Some Assembly Required @ the Hill Gallery

 

Mr. Bill Raushauser with Maggie Hill, MOCAD, 2015 Courtesy of Ron Scott

Mr. Bill Raushauser with Maggie Hill, MOCAD, 2015 Courtesy of Ron Scott

Since 1980, the Hill Gallery, under the direction of Timothy and Pamela Hill has been exhibiting fine art that specializes in material exploration and an exceptional 19th and 20th century Folk Art collection. The summer group show, Some Assembly Required, features work among others by Alfred Leslie, Gordon Newton, Joel Shapiro, Mark di Suvero and Bill Rauhauser. I covered Motor City Muse: Then and Now, at the Detroit Institute of Arts, that featured Rauhauser’s photograph Stone Burlesk, where his work was included with photography by Robert Frank and Henri-Cartier Bresson. Rauhauser received the 2014 Eminent Artist award from the Kresge Foundation, where his work was recently on display at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit.

Bill Rauhauser “Kresge Court” 20” X 30”, 1970, Pigment Print, Archival Paper

Bill Rauhauser “Kresge Court” 20” X 30”, 1970, Pigment Print, Archival Paper

Bill Rauhauser, born in Detroit in 1918, received a Bachelor’s Degree in Architectural Engineering in 1943 from the University of Detroit. He spent 18 years in the engineering field before a career change into the field of education. Over the next 30 years, Mr. Rauhauser taught photography at The College for Creative Studies and taught as a guest lecturer at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and at Wayne State University. He has made Detroit his main subject, walking its streets and alleys with his camera since the 1940s, and many of his photographs are in the collection of the Detroit Institute of Arts as well as in numerous private collections.

 

Gordon Newton “For Turner” 1988 Mixed Media 19”h x 20.5” x 13.25” Image Courtesy Hill Gallery

Gordon Newton
“For Turner”
1988
Mixed Media
19”h x 20.5” x 13.25”
Image Courtesy Hill Gallery

Born in Detroit in 1948, Gordon Newton began taking art classes at Port Huron Community College. In 1969, he moved to Detroit to attend the Society of Arts and Crafts (now College for Creative Studies) and Wayne State University, both located in Detroit. In 1971, Newton’s work was included in the inaugural exhibition at the Willis Gallery, a cooperative space run by artists working in the Cass Corridor, Detroit. His work has also been included in exhibitions at the Guggenheim Museum, the Whitney Museum of American Art, The Detroit Institute of Arts and most recently the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit. A reluctant Kresge Fellowship recipient in 2009 is demonstrated by his shy and reclusive lifestyle juxtaposed to his bold and assertive work that often seems like an exploration of material. The work For Turner provides the viewer with an assemblage that reaches out to its audience with art related objects, a metaphor for his approach to painting. The title may reference the work of J.M.W. Turner, the English artist whose work of fluid landscape bordered on abstraction at a time in deep contrast to artists of that era.

 

Alfred Leslie “Ornette Coleman”  1956 Oil on Canvas 7 ft h x 9 ft w  Image Courtesy Hill Gallery

Alfred Leslie
“Ornette Coleman”
1956
Oil on Canvas
7 ft h x 9 ft w
Image Courtesy Hill Gallery

Alfred Leslie, the famous abstract expressionistic painter from the 1950s who’s known for losing his oeuvre of fifty paintings in a fire, had his 1956 painting Ornette Coleman in storage at the time. The painting is made up of four panels that demonstrate action, a wide brush stroke, and multiples fields of under painting, which provide the viewer with a rich sense of composition and color. If there were an influence, it would have to be Willem deKooning. I can think of few artists who have worked in so many genres that include super-realist figure painting, sculpture, drawing, collage, and computerized photography. In a 2009 Art in America interview with Judith Stein, he is quoted as saying “Subverting expectations has always been integral to my work.”

Mark di Suvero “Untitled Sculpture”
 2003
 Cut and Welded Steel 37”H x 43”W x 24”D Image Courtesy Hill Gallery

Mark di Suvero
“Untitled Sculpture”

2003

Cut and Welded Steel
37”H x 43”W x 24”D
Image Courtesy Hill Gallery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mark di Suvero was a philosophy major at the University of California before moving to New York City in 1957 to pursue a career in sculpture. His early work was constructed of large wooden timbers and structural steel that pave the way to an Abstract Expressionistic approach to sculpture. In 2010, di Suvero received the National Medal of Arts from the National Endowment for the Arts. In a quote from the NEA Blog, he says, “I’ve been doing it for more than fifty years, so it’s just become a regular routine. I go to work until I am exhausted… That’s the kind of principle that I work with, and I’m very much hands-on so that I don’t send my work out to fabricators.” In the Untitled piece in the Hill Gallery, there is a rough elegance of balance where two pieces of I-Beam steel are connected in contrast by abstract shapes. It simply plays on weight, space, and shape.

The Hill Gallery selects works from artists who have been recognized both locally and nationally and who have defined an authentic aesthetic voice. Their involvement with these artists is long-term and personal, with many relationships of 20 years or more.

 

Some Assembly Required    June 4th-  July 9th

 

http://www.hillgallery.com/#!current/ce6o

Greg Fadell @ the Museum Of Contemporary Art Detroit

Greg F S.Birth of Venus  Ofalisque, Museum Posters Altered by Chemicals, 2014

Image,  Greg Fadell,  Birth of Venus, Odalisque, Museum Posters, Altered by Chemicals, 2014

Greg Fadell is part of the Detroit Affinities Program, a series of solo exhibitions at Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD), beginning in September 2014 with John Maggie and continuing through January 2018. Ten artists, half from Detroit, and half from outside areas will exhibit during that period.

“We try to bring a broader community together around issues. It’s about letting us understand ourselves better, it has also provided a broader network for local artists and elevated them onto the national and international stage of contemporary art, including showing their work outside Detroit,” says Elysia Borowy-Reeder, executive director of MOCAD.

Mr. Fadell’s work opened May 15, 2015 and includes two-dimensional work, three dimensional work, and video. The two dimensional work is taken from museum posters where the imagery is worked over with chemicals in a kind of abstract expressionist manner. For this observer, the work is not a parody, like in Marcel Duchamp’s Mona Lisa L.H.O.O.Q. 1930, but in some sense could be interpreted as a ready-made with an alteration. Throughout the exhibition, Fadell pays careful attention to the size and shape he presents where he intentionally smudges the art history reproductions, leaving some reveal. When Andy Warhol screened a Campbell Soup can, some thought it was a spoof. When Roy Lichtenstein enlarged a frame from a comic strip, there were those who thought he was putting them on, and when the minimalist, Ad Reinhardt made an all-black painting, the work challenged most viewers’ patience. And some will remember when Robert Rauschenberg made a drawing with an eraser, titled Erased de Kooning Drawing, in 1953. All of these works build off an intellectual idea that an artist’s work is embedded in the viewers explicit knowledge of the process of making art: an artistic moment. Windows in Paris, where he was drawn to the soap-like swipes on vacant retail display area, inspired Mr. Fadell’s work. He came back to Detroit and soaped some windows, and then he soaped some large canvases and called them Nothing. His exhibition at the Simone DeSousa Gallery in 2012 was called Nothingness. No image is not new, but what is new is Fadell’s use of famous, well celebrated historic imagery that has been smudged over. If I had to call it something, I might call it a Dada practice by a skateboard enthusiast.

 

Greg Fadell, Ahh...Youth, Balloon Dog, Henri Matisse, 2014 Museum poster altered by chemicalsImage, Greg Fadell,  Ahh…Youth, Balloon Dog, Henri Matisse, Museum Poster Altered by Chemicals, 2014

I posed a few questions for Greg Fadell.

Ron Scott – How and when did you first get interested in making visual art?

Greg Fadell – As long as I can remember I’ve been into artistic ways of expression and I consider skateboarding, which I’ve done since I was six years old, the first and most important one. When I was young I also enjoyed drawing, in high school I was really into photography, and I chose to study film in college. Lately I’ve leaned toward painting, but I let my ideas dictate what medium to choose.

RS – Having heard your talk, you mentioned being bored by art history?  Did you mean the art history classes that bored you?

GF – The literalness of how art history is treated bores me. I have always thought what lies between the lines of “historical facts” is more interesting.  I view art history as mostly opinions that are fluid and malleable, so why not shape it my own way and create something more interesting than the ideology that is presented and usually just parroted.

RS – Do you like or have criteria for the art museum posters that you select, or is that arbitrary?

GF – It is not a question of liking or disliking – I look at the posters and the imagery I choose as a tool.  If the tool fits my purpose, I use it.

RS – Is there any relationship between your skateboard work and your visual artwork?

GF – For me skateboarding is more than an activity – it is a mindset; a way of thinking that permeates my work consciously and subconsciously.Jens & FudallJens & Fudall

Jens & Fudall

Jens & FudallImage, Jens Hoffman, MOCAD Curator, and Greg Fadell, Artist Talk, MOCAD 2015

Greg Fadell gave a talk with curator Jens Hoffman on the Saturday following the opening. Along with some slides, he made the case for his work using historical references and some chronological slides of his earlier work. Today it’s commonplace for venues to have the artist present, and for this viewer it was important to hear how the artist came to his conclusions. Overall, the work seems like an investigation, one that takes information and makes changes to the imagery. The transition from his pure abstract work to these altered museum posters seems logical and may give him some traction in terms of authenticity. A question might be would I like to have one in my living room? If I am a collector who is looking to be the first to enjoy the novelty, maybe so. Fadell seems to use skateboarding as a metaphor for his life: Anything is possible. Take action and be yourself and tap into the creative flow.

Greg Fadell solo exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit.

http://www.mocadetroit.org

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/

 

Tom Phardel @ Popps Packing

Installation

Installation-Courtesy of the Artist, Photo – Ron Scott

Popps Packing on the northeast side of Hamtramck is a gallery that describes itself as an experimental arts venue. April 25 through May 17, 2015, it hosts an exhibition, Inner-Core, with sculpture by Tom Phardel. The building has been converted from a 1930’s meat packing plant to a cookie factory and now a gallery that has an artist residency as part of its purpose. The large space serves to function as studio practice, architectural interventions, and alternative systems projects. Founded in 2007 by Graem Whyte and his wife, Faina Lerman, the upper portion of the structure also serves as their residence.

On a fundamental level, Mr. Phardel’s work could be described as modern, contemporary, and even conventional in comparison to installations that use waste material and found objects as their medium. All of the work in the exhibition would qualify as made-by-hand objects that vary in material from stoneware clay to fabricated steel. Mr. Phardel’s work in this exhibition is modest in size, and influences that come to mind are Ellsworth Kelly and John Duff. There are both reliefs and stand-alone pieces that do not radically break away from tradition, but rather find themselves on an evolving continuum of recognized work, accompanied by a high level of technical execution. The ceramic work is complex but accessible, but in pieces where the steel fabrication process is used, it goes beyond a layperson’s understanding. One might picture an object-mold made of plastic, plaster or wood being used as a form that provides the uniformity of shape. But the technical accomplishment of Mr. Phardel’s sculpture stands second to the conceptual ideas he presents. Duality of form, earth-like surfaces, and at times a sense of spirituality, provide the audience with a feeling that is old and new, organic and industrial, ancient, yet modern.

In a statement, Mr. Phardel says, “In my artwork I try to distill universal forms and experiences to their core essence. There are portals exposing hidden interior spaces, surfaces that have acquired a visual language of usage, time and ephemeral translucent elements that transmit only the essential outlines of form and color. These elements tell the human story, a yearning to understand the unknown. The work selected for this show, both new and old, are all based on the concept of revealing an inner essence of forms, the Inner-Core. I hope the pure love of making objects comes through clearly as well as the need to communicate deeper experiential thoughts within a simplified framework. ”

Red Bindu, Fabricated Steel 16 X 28

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Red Bindu, Fabricated Steel  16 X 28, Courtesy of the Artist  Photo – Ron Scott

An example of duality is the steel fabricated piece with two holes vertically placed and the surface spray-painted and sanded many times to produce the radiant red. The title Red Bindu could refer to the gateway to the Himalayan Yoga tradition where people hunger for connection to the core of life through meditation. These Yoga Meditations combine philosophy, practice, and oral instructions passed on through time. Whether or not this is accurate, when experiencing the relief, we converge on an attractive meditation that takes us to a place that resonates. A place we understand.

Do I like some of these objects better than others? Sure, but it reminds me that we all bring our own experience and sensibility to the art experience, and the end result is different for everyone. In the case of Tom Phardel’s work, we get originality, exploration of form, unusual and sophisticated use of material, and at times a spiritual presence.

Golden Plateau, Salt fired black stoneware, Maple

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Golden Plateau, Salt Fired black Stone, Courtesy of the Artist

Popps Packing   http://www.poppspacking.org

12138 Saint Aubin, Hamtramck, MI 48212    313-733-6793