The United State of Latin America @ MOCAD

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A series of connected terra cotta pots into a kind of alchemical “works” by Ximeno Garrida-Lecca

“If you don’t know what the south is – It’s simply because you are from the north”

That is the simple, pointed statement made on a set of posters by Runo Lagomarsino, free for the taking by anyone who attends “The United States of Latin America” (USLA) exhibit, cornerstone of the MOCAD’s freshly-launched fall program. The show was co-curated by MOCAD’s Senior Curator at Large, Jens Hoffmann, together with guest curator Pablo León de la Barra, UBS MAP Latin American curator at the Guggenheim, with support from the Kadist Art Foundation , which loaned many of the works on display. Vincent Worms, KAF Chairman, had this to say about the show: “This exhibition illustrates how the Kadist Art Foundation likes to bring together collection and exhibition: international artists addressing important socio-political issues, and talented curators like Jens and Pablo—having them dialog in a visually strong exhibition.”

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Pia Camil, Espectacular (cortina), 2012, Stitched and Hand Died Canvas, 79L x 212W inches. Courtesy Kadist Art Foundation and the artist

Certainly, USLA covers a lot of ground, both conceptually and regionally, bringing together artists from all over Latin America—a massive and diverse area that, as León de la Barra pointed out when I spoke with him and Hoffmann during the show’s installation, sometimes plays second fiddle to the United States when it comes to American identity. “The exhibition’s title plays a little bit with the idea that the United States has almost taken the name of America—which is a continent—for itself,” says León de la Barra. Whether it will achieve its goal of sparking a dialogue between these two Americas is anyone’s guess, but the show is full of aesthetics and themes that are sure to resonate across international lines.

Certain of these are the natural result of similarities in the growing pains of societies trying to find their footing in the rapidly shifting sands of industrialization and global business. Columbian photographer Nicolás Conseugra has ten photographs in the show, taken in Bogota and focused on the ghostlike traces of removed letters from signs mounted to the facades of failed businesses. “It talks about urban and economical conditions, but at the same time, how much is actually left of a prior purpose of something once we take the signifiers of it away,” says Hoffman, who chose these works for the show because of their obvious resonance with Detroit’s world-renowned economic decline.

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Minerva Cuevas, America, 2006, Acrylic Paint on Wall, Dimensions Variable. Courtesy Kadist Art Foundation and the artist

Another fascinating piece that deals with a lesser-known chapter in history, as well as a direct link between Detroit and Brazil, is “Fordlândia Fieldwork” by Clarissa Tossin, which maps the efforts made by Henry Ford to exploit rubber from the Amazon. In a large-scale map, folded up in several places to create origami-like structures, Tossin overlays Detroit’s city plan with that of the abandoned city of Fordlandia, which was the rubber plantation established by Ford in the Amazonian rainforest—an attempt on his part to cut out the middlemen who acted as suppliers of caucho, the raw ingredient from rubber trees, integral for tire production. Ultimately, Ford’s concept was unsustainable, the rainforest conditions an overmatch for his ambitions, but the power of a literal connection between these two places, as well as the prescience of a failed city of Ford’s dreams—precursor to the fall of his United States empire—cannot be ignored.

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Captures from a film “Tapitapultutas (Catapults)” by Donna Conlon and Jonathan Harker

It is the earmark of privilege to simply fail to acknowledge any inconvenient truth. This is a lesson that Detroit, and its much-beleaguered native population, knows well. But like the rest of the United States, Detroit exists in a state of relative isolation and ignorance when it comes to international affairs, and the lessons we might learn from them. Both Hoffman and León de la Barra see USLA as an exciting opportunity to bring Latin American artists to light, and with them, tidings and teachings from other emerging places, cities with thriving practices of artist-led revolution and rebuilding. Places with which we, the North, might find we have a lot in common, if we only take a moment to notice.

September 18, 2015 – January 3, 2016

http://www.mocadetroit.org/exhibitions.html

 

David Klein Gallery in Detroit @ Washington Boulevard

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Exterior Gallery Image courtesy of Playground Detroit

The David Klein Gallery opened its new doors September 17, 2015 at 1520 Washington Blvd. in downtown Detroit. The gallery will keep its original space in Birmingham, Michigan that opened in 1990, while the new downtown location is home to its contemporary program.

The First Show is a group survey of the living artists represented by the gallery, many of whom work in the Detroit Metro area. The new gallery provides 4000 square feet of space, twelve foot-high ceilings, and hardwood floors – so much space that if you blinked, you might think you were in a New York City gallery.

David Klein’s decision to move to downtown Detroit is a gamble. He is betting on the future of the City of Detroit, much of which is improving weekly before our eyes. The move, along with Wasserman projects, follows 323 East, Inner State Gallery, and The Butcher’s Daughter who took the leap to New York City. I have to say, it turned my head when Campbell Ewald, the premier ad agency formerly located across Van Dyke from the General Motors Tech Center, moved a year ago to Brush Street, sandwiched in between Ford Field and Comerica Park. For me, it was one of many signs that people and investment were moving into Detroit.

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Jamie Adams, Niagara Pair, 2015, Oil on Linen, 60 X 48

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you enter the new gallery space, the figure painting on your right, Niagara Pair, by Jamie Adams, is a knockout oil painting from his Niagara series that requires a long look. Adams earned his MFA from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, founded in 1805, that hosts a vigorous faculty and each year has visiting critics program. Even today the school has a reputation for pedagogy that addresses technical skills, and this training is evident in Adams’s work which has a technical competence not seen much these days (an exception would be Robert Schefman). When one views his body of work, it has a mid-1700s neo-classical feel. The canvases are inhabited by contemporary figures that often have Niagara Falls as background. Gazing looks between short-haired foppish men and women predominate.

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Robert Schefman, Phasd, 2015, Oil on Canvas, 54 X 42, Courtesy of David Klein Gallery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Robert Schefman’s photo realistic figure painting is even better illustrated in this new painting, Phasd, where he follows his recent trajectory of the figure, nostalgic toys. Here the young woman looks into the audience (often not the case) from an interior room with dramatic stage light. It is as if you have caught and startled her rummaging through her old records. He may want to take us back in time to antique toys and vinyl 45s and 78s on turntables. In much of his earlier work, the figures are on a treasure hunt or attending a burial. He says, “This stuff would form family histories, be the backbone of every Ken Burns narrative, but digital storage is not so stabile, and the changing formats mean that personal information will not be around for my grandchildren to discover.”

The amount of space above the subjects is more than needed, but that is obviously intentional. The space is a counter balance to the activity below, and is perhaps a new element in his work. I interviewed Schefman for a solo exhibition in 2012 and asked him what artist he admired. “If anything, I had always appreciated Philip Pearlstein. He was the closest thing to the abstraction of the figure, in the way things are placed on the page, or chopped off – the way he uses shape and form – it seems as though the figure and objects are incidental to the shapes and color is incidental, but there is not a heavy content in Pearlstein and I was looking for more content.”

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Stephen Magsig, Eastern Market, 2015, Oil on Linen, 24 X 30, Courtesy of David Klein Gallery

Stephen Magsig is a painter of discipline and routine. In addition to his work at the David Klein Gallery, he also exhibits his realistic urban and industrial landscapes at the George Bills Gallery in New York City. The discipline and routine that I refer to is his blog, Postcards From Detroit that contains 5 X 7-inch oil on linen, Hopper-esque paintings of scenes in and around Detroit. I am guessing he starts one of these small paintings outside, takes an image, and may finish in the studio, or maybe he knocks it out on location. He says in Painting Perceptions, “I have always enjoyed drawing even as a child/ I was in 3rd grade when I realized the joy of making artwork. I did a chalk mural on the blackboard and it made me aware that I had a special gift. I have been doing some kind of art ever since.”

It is hard to ignore the influence Edward Hopper must have had on Magsig, but it does not take away from the many paintings he has made that have nothing to do with Hopper, especially the portraits of storefronts, paintings of train wheels, with more attention to light, reflection and detail. His painting, Eastern Market, typifies his Detroit industrial landscape work: strong composition, with low light providing the right amount of drama. On his website he says, “I work in oils on linen canvas and linen panels in the simple and direct Alla Prima method. Although my work is representational, I am more interested in the “Story” of the scene and the “Plasticity” of the paint than in creating an exact representation of the subject.”

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Relic, Scott Hocking, Clinton Snider, Assemblage 400 Boxes, Installation, Image Courtesy of Ernst & Young

On the rear wall of the new David Klein Gallery is a large section of a Scott Hocking and Clinton Snider collaboration. Relics, 2001, part of what was originally a much larger installation, but that consists now of 66 18 X 18-inch boxes of mixed media. At its original display at the Detroit Institute of Arts for its Tri-Centennial Celebration, the installation consisted of over 400 boxes that chronicled the 300-year history of Detroit by using found objects. What makes it particularly interesting is that it finds itself reconfigured from time to time, as it does in these 66 boxes of man-made found objects that take up most of the back wall of the gallery. Also, it’s my understanding that this work is ongoing, and each artist occasionally might contribute a new box to a new configuration, site specific. Perhaps it was artists like Hocking and Snider that played their part in drawing people back to the city. In Relics, they collaborate, install, save and inspire with an artistic and sensitive approach to creating a grid of reclaimed objects. Could the installation have gradually become a metaphor for what was once thought of as old, decayed, downtrodden and obsolete? Does it not help us all to realize that Detroit is rising from the ashes?

I asked Christine Schefman, Director of Contemporary Art for the Gallery, how long has this gallery development been in the works? “It’s been three years from the time David and I saw the movement to Detroit. We spent time looking at a variety of locations and settled on this space, and its proximity to Woodward. I think David has always wanted to be in Detroit.”

The new David Klein Gallery has happened at the right time and in the right place. Certainly, this new space will provide a better opportunity to exhibit larger work that includes painting, photography, sculpture and installation. There is no doubt that both the art and business communities will take notice. Princeton University’s Center for Arts and Cultural Policy published a study on how the arts impacts communities. To summarize the lengthy study, the arts draw people together, foster trust, becomes a source of pride for the community and increase civic engagement along with a further collective action. Don’t be surprised if the David Klein Gallery becomes an anchor for more art related venues in the neighborhood.

 

This September marks the 25th Anniversary of David Klein Gallery.

FIRST SHOW, features work by 30 gallery artists, including Susan Campbell, Liz Cohen, Mitch Cope, Matthew Hawtin, Kim McCarty, Brittany Nelson, Lauren Semivan and Kelly Reemtsen.

September 17 – October 31, 2015

http://dkgallery.com

 

Two’s Company: “Discreet Vulgarities” @ Simone DeSousa Gallery

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Kupertus’ “Peep Seats” running video loops made collaboratively by the pair, on view for all prepared to kneel. Images courtesy of the artists and Simone DeSousa Gallery.

“Discreet Vulgarities,” which opened at Simone DeSousa Gallery on September 11th, could be accurately billed as a two-person show, featuring the work of photographer, multi-media, and performance artist Nicola Kuperus, and fine art painter and videographer Adam Lee Miller. But it could just as easily be considered a kind of two-headed hydra, with only the technicality of distinctions between two artists who have been in close conversation for two decades of create collaboration, as well as a 17-year marriage during which, according to Miller, they have only spent a handful of nights apart from each other.

On the surface, there are distinct bodies of work that can be instantly attributed to one artist or the other—Kuperus’ contributions largely consist of photography, particularly to capture moments within open-ended performances, as well as interactive sculptures; Miller is a formalist painter of commonplace building materials like gutter downspouts and pine studs, the tight rendering of which initially conceal a series of sly insinuations and vaguely dirty jokes.

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“2 Drips” – suspicious liquids by Adam Lee Miller. Images courtesy of the artists and Simone DeSousa Gallery.

Indeed, insinuation and lowbrow humor is the pulsing thematic of “Discreet Vulgarities” (as the title would suggest)—nothing graphic, nothing overt, but nearly every piece contains a subtle insinuation of the basic animal realities that lie beneath Kuperus’ satin gloves and Miller’s art historical references. Fluids drip from the joints of PVC pipes, gloved hand probe naughtily, two-by-fours emerge from and penetrate painted portals within the canvas. Kuperus’ “Peep Seats” go a bit beyond insinuation, forcing viewers to get on hands and knees if they wish to view through peep holes the collaborative video loops being screened within (foam kneeling pads thoughtfully provided). In another sculptural work, XXX, two wooden chairs nestle seamlessly within each other in a tender tableau of anthropomorphic intimacy. The personification of chairs cuts both ways; a photographic work features Kuperus, in a blonde wig and nude body suit, doing her best to blend in with a stack of chairs, and failing amusingly.

 

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“What A Mess,” the first collaborative painting by the pair. Images courtesy of the artists and Simone DeSousa Gallery.

“Discreet Vulgarities” also breaks some new ground for the pair, who, despite collaborating musically via their band ADULT, have never before created a painting together. Their inaugural effort, “What A Mess” not only ties together a number of the show’s visual motifs—gloves, spills, drips, bright washes of color—but creates a satisfying centerpiece in formally fusing two practices which clearly exist apart only ostensibly to begin with. Kuperus and Miller acknowledge the give and take in their partnership, exchanging help with fabrication or conceptualizing, riffing off each other, making jokes that turn serious—in the way of musicians, of married people, of prime interlocutors. The vulgarities may be discreet, but the impact and resonance of these two artists on each other is obvious, and intensely interesting.

Two’s Company: “Discreet Vulgarities” at Simone DeSousa Gallery

The Simone DeSousa Gallery, September 11 – October 10

http://www.simonedesousagallery.com

 

 

Abstraction @ the Detroit Artists Market

 

Abstraction Installation Entrace Onward

Detroit Artist Market – Installation Photo – Courtesy of DAM

On May 1st, the Detroit Artists Market opened the exhibit Abstraction: Artist /Viewer /Dialog. The exhibit runs through May 30th and brings together 38 visual artists who work in the field of abstraction. Juried by Lester Johnson, a native Detroiter who just recently retired as a full professor from the College for Creative Studies, said, “Abstraction is improvisational with layers of meaning and a search for truth; A Lyrical blending of connected memory and interpretive thoughts. Listening to your inner voice makes abstraction your reality.”

As an art form, abstraction has been with us dating back to the turn of the century and the Russian artist Vasily Kandinsky (1866-1944) when the Bauhaus artist segues into abstraction in 1909 with his painting Landscape near Murnau with Locomotive and follows up in 1911 with Composition V. From there, movements such as Cubism, Dada, Surrealism, and Abstract Expressionism have all come under the abstract umbrella and, as demonstrated in the DAM exhibition, are alive and well today. Abstraction like other art forms, is a genre, not having a beginning, middle, and an end, but exists on a continuum. There are new movements today such as performance, installation and new media that present us with new forms, but this does not negate previous forms from co-existing as the art world moves forward, and as demonstrated in music, drama, and literature. The DAM exhibition is a good mix of painting, sculpture, textile, and photography.

Aimee Cameron, Garden

The Garden 49 X 82 Plaster on Fabric, Courtesy of DAM

Aimee Cameron’s work, The Garden, presents the viewer with a horizontal piece of fabric that is folded and arranged using layers of plaster followed by the application of color. She describes her work as, “My fascination with the relationship between materials, form, layers, and process, has played an essential role in the development of my current collection of work. The plaster and fabric base is created with a fast, intuitively uncontrolled process while the surface work is carefully composed in reaction to the base, revealing all the subtle substructures and complicated textual patterns.”

I would not hesitate to describe Ms. Cameron’s work as a form of Abstract Expressionism, and what is interesting to this viewer is both the material and her use of color that pulls the eye towards the center with a dance that works against the folds of fabric. The Garden presented here is ripe.

Bruce Giffin, Blackboard Jungle

Black Board Jungle 16 X 22 Color Print on Watercolor Paper, Courtesy of DAM

Bruce Giffin’s photograph, Black Board Jungle, does a good job reflecting his interest in capturing abstraction. Known for his years of commercial and editorial photography in Detroit where he has created a multitude of covers for the Metro Times, his wealth of personal photography is beautifully portrayed in the 16 X 22 color print, Blackboard Jungle, on watercolor paper where light floods a room creating an interplay of shape and form. The combination of object and shadow presented in an informal composition produces an attractive and mysterious moment for this viewer. “Minor White said it takes 20 years to become a good photographer,” Giffin says. “Twenty-five years later and after having a few good things happen to me, I’m still not good enough. Photography is an evil mistress.”

Janet Hamrick, Littoral Drift

Littoral Drift 24 X 30 Oil on Canvas, Courtesy of DAM

Janet Hamrick, painter and printmaker, delivers an oil painting on canvas that provides the viewer with a quiet execution of line and color in an exchange that is set up formally by dividing the composition using three vertical rectangles. In Littoral Drift, she presents something that could be described as pure abstraction where she creates a non-representational reality that effectively delivers a subtle background pattern. Working out of the Blue Spruce Studio and having exhibited with the Lemberg Gallery, Ms. Hamrick says, “My paintings are meditations found in my life, visually or musically. Littoral Drift comes from the subtle visual formation of ridges or lines in the movement of water.”

Guastella, Carnival-Garden of Plenty

Carnival, 48 X 50 Acrylic on Board, Courtesy of DAM

Carnival, the abstraction by Dennis Guastella captures a field of personal hieroglyphics defined by a grid that could be an Egyptian code or an aerial view of a festive part of Mexico City. The macro view illuminates sections of defined color located informally in the field. He says in a recent statement, “For several years I have integrated a systemic patterning of small beads and thin lines of paint in geometric formations. These patterns allude to woven girders or a framework in an explosion of color and supercharged cubist space.”   The abstraction in Carnival is executed with a kind of crisp precision of brush stroke applied in layers, uses a large color palette and resonates best as it invites contemplation.

Dorchen, Graffiti

Graffiti, 40 X 60 Oil Enamel on Canvas, Courtesy of DAM

Graffiti, the two connected gray panels, in Barbra Dorchen’s enamel oil on canvas, provide the viewer with an understated representation of abstract spaces, one that relies heavily on a field of underdrawn pencil and crayon; the other a red area near the bottom of the painting that hints at a relic of landscape gone by. She says, “My work is an ongoing exploration of imagery, inspired by remnants of past and present cultures. The process involves combining or layering a variety of media, including pages from old books, transfer images, paint, tar, wax, found objects, photographs on paper, wood and installation. My intention is to express a tactile manifestation of form and surface in works that evoke a sense of timeless mystery.”

Brian Pitman, Untitlled

Untitled, 18 X 9 X 14, Limestone, Wood, and Bronze, Courtesy of DAM

Abstraction has deep roots in sculpture. Think about Marcel Duchamp’s R.Mutt, in 1917. Brian Pittman delivers his three-dimensional work, Untitled, made of limestone, wood, and bronze. The symbolism can go in a variety of directions and would seem to intentionally ask the viewer for an interpretation. The heavy wooden base opens to a split piece of shaped limestone, where a bronze, tooth-like shape emerges. The strength comes from a contrast of the material as it works its way upward in this mysterious, abstract form. Mr. Pitman say in his statement, “My work is inspired by my life long investigation of nature and my place within. I explore thoughts on infinity, natural cycles and the balance of conscious and unconscious.
I like to create a personal connection to the material with the repetitive and meditative action of hand tools which also gives sensitivity to the essence of the form.”

A group exhibition of this size can be uneven in terms of quality, and I would submit that has much to do with the jurying process. When the juror makes selections from JPEGs (short for Joint Photographic Experts Group), there is a gap between the real and the digitally photographed image. As Robert Hughes, long-time critic for Time magazine says in his book, Nothing if Not Critical, “Art requires a long look. It is its own physical object, with its own scale and density as a thing in the world. Art is more… than an image of itself.” Across the board, all large juried exhibitions use JPEG images for their juried process, and more than likely, that is not going to change. Perhaps there should be two steps: One screening based on images, and the final selection requiring the real art to be present.

Detroit Artist Market Feature Artist – Catherine Peet

Catherine Peet Entrance

For more than a year now and with each new exhibition,  the Detroit Artists Market has been using the back wall near the desk, as a place for a featured artist. Catherine Peet is an artist whose body of work features a collection of intriguing creative constructs. She combines painting with assemblage to create imagery that incorporates ideas that she derives from mythology, nature, and spirituality. She blends the two techniques together to make political, religious, and pervasive cultural statements in her work.

Abstraction: Artist / Viewer / Dialogue    –  May 1 – 30, 2015

4719 Woodward Ave, Detroit, MI 48201

(313) 832-8540

http://www.detroitartistsmarket.org/