Group Exhibition @ N’Namdi Center for Contemporary Art

Jennifer Junkermeier Curates and Michaela Mosher Designs an Exhibition: Round in Circles.

Installation Image, Round in Circles, N’Namdi Center for Contemporary Art, All Image Courtesy of the Detroit Art Review

For a gallery owner to ask someone to curate an exhibition is both exciting and a little risky.  But George N’Namdi has been in this business for more than thirty-five years, and he knows exactly what he’s doing. By inviting a guest curator Jennifer Junkermeier, he is injecting new energy into his space, one that capitalizes on Detroit-based artists (33) and may very well bring new audiences into the gallery. Simone DeSousa has done something similar in her gallery, recruiting Nancy Mitchnik to curate some 70’s aging Cass Corridor artists (she is one herself) into her gallery, and both go outside the regular season because summer is the right time to do it.  This is N’Namdi’s third annual summer show of Detroit artists with an invited curator. In 2016 it was Essay’d VI by Steve Panton, and 2015 was Mundo ‘Mericas curated by Vito Valdez.

Opening June 16, 2017, Round in Circles, is a collection of Detroit-based visual artists that provide nearly every medium, including painting, drawing, sculpture, video, projection, and literary work on the wall. If you need to tie that together with an idea, why not use the circle as a place to start, if not literally in the work, then probably in the mind of the artist, or a metaphor that applies to almost anything, dating back about 3000 years. She says in her statement, “Yes, going round in circles is dizzying, at once nauseating and exciting, impoverished and plentiful, the form that implies nothing also embraces the possibilities of being everything.”

It’s a pleasure for a writer to pick out some favorites, and say a little something because it is almost impossible to write a review when there is such a variety of work as there is in this exhibition.

Graem White, You Are Here: Center of the Universe, Mixed Media, 11.5 x 14″

Graem Whyte is an artist that works with a wide variety of three-dimensional material, sometimes on the floor, sometimes on the wall.  Born and raised in metro Detroit, Whyte is based in Hamtramck, MI where he and his wife Faina Lerman oversee the community-based activity at Popps Packing. Whyte’s work always feels very unconventional, driven more by the idea than the material, illustrated in his one-person exhibition at Oakland University in 2012. In his work, You Are Here, it seems to play on the border, a manipulated LP record, a gold plate, and a burst of Mixed Media, suggesting that music can be concrete. Graem Whyte is an adjunct art instructor at the Center for Creative Studies.

Shanna Merola, Untitled 2, from series “We All Live Downwind”, Archival inkjet pigment print, 14 x 20″

The photograph by Shanna Merola, from the series, We All Live Downwind, seems driven by her interest in documentary photography, and a deep concern for social justice. This writer is not trying to figure out the context of these orange gloves holding a ceramic dish, rather – enjoying the surrounding and colorful pieces of torn paper. Merloa was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, 1980, earned her BFA at Virginia Commonwealth University, and an MFA Cranbrook Academy of Art.  She lives and works in Hamtramck, Michigan.

Todd Stovall, Untitled, Acrylic, Wood, 2 x 2′ 2017

Detroit artist Todd Stovall keeps the minimalist shaped canvas work alive in his work, Untitled, although this piece is entirely made of wood.  The context for this kind of approach might be artists like Charles Hinman, Ellsworth Kelly, and Frank Stella.  Stovall is not trying to do much with color, rather the simple power of shape, although the red wall is there to support his effort. 

Clara DeGalan, A Veiled Asking, Oil on canvas, 2016

This oil painting, A Veiled Asking, by Clara DeGalan reflects a deep and progressive direction from her earlier work in graduate school, an MFA from Wayne State University in 2015, and a two-person exhibition in 2016 at the Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center. It’s this idea of transparency and the illusion of dimension that creates a mystery that leaves us wanting, combined with an offset but a sturdy sense of composition. All of this held together by a circle and a piece of blue tape. Lovely. 

Round in Circles is a group exhibition that explores formal and metaphorical implications of the circular.” Says Junkermeier.  The exhibition could send a signal to other galleries, to experiment (certainly some do) during your summer months, and realizing there is limited space for thirty-three artists, at least I can mention their names as part of this exhibition.

Contributing Artistis: ‘jide Aje, Danielle Aubert, Corrie Baldauf, Davin Brainard, Tyanna J. Buie, Alexander Buzzalini, Shane Darwent, Clara DeGalan, Simone DeSousa, Erin Imena Falker, Jessica Frelinghuysen, Ani Garabedian, Richard Haley, Asia Hamilton, Megan Heeres, Eli Kabir, Osman Khan, Austin Kinstler, Nicola Kuperus, Timothy van Laar, Anthony Marcellini, Adam Lee Miller, Shanna Merola, Eleanor Oakes, Ato Ribeiro, Robert Platt, Marianetta Porter, Dylan Spaysky, Todd Stovall, Gregory Tom, Graem Whyte, Elizabeth Youngblood, and Alivia Zivich

N’Namdi Center for Contemporary Art

Round in Circles through August 26, 2017

Carlos Diaz @ David Klein Gallery

CARLOS DIAZ, ROUGE SERIES: CLAM SHELL BUCKET – 2012-14 C PRINT 21 X 30″

The David Klein Gallery in Detroit opened a retrospective exhibition of work by the photographer Carlos Diaz, May 13, 2017.   Spaces & Spectacle covers four themes of work dating back to the early 1980’s. Diaz, a Professor of Photography at Center for Creative Studies, has taught and influenced several generations of students in the art of photography over the course of 35 years.

It has been at least a couple of generations since photographers were loading 35mm film into their single lens reflex cameras on a daily basis, providing themselves with the means to record images. The commercial photographers were using mid-range Hasselblad, Cannon, and Nikon that recorded on 2.25 x 2.25 rolls of film, a format that provided the resolution for high-quality print work. All of this changed in the mid-1990’s when digital photography came of age, founded in part by the NASA space program. Diaz had been using film to capture his fine art images, sometimes referred to today as analog versus the digital world of solid-state CCD image sensor chips. In this exhibition, we see a variety of formats Diaz has used to capture and print his fine art photography.

Christine Schefman, Gallery Director says, “The photographs and collages reflect Diaz’s continued interest in the American Industrial Revolution, which gave birth to the working class, and the American amusement industry which was born out of the Revolution.”

CARLOS DIAZ, INVENTED LANDSCAPES OF CONEY ISLAND – 2006 COLLAGE: GELATIN SILVER PRINT & VINTAGE STEEL PLATE WITH WOOD BLOCK ENGRAVINGS 11 X 14″

The collage series Invented Landscapes of Diaz’s work perhaps draws on experience doing mechanical drawing before he started his formal art studies. He went on to complete his BFA from Center for Creative Studies in Detroit and an MFA from the University of Michigan School of Art. The photographic collages are images of the industrial based Coney Island amusement park that became a backdrop for hand-cut images from old patent manuals, allowing Diaz to create what he has described in his statement, “The Invented Landscapes images and the Coney Island environment provides a space to merge both metaphorically and literally, the machines of the industrial revolution and the amusement park landscape. They are the fusion of the functional forms of labor and the fun of the fantasy of the carnival.” The change in tonality allows the viewer to see the added elements.

CARLOS DIAZ, WADE CARNIVAL SHOWS: OCTOPUS RIDE ATTENDANT – 1980-83 ARCHIVAL INKJET PRINT 36 X 36″

In these early 2 x 2 mid-range photographs, created in 1980 while Diaz was still in Ann Arbor, he selects and poses carnival ride attendants for a straight-forward full-bodied portrait. It is back then that it becomes evident that Carlos Diaz has a psychological preference for formal balance in many of his compositions. In the work, Octopus Ride Attendant, Diaz spends the time to center the figure and create an equal amount of space in all directions, either in the compositional set-up or in the printing (described as an archival inkjet print, meaning the negative was scanned and printed using an inkjet printer.) This element does not appear in the Invented Landscape work but dominates most of his other work. To illustrate, when you visit his web site, his image and the text are all centered on the page. I recommend visiting the web site where you can view his entire body of work. He says, “In one form or fashion, photography for me has always provided an opportunity to attempt to understand other people and their circumstances.”

Mary’s Garden, Beyond Borders, 2010, C print. 23 x 30 inches

There is one photograph in the exhibition, Mary’s Garden that comes from his Beyond Borders series where he documents the front yards of many homes in Southwest Detroit. This photograph is another good example of creating this approach to a formal sense of balance and sensibility. The balance comes from this vertical chimney centered in the composition and an even amount of design weight to the large home on the right and the Madonna flower arrangement on the left, not to mention the nice halo of foliage around the parked truck, where a formality of color balance comes into play as well.

CARLOS DIAZ ROUGE SERIES: TORPEDO CAR – 2012-14 C PRINT 21 X 30″

These photographs from the Rouge Series look like full-frame color prints from 35mm film and printed as a C-Print. The term C-print stands for Chromogenic color prints. These are full-color photographic prints made using traditional chemicals and processes. It seems natural that Carlos Diaz would be interested in the Ford Rouge Complex, in that he grew up in Pontiac, Michigan and had a close relationship with the auto industry. Many of his family members work for the auto companies, and Diaz recalls his experience when he first saw the Diego Rivera murals at the Detroit Institute of Arts. He says, “When I saw the Diego Rivera Murals, my view of the automotive worker’s role and the understanding of the realities of automotive production shifted as I began to see modernists painters like Charles Sheeler, who depicted the Rouge and industry as a means that would save mankind.” Here, in the work Torpedo Car, Diaz centers his image, providing more evidence of this preference to address the concept of formality in composition.

CARLOS DIAZ, CARNIVAL MIDWAY: HORSE RACE MURAL – 2008 ARCHIVAL INKJET PRINT 24 X 30″

Carlos Diaz remains interested in the life surrounding carnivals, not just the people, but also the structures, the culture and perhaps the nostalgia. In the 2008 print Horse Race Mural, part of the American Carnival Midway series, the work is formally composed and celebrates the photographic image center stage. We see how the umbrellas enter into the composition, almost identical on each side; More like Ansel Adams, than Henri Cartier-Bresson.

David Klein Gallery until June 10, 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

 

Lane & Senegal @ N’Namdi Center for Contemporary Art

N’Namdi Center for Contemporary Art opened two exhibitions on February 17, 2017: Emerging, which showcases the three-dimensional work by Artis Lane, and BLU BLK, the photography of Stephon Senegal. Known for representing African American artists, the N’Namdi Gallery has selected a young photographer from Brooklyn, New York, whose work explores the human form, often juxtaposing two images against each other, and a well-known sculptor from Los Angles whose work is prominent in famous social and political collections from New York City to Los Angeles.

Portrait of Artis Lane, and bronze sculpture of Rosa Parks

Born in Ontario, Canada, Artis Lane attended the Ontario College of Art, and later Cranbrook Art Academy in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. The sculptor has worked in the foundry for most of her life’s journey, working in bronze to create figures and busts that often convey a metaphysical message. Lane has been honored by the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery with an installation of her bronze portrait of civil rights leader and long time friend, Rosa Parks.

In a statement she says, “My Civil Rights images led me naturally to ideas about what and who we are outside race. I went from there to the most important body of work, the metaphysical images of a generic man and generic woman emerging out of the ignorance of material concepts and evolving into spiritual awareness.”

Artis Lane, Emerging New Women, Bronze, ceramic shell, resin, steel base, 73 x 28 x 12″ 1993

The sculpture with two figures reminds us of DaVinci’s Vitruvian Man. Two bronze female figures are encompassed by a circle One figure is full, polished and complete, and is set against a second figure containing remains of plaster and wire as if to the say the perfect and the flawed co-exists in our lives. It is a metaphorical conversation between the material and the moral.

Stephon Senegal “24a” Archival pigment print, 41” x 41”, 2014

The contrast of Stephon Senegal’s work could not be more obvious in his collection of large, dark color photographs, most containing two images next to each other. The exception is this image of a large leaf over a dark-skinned figure. Senegal attended Maryland Institute of Art, and has gallery representation by Washington D.C.’s Morton Fine Art, Senegal deconstructs the human form, creating an image that is visceral yet tangible. The viewer is perplexed by the mysterious leaf canopy that covers the head.

Stephon Senegal “037” Archival pigment print, 44” x 50”, 2014

In severe contrast is this large photograph of a nude, pregnant black woman against a hanging bag of paper, all on a stark white background. The imagery is beautifully strong and moving, as is the way Senegal creates the open and abstract space in between. He moves effortlessly between these two distinct images with weight, thought and expression.

He says “My work is an exploration into the depths of maturation, chronicling the deconstruction and reconstruction of the human psyche and form. I build histories around obsessive notions and violent motivations while studying how those subsequent interactions convert into ritual and vice.” Senegal attended Maryland Institute of Art and has gallery representation by Washington D.C. at Morton Fine Art,

In these exhibitions George N’Namdi stays true to his mission, and although he has always exhibited artists of all racial backgrounds, his focus here is on the extraordinary talent of two African American artists.

N’Namdi Center for Contemporary Art

Will Ryman @ Center Galleries, College for Creative Studies

Looming like a sci-fi phantom, a gossamer, spaceship-like car floats in the mercurial light of Center Galleries. It is an actual sized sculpture of the 1958 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz– framed with resin and then shrouded in white, embossed Bounty paper towel–and is the fabrication of New York artist Will Ryman. The thing astonishes with its implausibility. We in Detroit wait every year for the latest and greatest version of automobiles but this particular moment, 1958, called for something different.

Will Ryman, 1958 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz, Wood, Resin, Paper towel, 2017

Post World War II life is often referred to as the moment when America was great, as in “Make America Great Again.” The United States had emerged from WW ll as a savior of the Western World and the soldiers returned to an explosive economy that inspired and encouraged a new and better life. The soldiers got the GI Bill which was money for fighting the war. The brilliant technologies developed to build planes, ships, tanks, and guns were ready to be employed to build a new American infrastructure. After a few post war years of stagnant auto sales, Harley Earl, head of General Motor’s “Styling Department,” employing a strategy called Planned Obsolescence, found a way of making a new car, an alluring “object of desire,” every year and one for every purse. It was a very big deal! From Chevy, Pontiac, Buick, Oldsmobile to Cadillac every American wage earner could have a car that represented their class and level of economic status. The cars slowly evolved with modest cosmetic changes every year—a curve of a fender here, a piece of chrome there, a new palette of tantalizing colors, sumptuous upholstery or push button radios with front and rear speakers. Each new year model made last year’s version less attractive, less sexy. The American economy was the wonder of the world.

Will Ryman, Installation image, all images courtesy of Robert Hensleigh

The 1958 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz, a hybrid of the P-38 fighter plane, a horse drawn carriage of the Victorian aristocracy and avatar of female goddess, was at the top of the heap. Its name says it: three names all denoting power and wealth– Cadillac for the historical founder of Detroit; Eldorado, Spanish for gold and the lost city of gold in Spanish mythology; Biarritz the French resort on Basque coast made famous by actress Bridget Bardot and the hangout of the very rich.

Will Ryman (b.1969), playwright, sculptor, painter, and, conceptual artist, has most recently composed what seems like a trilogy of poignant installation/sculptures that turn on American politics and history, culture and identity. Each uses apt materials to perform dramatic vignettes focusing attention on the collision of American ideals. Ryman’s “America,” (2013) is an actual-sized model of Abraham Lincoln’s boyhood home and is now housed in the New Orleans Museum of Art’s permanent collection. The cabin is made of real logs but coated with a rich gold resin patina and has an interior brimming with tesserae of bits that compose the history of American labor and production. The interior walls are a mosaic of everything from cottons balls and slavery shackles to pills, bullets, iPhones and arrowheads.

Will Ryman, The Situation Room, 2012 – 2015

More contemporary and polemic is Ryman’s “The Situation Room,” (2012-14) a life-size sculpted tableau of the famous and bizarre photo of President Obama and his closest circle, including Hillary Clinton, watching a live-feed from Pakistan of the assassination of Osama bin Laden by Navy Seals. Appropriately composed of crushed coal, turning the tableau into a shadow in the American memory bank, it serves as frightening meditation on the all too intimate scale of war and global politics. Perhaps because he was a playwright, Ryman’s sense of history and drama are dead-on as he seems to choose subjects and materials that point poignantly at the vital issues of our culture. Few artists of our time have been able to deal so directly with our political landscape.

Will Ryman, Detail, 1958 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz, 2017

“Cadillac” (2014) is a haunting installation that, as you spend time with it, accumulates gravity and puts American history in strange relief. Beyond its initial novelty, a mashup of art history with its winged tailfins, sculpted with Art Nouveau’s whiplash fender lines and wraparound windshield, bounteous breast shaped bumper guards and covered in Bounty paper toweling, it possesses an uncanny, funereal presence. Like the painted white ghost bikes along the side of the road that memorialize children being killed by cars, “Cadillac” summons bigger thoughts about life and mortality and our collision with the industrial landscape. Bounty toweling, with its art deco (the symbol of cosmetic superficiality) embossed pattern and tag of “Bounty” on every sheet, creates an ironic commentary on the excesses of corporate America that was called attention to by President Eisenhower in his Farewell Address (1961). He warned of the threat of the Military Industrial complex that had taken over American culture and industry and that has become a part of everyday life.

The 1958 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz broke every rule and standard of “Good Design” (a phrase that also meant good economics) set by most thoughtful modernists. While car design became a form of pop culture and post war novelty and spectacle, American design had become ostentatious, superficial, a symbol of conspicuous consumption and in the long run bad economically. In 2017 it is a ghostly reminder and presence incarnating all of the worst impulses of American culture and economics and not simply a kitschy tableau. Ryman’s chimera of our past absorbs (“Bounty is the thicker, quicker picker-upper”) and exudes our strange history. Ryman recently said that, instead of editorializing on his art, he has learned to let his materials speak for themselves and his “Cadillac” Eldorado Biarritz is stunningly articulate.

As part of the current Center Galleries exhibition Alumni & Faculty Hall is exhibiting Jeff Cancelosi: Picturing Us, featuring engaging, large format color photos of some familiar faces of artists and prime suspects of the landscape of Detroit art.

Jeff Cancelosi, “Artist Bailey Scieszka” Photograph, 2016

CCS Center Galleries –     Will Ryman: Cadillac  –   January 28-March 4, 2017