Wasserman Projects Debuts New Space in Detroit

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Wasserman Projects, 3434 Russell Street Exterior, image Courtesy of Wasserman Projects

It’s official- the heat is on at Wasserman Projects.

What has certainly been the most hotly anticipated and energetically hyped opening in Detroit’s buzzing Fall gallery season finally exploded last Friday. For the debut of its new, sprawling warehouse-style space in Eastern Market, Wasserman Projects marked the occasion by assembling a nicely balanced klatch of three artists from its wheelhouse, Brooklyn-based painter Markus Linnenbrink, Miami-based architect Nick Gelpi, and Detroit-based sound artist Jon Brumit. Detroit DJ JeedoX was on hand spinning a dazzling array of danceable beats, with guest saxophonist Saxappeal performing on the gallery’s main floor, stepping in and out of the show’s hulking moveable installation, Linnenbrink and Gelpi’s collaborative piece titled TheFirstOneISCrazyTheSecondOneIsNuts. What was instantly clear upon entering the space was that Wasserman Projects is channeling an atmosphere of boundless, cross-pollinating possibility- and that it knows how to throw a party. Outside the entrance an army of valets lingered to provide complementary parking service. Inside, there was a coffee counter, candy kiosk, sumptuous buffet or generous open bar everywhere one looked. In the intimate, tightly interwoven community that is the Detroit art scene, the attendees of Wasserman’s grand opening included everyone on the planet- plus a new and unfamiliar auxiliary from the suburbs, perhaps drawn by Wasserman’s previous identity as a serious gallery located in Birmingham, MI, which up until now has served as Detroit’s Gold Coast of high-end galleries. The festive flavor of the opening was complemented by the playful aesthetic and feel of the work on display, which, even in the overwhelmingly crowded, noisy atmosphere, managed to hold its ground.

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Nick Gelpi, Architect, in collaboration Brooklyn-based painter Markus Linnenbrink Image Courtesy of Wasserman Projects

Wasserman’s debut exhibition for its Detroit space is both huge and intimate. The space is literally large enough to encompass self-contained smaller spaces, as in the above-mentioned installation by Nick Gelpi and Markus Linnenbrink, TheFirstOneISCrazyTheSecondOneIsNuts. A full-scale modular home on wheels designed and constructed by Gelpi opens down the middle to reveal an interior painted with bright, dripping bands furnished by Linnenbrink that nearly induce vertigo with their dissemblance to horizontality that veers off into swoops, bends and taut clusters before the viewer’s eyes. The structure was ponderously rolled open at the reception by the Wasserman Projects team as microphoned security docents anxiously waved the audience back- for a moment, the movement of the house as it cracked open like a gargantuan egg took on an uncanny whiff of rupture and destruction. The ghosts of a million destroyed homes and displaced families from the neighborhoods surrounding Eastern Market stood at the door- then all was in place, and the audience could step inside and take selfies against Linnenbrinks’s masterly bands of pure color, which are ruptured at intervals by paint drips that limn offhandedness and fierce control.

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Jon Brumit, a large-scale, multi-form outdoor installation, a sonorous grain silo. Image Courtesy of Wasserman Projects

This underlying theme of connection to the rhythms of the city Wasserman Projects has made its new home popped up again in two sound-centered works by Jon Brumit. One resides in a roughhewn structure that resembles a ring of voting booths, atop which the artist perched during the opening, mirroring the performative role of DJ JeedoX across the gallery. The subtle, vibrant sounds Brumit caused to issue from small plastic models of pastries hooked up to old-timey radio speakers, one installed in each booth, were hard to catch over the venue’s blasting soundtrack. Brumit’s other installation, located outside the gallery, provided a perfect escape from the bright, insistent visuals inside the Wasserman space. One ducks into a low doorway cut into the decapitated peak of an industrial silo and sits in near total darkness as a motion-activated, base-heavy sound piece thrums right through the corrugated metal walls and thrusts the body into the microcosmic- like how it would feel to be an atom deep within a stereo speaker. A third sound piece will be broadcast over FM radio on channel —-, completing the exhibition’s engagement with its locality through channels visual and sonic, overwhelming and penetrable. And, in 2016, Belgium-based artist — will bring his massive project—, including a population of live chickens, to Wasserman Projects. As of its grand opening, this space is doing canny, subversive justice to its new location- almost tempting one to wonder what Wasserman Projects won’t roll open in the next few years.

3434 Russell Street, Detroit MI 48207

www.wassermanprojects.com

 

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

 

 

Natural Selection Works @ the Scarab Club

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Scarab Club, Natural Selection Works, Installation image, Courtesy of Jim Pujdowski

When you visit the Detroit Institute of Arts, you look only a hundred yards away and see the Scarab Club, active in the community for over 100 years and a thriving force for local artists.

The Scarab Club’s most recent exhibition, Natural Selection Works opened September 10, 2015 and is curated by Jim Pujdowski, a longtime member of the Detroit Artistic Community. In his statement, Jim says, “The ten artists selected for this exhibition have the untiring desire to create. Each artist stands on their own and together they signify the strength of what is Detroit art.”

The exhibition, dominated by Wayne State alumni, brings together a community of artists that have dotted the landscape for many years. The longtime and exuberant director of the gallery, Treena Ericson, says, “Curating is an art form of its own. In this exhibition Jim has brought together ten artists with distinctly different styles, yet the show has a beautiful cohesion.” As you enter, ponder the names of those artists who have exhibited on these walls: Diego Rivera, Norman Rockwell, Pablo Davis, Gilda Snowden and Robert Wilbert, to name only a few.

 

Shirley Parish

Shirley D. Parish, After Midnight, Oil Painting 45 X 64 Image Courtesy of Ron Scott

As part of her cloud series, and most recently exhibited at the Ellen Kayrod Gallery, Shirley Dombrowski Parish presents the viewer with After Midnight, a large oil painting that evokes a spiritual feeling, a backdrop for a Michelangelo figure, or possibly a metaphorical abstraction for creation. In her statement, she says, “The painting of the sky began after many years of studying landscape. I try to capture light and breeze. I am aware of the constant shifting of light reflection of the sky, the sunset, water. The light is forever changing. These paintings are perceptions of experience, a visual poetry.” In her collection of thirty or more of these cloud based paintings, her subtle interpretation, wide and varied, provides the viewer with a vast range of interpretations, many that feel like a meditation. They are both representational and abstract, that create a kind of tension or play that may very well bring the viewer back again and again.

Andrew Blake

Andrew Blake, Untitled # 1, Acrylic on Canvas, 60 X 48, Image Courtesy of Ron Scott

An exception to an aging generation of artists in the exhibition is Andrew Blake with his painting Untitled 1, where he combines both figurative imagery with abstraction that invites the viewer into a complex composition relying on a diverse color palette and black line. The young artist attended the University Liggett School in Grosse Pointe before enrolling at the Maryland Institute in Baltimore, Maryland. Some may recall his exhibition at the Cass Café or know him from his musical performances at the Cadieux Café. The strength in Untitled # 1’s composition is the large figure in the upper right juxtaposed against the collage of abstract shapes, smaller figures and an array of line and shaped overlay.

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Carlo Vitale, Abstraction of Circles, Oil on Canvas, 48 X 60 Image Courtesy of Ron Scott

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In this pointillist abstract composition, artist Carlo Vitale uses the circle as his theme for a colorful oil painting. The Detroit born artist says his influence often comes from working on a relative’s farm in the Michigan thumb area. Much of his work is devoted to a geometric grid approach to composition, with work that resembles a mosaic at a distance. He says, “My work is influenced by agricultural themes along with the colorful imagery of everyday life. The work generates kinetic and optical effects that are conjured up from music obsessions and the spirituality found in the art process.”

Robert Hyde

Robert Quentin Hyde, Untitled #3, Collage on Panel, 13 X 19, Image Courtesy of Ron Scott

Some may not want to re-visit Cubism, but I am guessing Robert Quentin Hyde might be a fan of Picasso, Fernand Leger, Georges Braque, and Robert Delaunay. In his intricate painting, Untitled #3, he unleashes the design of cubism and adds multiples of the feminine figure with an equipoise of primary and secondary color values. Yet another Wayne State University grad, who is known for his paintings that contain the heads of many women, Hyde builds in this composition a strong force of blue and orange that skillfully fuse the hermetic and detailed shapes together.

As a seasoned curator of exhibitions at the Liggett Gallery, Jim Pujdowski has sewn together familiar names and artwork by some of the better-known artists in the Detroit area. And what a better place to kick off the 2015 fall season than the Scarab Club where a team of people work hard to bring performance, literary events, and visual art exhibitions to midtown Detroit.

Natural Selection Works – September 10 – October 10, 2015

http://scarabclub.org

Essay’d III: A Diverse Class of Artists & Writers

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“Meet me at The Pangolin Gallery” – mixed media/found object sculpture by Matt Corbin, Image Courtesy Sarah Rose Sharp

Never am I more impressed with the curatorial efforts of Steve Panton, then when I see an installment of the ongoing Essay’d series at his gallery, 9338 Campau, in Hamtramck. Panton already has established his reputation as one of the most innovative and intuitive curators around the Detroit art scene, with his first gallery 2739 Edwin, that he ran out of his own Hamtramck living space. Panton’s passion for research and his interest in local history has translated into a gift for tracking and uncovering artistic diamonds in the rough, and the shows at Edwin were a proving ground for unheard-of talents, and a showcase for the rising stars of Detroit outsider art.

During the first year of programming at his new gallery, which sits at street level on Hamtramck’s Jos Campau main strip, Panton has presented an array of fresh and established talent in the vaulted gallery space, including painter Saffell Gardner, months before the announcement as a 2015 Kresge Visual Art Fellow, fiber artist Lynn Bennett-Carpenter, and experimental musician Frank Pahl—a longstanding participant in the Detroit cultural scene, who is enjoying a Renaissance of interest at the moment. In addition to his ambitious move into a full gallery space, Panton piloted Essay’d, which presents essays on canonical Detroit artists, written monthly by Panton, Dennis A. Nawrocki, Matthew Piper, and myself. Roughly every three months, when a new “class” of ten artists has been essayed, Panton presents a group show at the gallery, and it is here that his curatorial skills are put to the test.

The writers for Essay’d choose their own subjects, based on passion and interest, and as a result, every set of ten presents a challenge in a group show setting. Typically group shows are arranged around some thread of commonality—thematic, locational, art movement, medium—but the Essay’d shows gather together a set of artists chosen by a set of writers. Furthermore, though he provides input, Panton gives the artists much leeway over what works they provide for the show, creating a second layer of abstraction in his curatorial control. It is impressive, then, how much the Essay’d shows hang together in a balanced and interesting way.

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EXQUISITE CORPSE MACHINE (Prototype #3). All ages and skill levels welcome. Image courtesy of 9338 Campau.

The opening, on Saturday, August 22nd, was a packed affair, with attendees of all ages and interests. Children gathered around Andy Malone’s interactive “Exquisite Corpse Machine 3”—an elaborate wooden device mechanizing the old-fashioned game that forces participants to make a collaborative drawing. Malone will be on hand this Saturday, August 29th, from 3:00-5:00, for an exquisite corpse activity at the gallery, and nascent artists of all ages are encouraged to attend.

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Detail from Sandra Cardew’s beautiful two-sided embroidered work, “Free-Falling” Image Courtesy of Sarah Rose Sharp

Other standout work included Sandra Cardew’s breathtaking fiber works, blending fabric construction and delicate embroidery with traditional painting and sculpture, to create highly ephemeral and wistful pieces. Clinton Snider contributed several small works, including a miniature house sculpture that appears to float midair, obviously from the same body of new work as “Sleeping Potential,” which he showed at Popps Packing earlier this year.

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“Red House Island” by Clinton Snider, Image of Sarah Rose Sharp

A number of the artists presented work in their signature style, such as Mary Fortuna’s series of small paintings, which encapsulate a few variations on her perennial themes—bees, lotus flowers, third eye, and, of course, snakes—and selections from printmaker Toby Millman’s classic oeuvre. Ceramicist Marie Woo showed several trademark pieces, including a stack of green discs that was both formal and organic, suggesting an object somewhere between a pile of dirty dishes and an outgrowth of mushrooms from a large tree.

Then there were the far-outsiders. Matt Corbin, the final artist in this particular Essay’d class, whose essay will go live on September 1st, just prior to the show’s closing on September 5th, showed a couple of truly offbeat found object sculptures, including an anteater made entirely from repurposed plastic water bottles. Interspersed throughout the gallery are selections from Jon Strand’s newest series of intensely inked pointillist works, which bend the very edge of reason and obsession with their literal waves of detail. Finally, for the politically-minded, Shanna Merloa (essayed by guest writer Clara DeGalen) showed several archival inkjet prints from her series, “We All Live Downwind,” which utilized collage to raise questions about impurities in the water system. Native South African artist and CCS professor Chido Johnson showed “Revolutionary Residue”—early works in the form of cast cement fists that he says were created in the spirit of historical reference to post-apartheid South Africa, but he finds remain tragically relevant in the context of America’s current day struggles with race relations.

As always, the Essay’d show provided an opportunity to revel in our favorite artists, and discover some new ones. As a visual entry point into the artists chronicled on Essay’d, it provides an excellent chance for cross-pollination—people may see something in the gallery that draws them to read an essay on the website, or vice-versa. One sense that Steve Panton has learned to get the art to the people any which way he can. Kudos!

Essay’d III   August 22 – September 5, 2015

http://9338campau.com