survived. A collection of fifteen record covers and the actual albums, all framed and behind glass, comprise the exhibition Banksy on Vinyl in the second room at the David Klein Gallery.

Banksy, Various Artists, We Love You So Love Us, 12” album 2000, Record album. 12 x 12 inches

David Klein Gallery

Experiment of the Modern Gaze @ Popp’s Packing

Untitled Experiment of the Modern Gaze – Oren Goldenberg and Biba Bell at Popp’s Packing

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All Images courtesy of Oren Goldenberg and Scott Tallenger

At the outset of Untitled Experiment of the Modern Gaze, a film collaboration by Oren Goldenberg and Biba Bell, a camera-in-the-round, moving across several large screens mounted in a ring, surveys a patch of woodsy, Rococo landscape (brought just barely into contemporary times by glimpses of electric wires and smokestacks on the horizon- otherwise, the golden twilight and delicate, sparsely leafed trees could have been painted by Watteau.)

Whoso List to Hunt

-Sir James Wyatt

Whoso list to hunt, I know where is an hind.

The roving eye of the viewer (I can’t help but signify the viewer as “he”) moves first at a leisurely pace, taking in the magically lit landscape. A dark void follows his gaze around, blotting out, for us, what the viewer is not looking at. A figure materializes from the trees- the powerful form of acclaimed dancer and choreographer Biba Bell.

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But as for me, helas, I may no more.

The vain travail hath wearied me so sore,

I am of them that farthest cometh behind.

She moves in this strange, wild clearing with natural grace, as if she belongs there. She approaches the viewer like a wary fawn. The viewer’s gaze swings toward, then away from her in a rhythm that visualizes the meter of a sonnet, with its round, half-stepping rhymes.

But may I by no means my wearied mind

Draw from the deer, but as she fleeith afore

Fainting I follow. I leave off therefore,

Sithens in a net I seek to hold the wind.

Untitled Experiment of the Modern Gaze can read, at first, as fairly unexperimental, aside from its installation, coiling around the gallery on screens installed in a huge ring. The scene it captures could be presenting the figure, a woman, as an allegory of nature, as a delicate, wild creature, not quite autonomous, a Pre Raphaelite sylph. The gaze, at first viewing, feels male in its invisibility and its meandering power, turning first toward, then away from, the woman as she floats upon, and interacts with, the landscape. What disrupts this is the woman approaching the camera and returning its gaze in an act that suddenly establishes her as autonomous from her surroundings. The camera, seemingly put off by this direct appraisal, begins to turn more quickly, it’s black void following it, engulfing more and more of the scene. The sonnet winds in toward its break.

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Who list her hunt, I put him out of doubt,

As well as I may spend his time in vain.

And graven with diamonds in letters plain

There is written, her fair neck roundabout:

Noli me tangere, for Caesar’s I am,

And wild for to hold, though I seem tame.

The allegories of nature and the hunt are inverted as the woman begins to pursue the camera’s gaze, chasing it as it turns faster and faster in apparent confusion. She halts it (the final couplet) and, applying physical strength to the dark voids that surround the gazer’s view, pushes them out of sight, unfurling the full majesty of the landscape, now seen in full circle. In a modern update of Wyatt’s poem, the woman is, indeed, wild for to hold, but she belongs to no one but herself. Once she has halted the camera, she turns and saunters back into the woods.

Untitled Experiment of the Modern Gaze is on view at Popp’s Packing until December 17. An artist talk with Oren Goldenberg and Biba Bell will be held at the gallery Wednesday, December 14, at 7 pm.

 

Caledonia Curry @ Library Street Collective

A Light at the End of the Tunnel- Caledonia Curry (Swoon) at Library Street Collective

“…You can start to create little cracks in the façade of possibility and inevitability that overlays all of our lives.”-Caledonia Curry at her TED Talk, 2010 

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Swoon, Installation Image, All Images Courtesy of Clara DeGalan and Sal Rodriguez

Caledonia Curry (tag name Swoon) seems intimately aware of the ephemeral, fragile nature of both the human body and human endeavor. This sensibility weaves through all of her bodies of work, which make up for the degradability of their materials with iron-clad social consciousness and fierce political engagement. Curry first gained attention on the global art scene for her large scaled, lyrical street art prints, which, like her work at Library St Collective, engage with the figure overlaid with gorgeous lacework of iconic decorative flourishes and symbols. Curry would scout out locations for her prints, then install them, on walls, lamp posts, and other architectural surfaces, using wheat paste. These delicate cut-paper and print collages are not meant to last forever- they fade away, gently and gradually, like distant memories. To Curry, physical immortality of work is beside the point- this seems unusual, given the highly formal, decorative nature of her constructions. What such highly developed technical skill and labor intensive process is meant to foster is less reverence for the made object itself than a holding of space for a new perspective, a chance to recontextualize one’s relationship with place, with symbolism, with one’s own identity.

The same curious mixture of preciousness and ephemerality finds its way from Swoon’s street art practice into Curry’s site specific installation at Library St Collective. As lovingly wrought and beautifully realized as Curry’s life-sized figurative prints and elaborate cut paper confections are, they are installed with no greater measure of preciousness or economic value than her wheat pasted public works. Curry’s figurative cut out prints hang suspended from strands of fishing line, freed from the relative safety, and canonical indexing, of traditional wall installation. They move in the breeze- they’re equally visible from front and back. Curry’s incredible paper cut-outs, executed in black and white and resembling every beautiful, lace-like form a viewer can call up, from snowflakes to double helixes to Celtic knot work, drape freely from the gallery’s ceiling and dangle, like the figure cutouts, from strands of fishing line, inviting touch, uncannily mimicking the slight movements of sentient life.

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Swoon cut paper intallation-detail

The heaviness of Curry’s concept for her site specific install at Library St is what grounds these floating works. Taking the narrow, tunnel-like structure of the front part of the gallery as inspiration, Curry is attempting, with The Light After, to recreate for the viewer her own narrative of a phenomenon known as “the empathetic death experience.” Curry encountered this phenomenon in a dream of a space filled with falling snow and “blossoms of light,” during which she felt that her mother had died. Upon awakening, she discovered that her mother had, indeed, passed away.

The snow-blossom motif of Curry’s installation occupies Library St.’s space as a tunnel of atmospheric light similar to those described by people who have had near-death experiences. Dispersed around this bright, ungrounding fairyland are Curry’s life-sized figurative prints which, despite their ephemeral construction, nail the viewer with quietly appraising or imploring gazes, each taking the form of a step on the initiation path toward death. Curry’s figures are iconic- an old, bearded hermit leaning on a walking stick, his lower body morphing into ramshackle architecture which crumbles, at his feet, into a profusion of skulls. A heartbreaking double image of a woman filled with youth and vitality, holding a baby, while her forward-projected shadow looms behind her, emaciated, rigged up with oxygen tubes, her eyes engaging the viewer’s in abject, human terror of proceeding down the very tunnel that surrounds her.

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Swoon, Memento Mori, 2016, block print on hand cut mylar,edition3 of 12, 84-x-67″

Curry takes the viewer through this legendary tunnel, which leads into a stark hallway painted in black and white geometric and organic forms- a nice visual metaphor for the space between the end of the tunnel and what comes after- into the gallery’s larger, airier back room or, as Curry titles it, “The Meadow.” The figurative prints in The Meadow aren’t allegories of death, but of rebirth- the color scheme of The Meadow is warmer, more organic, the 3D elements more tactile and sensual- piles of green velvet take the place of the ethereal cut-paper hangings within the tunnel. Mother-child pairings and figures surrounded by simple, ancient symbols of life and birth- paisleys, triple knots, spirals- gaze invitingly out or, more often, appear turned inward, eyes closed, in a private ecstasy of union with the life-power of the universe.

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Swoon, Milton II, Diogenesis, 2016 block print on hand cut mylar edition, 3 of 6 89×66″

There’s an uncanniness, a formal directness, and a powerful combination of personal and political narrative to Curry’s work that makes it difficult to contextualize in contemporary studio practice. The bald allegory and mirror-image rendering of her figure-prints awakens the viewer to the power of such imagery as expressed in every layer of our society, from religious painting to Chuck E. Cheese animatronics- all of them evoke the same frisson. Curry’s work reveals why this is so. Confronted with our own image reworked into symbolism, we begin to examine the foundations of universal truths- birth, death, spirit, the afterlife, the sentience of so-called inanimate objects- with the understanding that these truths emanate from our own bodies. Our bodies are ephemeral. What we can do with them, change with them, what we can leave to succeeding generations, is eternal. It is this truth that forms the kernel of Curry’s work in every medium and context that she engages.

“Swoon- The Light After” is on display at Library Street Collective through November 26, 2016.

 

 

Jim Crawford @ Trinosophes

 

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Jim Crawford, Pile Series, All images courtesy of Glen Mannisto, with assistance form Robert Hensleigh

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The prevailing stereotype of Detroit’s ’60s and ’70s iconic Cass Corridor art scene is misleading. Images of beer-swigging, dope-smoking, post-adolescent boys, spitting on studio floors and recycling beer cans into expressionistic, assemblaged sculptures with which they hoped to violate the hallowed halls of the Detroit Institute of Arts come to mind. It was a myth created by romantic souls who tried to rescue bohemia from Detroit’s growing derelict landscape. Of course there was also a considerable population of heady, intellectual /artist types who cowed up around the Detroit Institute of Arts, read books, went to arty films, listened to music other than the MC5, even went to the opera and had jobs too. Artist Jim Crawford who has a mini-retrospective at Trinosophes, a performance space in downtown Detroit, seems like he could have been one of those.

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Jim Crawford, Tea Stain Series in Vitrine, 3 x 5 Cards

Crawford’s art is marked by a psychologically reflexive interiority—it occurs more in the mind as noumenon than as object or phenomenon—and makes what seems an ordinary material world into the extraordinary. Simple gestures or processes, replacing the traditional romance of creating a single object, are repeated and accumulated to explore a sense of time and evolved change, and to challenge our perception in an artistic process sometimes referred to as Conceptual Art. In 1970, in a beautifully measured and meditative ritual production, Crawford translated his daily cups of tea at his job at the Michigan Council for the Arts into a very deliberate series of over one hundred tea bag stains on 3”X5” cards. In the Trinosohes gallery, the tannic-colored blots have been arranged on a grid in two display vitrines to accomplish a stunning array of difference and signifying presence. Each stain records a moment with countless daily variables (temperature, emotional presence, gravity, haptics), or what acute perception can distinguish, becoming a sign of those variable influences as much as a thing to perceive in itself.

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Jim Crawford, Folded Paper Series, Graphite, staples, paper, 1971 (smallest: 8″ x 12”, largest: 22” x 26”)

Like many artists Crawford works serially, and the Trinosophe exhibition features six main series that he has explored from the late ’60s until now. The most conventional form in the exhibition (created in the early ’70s, and of which seven individual examples are exhibited) is composed of sheets of paper folded into flat, randomly occurring geometric shapes, punctuated with staples, and marked or patinaed with graphite or paint. Created to be two-sided, they are a unique composition like nothing else: resembling geometric clouds (each is magnificently unique, but best experienced together so go see the show), and apprehended or readable more as signs than as objects. As in the best of human productions, the materials have dictated the form. In a public interview at the gallery, Crawford quipped, “I had a long staple gun,” allowing staples to reach and punctuate everywhere on these manipulated forms, depositing dash-like marks, leaving shadows and an almost musical notational presence. The scribbled or shaded graphite illuminates and posits a “natural” surface (think birch bark); and the creases of the folds give the pieces a sense of volume and mass, but therein lies the challenge. They suggest dimensionality or objectivity, yet are ultimately inscrutable, seductively flat signs, abstracted and void of referent.

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Jim Crawford, Pile Series, 1972, 20 Untitled photographs (1967, 1972 and 1972) color, black & white photos, paint – 8” x 10”

There is also a suite of photographs that document what Crawford has called the “Pile Series; discovered throughout the city, they record the presence of piles of various industrial or commercial materials that seem, through Crawford’s discerning eye, to achieve the status of sculpture. No doubt he has positioned these twenty images to both serve as ironic description of the identity of the artist (suggesting perhaps that art challenges perception, enabling it to discern “found objects” or objets trouvés as art, thus emphasizing the prominent part that ideas and concepts play in perception), as well as to call attention to the compelling nature of our landscape, and to create a dialogue that compares art to the supposed randomness of everyday material reality. Included in the series are photos of stacks of snow fence, old tires, boxes of fruit, and lumber at a construction site. Each of the photos reveals the particular effect that weather, light, and context play in conditioning both the appearance of the particular stack and our perception of it. The raw quality of the 40-year-old 8”X10” black and white photos and derelict framing of them adds a certain historical charm to the project.

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Jim Crawford, Eggshell Series (2015-2016) Mixed media (paint, glitter, walnut dye)

Two recently created series echo Crawford’s earlier strategies for dealing with recycled materials with an emphasis on personal biographical influences. Inspired by his grandmother’s practice of reading tea leaves at the kitchen table, Crawford, while cooking, has recycled cracked egg shells back into their cartons to produce stark abstracted images of the roundness of eggs. Like his grandmother’s tea leaves, the organic byproducts of his everyday life have become signs: a circle in a square, an egg in a carton, dyed with walnut stain from his walnut tree — painted and decaying they are ever changing and evolving. The delicate egg shells may at first appear as mere garbage or waste, but emerge with a powerful, though fragile, talismanic presence.

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Jim Crawford, Cat Can Series, 10.5” x 14” x 9.5”, Mixed media, 2015-2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In another series, Crawford has engaged Midnight, a stray black cat that wandered into his garden, to create the Cat Can Series. “An unlimited supply” of cat food cans from feeding Midnight becomes the material for a somewhat awkwardly stated, perhaps eccentric arrangement of aluminum cat food cans in various conditions: some painted or stained green (Midnight’s eye color), some crushed, some with labels intact (9 Lives and Friskies being the preferred brands), and all enclosed in boxed frames. Employing the same stacking gesture as the early 1970 series, Crawford resuscitates the theme of exploring the visual landscape for architectonic structure.

In wandering through Xavier’s modernist furniture store on Michigan Avenue in Detroit, Trinosophe’s co-director Rebecca Mazzei, along with Joel Peterson, ironically found a stack photos that intrigued her. Pursuing the maker of the photos, she rediscovered the seemingly forgotten artist and art of Crawford. In researching, organizing and designing the exhibition “Jim Crawford,” she has energetically brought to our attention one of the most intriguing figures of the Cass Corridor, one whose work challenges perception and through its changes translates time into evidence for the consideration of big ideas. The exhibition includes various support materials from Crawford’s own archives, such as a post card series and ring binders and files containing Crawford’s copious notations on his projects.

Jim Crawford at Trinosophes – Through December 23, 2016