Carlos Rolón/Dzine @ OUAG

Oakland University Art Gallery invites the audience to an installation that includes objects and performance.

Barbershop

Carlos Rolon Dzine, Barbershop, Mixed Media & Three Channel Video 2016 All images Courtesy of the Detroit Art Review

The installation work by Carlos Rolón/Dzine at the Oakland University Art Gallery is called Commonwealth and was created by this first generation Puerto Rican artist from Chicago.

Its title makes reference to the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, a self-governing unit voluntarily grouped with the United States even though it remains an independent country. A post-colonial perspective melds Rolón’s memories of his youthful Hispanic cultural that includes a diverse hybrid of carefully crafted objects, installation, and performance that inform his work.

One entire gallery space is devoted to the re-creation of a 1940’s urban Barbershop that includes wall paneling, flooring, barber’s chairs and four surrounding video panels that display the hair cutting process. Rolón says “My intention is to introduce the Barber as artist/sculptor and how the barbershop creates a home and safe-haven to allow for freedom of expression.” The site-specific installation is inspired by a photograph by Jack Delano, Barbershop in Bayamon 1941, and on the opening night, two barbers were on site to provide haircuts to attendees. My interest was piqued because of my relationship with the Puerto Rican culture after having been immersed via my marriage for forty years. The food, music, religion and way of life have been part of my life since the early 1970’s.

Fine China object

Carlos Rolon Dzine, Fine Regal China, Hand Made Porcelain, 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The porcelain vase/pitcher was designed by Rolón but produced in China and replicates some of the faux objects his mother collected when he was a child. For a family steeped in religious traditions, these type of porcelain objects represented high cultural art based on objects that you might think belong to an aristocracy, as do silk flower arrangements and clocks imbedded in ceramic frames. Adding these types of objects to the exhibition recreates markers or icons within Hispanic cultural traditions. Typically, these pieces were on display in ornate wooden display cabinets along with wedding favors and family photographs, all part and parcel of the culture.

Afro Comb

Carlos Rolon Dzine, Afrocomb, High Density Urethane, Resin, Paint 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Included in the exhibition is a large and carefully crafted ‘pop art’ object, the Afro hair pic that includes a clenched fist as part of the handle, both symbols during the 1970s in urban cities. The cultural object here is used to shape hair and represent the Black Power Movement, prominent in the struggle against the establishment and a promotion of self-determination. This is yet one more part of Rolón’s installation, creating an environment that paints a picture of his early personal and cultural memories.

Vendor Cart

Carlos Rolon Dzine, Nomadic Habitat, Mixed Media & Merchandise 2016

In cities like New York or Chicago, there was a time when the vendor cart was commonplace. These carts represented all kinds of ethnic food, from hot dogs, pretzels, bagels, and blintzes to the Hispanic cart that sold tostones, empanadas, fritas and pasteles. The nomadic vending carts were located in neighborhoods where people sought a bite on the go. In his piece, Nomadic Habitat, Carlos Rolón/Dzine intentionally uses the memory of the cart to recreate a replica as a symbol of his cultural. First on exhibit in “The Potential of Spaces: The Arts Incubator helps bring the Chicago Architectural Biennial to the South Side” from the Chicago Art Institute, the piece articulates the relationship of culture to the community.

For me, writing about installation and performance art feels a little like a rubber band, causing this writer to stretch his experience to include new and emerging forms of artistic expression. Certainly there is a tradition in installation that includes British Artists Andy Moss, and Jamie Wardley, who created The Fallen, a visual display at D-Day landing on the beach of Arromanches in France, and Rain Room, by Berlin-based collective Random International where at Rice University you experience the rain without getting wet. Most recently at Art Prize 2014 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Anila Quayyum Agha’s installation Intersections, casts a delicate web of shadows by filling a room with carefully crafted patterns from a laser cut wooden cube powered by a single light source. The result was a room illuminated with lace-like geometries cast onto the surrounding walls, and like Carlos Rolón/Dzine, she says, “For me the familiarity of space visited at the Alhambra Palace, created memories of another time and place from my past.” Both artists used memory and culture to form their biographical oeuvre.

Perhaps this brings me to the role of the Oakland University Art Gallery in exposing its audience of students, faculty and community to new trends in all forms of art, free from commercial purpose. The Oakland University Art Gallery has been leading in this respect for a number of years and continues to set the bar for others. University based galleries have the financial base to support such important endeavors and play an important role in educating the community in Metro Detroit.

http://www.ouartgallery.org

 

Tim van Laar @ Simone DeSousa Gallery

 

van_laar_overall

Timothy van Laar, Installation All Images Courtesy of the Simone DeSousa Gallery

Moving from one work to the next in “Reliable Data,” Timothy van Laar’s solo exhibition at Simone DeSousa Gallery, is a visual treat and an intellectual puzzle as no painting show that looks like this has the right to be. On the face of it, there’s a lot of painting out there that looks like van Laar’s- his work displays many accoutrements that flip the “contemporary painting that’s coming back and talking about itself” switch in my brain. There’s intentionally bad painting, and there’s a veneer of irony. There’s also ample reference to painting. And yet… “Reliable Data” is so much more than the sum of these parts. In fact, it’s recalibrating how I think about contemporary painting that looks like this. Everybody else is doing it crappily. Van Laar is doing it as it should be done!

9. The book of Black and White

Timothy van Laar, The Book of Black & White

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First, there’s the bad painting. Van Laar engages it as a trope (in fact he renders the clumsy movements of a novice mistreating oil paint so astonishingly well it’s kind of a painting of bad painting) but- importantly- doesn’t take it over the top. Where “the top” is with intentionally bad painting I can’t quite pinpoint, but most of it tends to feel lazy and dull, which van Laar’s work could not be further from. Perhaps it’s in his careful curation of which elements in each work are painted badly and which with razor-sharp technical precision, which becomes a part of the humorous contrast between the elements. Why, for instance, is the hummingbird in “We Hope for Better Things” executed at such huge scale, in such obscenely inappropriate slashes of poorly handled tonalities, while its companion object, an old-timey microphone, diminishes in both size and belabored treatment almost to a crisply blocked silhouette?

van_laar_We Hope for Better Things

Timothy van Laar, We Hope for Better Things

Speculations about the various groupings and treatments of the visual elements in van Laar’s paintings open a path to divining his content. The paintings have such singular, oddball logic, such crystalline method moving from one to the next, they make you want to do this. The objects that appear in van Laar’s paintings tend to the refined, the intellectual, fragile… In fact the word is dainty. A precious blue and white Chinese vase, various diminutive birds, noble stacks of books. These refined objects are usually the ones given the bad painting treatment, however, as if their value provokes too much devotion to handle with a light or a skilled touch.

8. The Book of Color

Timothy van Laar, The Book of Color

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The forms of these object’s encasement and amplification- cardboard boxes, a microphone- are presented in a linear, matter-of-fact way. The frisson between these two extremes of representation gets more and more fascinating as one begins to wonder just what is being communicated here. Alongside the visual dialog is a narrative progression- van Laar’s paintings entice like Egyptian hieroglyphs.

Finally, there are the references to art history, which reminds me of my first impression of the work’s ironic air. There’s nothing ironic about van Laar’s paintings, really- my knee-jerk response was wrong. There’s delight, and amusement, and even some reverence, in the recognizable reproductions of forms from Matisse and Calder’s toolboxes- modern art’s relationship with color is distilled by a large, linear disco ball festooned with color swatches sprung straight out of a twentieth century cardboard box. The work in “Reliable Data” makes clear the rock solid scaffolding on which it is built, and its careful curation of visual and intellectual indexes brings the true refinement so amusingly failed at in the poorly painted precious objects. While it’s said that fine art presents a set of problems to which there is no logical solution, I left Timothy van Laar’s exhibition feeling that his read was, indeed, reliable.

“Reliable Data” is on view at Simone DeSousa Gallery until February 28. https://www.simonedesousagallery.com 

Beyond Photography @ Public Pool

Photo Pool Takes Over Hamtramck

Noah Elliott Morrison's photo instrallation

Noah Elliott Morrison’s photo illustration. All Photographs courtesy of Sarah Rose Sharp.

The stated objective of Photo Pool: Photography Based Art Beyond Photographs at Public Pool is clear from the title—Curator Noah Elliott Morrison has assembled a collection of artists attempting to use photography as a jumping-off point for artistic exploration that goes beyond the conventional boundaries of the medium. In this respect, the show is very successful, with five artists (including Morrison) that take their photographic inspiration in wildly divergent directions.

House photos B.Christopher

Brandon Christopher – A Flock of Re-Imagined House Portraits

The immediate impulse is to place these presentations into a kind of hierarchy of relative closeness to conventional photography, but the impossibility of doing so reveals the success of Photo Pool in collecting artists that both embrace the photographic medium and consciously dismantle it. Brandon Christopher, for example, begins with relatively straightforward portraits of abandoned Detroit homes, but violates the purity of these as photographs by pairing them with colored-over versions of the same images, effectively rendering the homes as though drawn by an imaginative child.

Ash Arder - Net Worth 1

Ash Arder – Net Worth 1

Ash Arder uses photography as a logical means for documentation, in her explorations of found objects in and out of context. In “Net Worth 1,” a photograph features a rusty basketball hoop on the street, displayed in juxtaposition with a white-washed version of a similar hoop, its makeshift net hand woven from stinging nettle fibers. Nearby, a second piece of the installation titled “Strange Fruit” is comprised of a set of three (faux) red apples suspended within another matrix of nettle fibers; close viewing reveals a barcode sticker with the unmistakable Air Jordan logo visible through the loose knit of nettles. As with Christopher’s work, the photographic elements ground the subject in physical reality, even as Arder begins to weave these elements of the material and cultural world together to paint a sinister tale.

 

Trisha Holt, on floor

Trisha Holt – Work reaches onto floor

One might argue that Trisha Holt’s piece, which sits a floor level, is the most directly photographic. It appears to be a largely unaltered image of a large body of water in two segments—the serene surface stretching back to fill the plane of an image leaning against the wall, a small wave cresting to break within the piece lying flat on the floor. But Holt’s use of these two vectors plays a neat trick of incorporating this incongruous image seamlessly into the gallery space, having cleverly fitted her floor piece into the trap door that enables basement access from the gallery. Holt’s work often negotiates new dimensionality in photography, playing off the odd tricks of perspective that occur when photographs with their own depth are reincorporated into new images (much like the dislocating effect of posing for a picture next to a cardboard cutout of a celebrity). Her piece manages to create a sense that the wave might break across the gallery floor at any moment.

 

Ben Saginaw's pairings

Ben Saginaw – Couter Intuitive Pairings

Challenging as they are understated, an installation of pieces by Ben Saginaw fall perhaps the farthest outside conventional photography—a great achievement in a show filled with mixed media. Two pillow forms cast from dense plaster are on display above two small photographs that feature indeterminate scenes in progress; in one, a small girl appears to be shooting a handgun. The pillows, which are ostensibly soft and harmless, are in fact heavy. The girl, Saginaw states, is shooting cans with her family on a summer evening in Detroit. So close to the anniversary of the death of Tamir Rice, a young boy shot by police for playing with a toy gun in the open-carry state of Ohio, the image cannot help but remind us the high stakes surrounding what we think we see, when we see things.

Suspended before the gallery’s back wall is Morrison’s own work, which layers semi-translucent photographic images taken in Hamtramck into a dense patchwork of visual information, lit up by a hovering flock of flashlights. Morrison’s intention was to create a metaphor for the densely layered qualities of life in Hamtramck—the installation is best viewed from behind, as the flashlight beams enhance details from each layer that remain distinct in the visual chaos.

From lake views, to the comforts of home, to life on the streets, Photo Pool: Photography Based Art Beyond Photographs lives up to its title in a focused and satisfying way that leaves this reviewer itching to revisit the medium.

Photo Pool: Photography Based Art Beyond Photographs: http://apublicpool.com

 

 

 

 

50 years @ the Detroit Institute of Arts

Collecting Prints, Drawings, and Photographs

Frankenthaler

Helen Frankenthaler, American, 1928 – 2011 Tales of Genji III 1998 Woodcut and stenciling printed in color on handmade tan paper Image and sheet: 47 x 42 in.

At the center of the City of Detroit’s heart is the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA). For many reasons, including its world famous collection, exhibitions, events, film theater, classes and workshops, the DIA serves as an aesthetic anchor to the entire metro Detroit area.

The December 15, 2015 opening celebrates the DIA’s 50th anniversary of one of its long-standing auxiliary support groups, Friends of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs (FPDP) with an exhibition curated by Nancy Sojka, head of Prints, Drawings and Photographs. The exhibit, 50 Years of Collecting Prints, Drawings and Photographs, marks her retirement from the DIA where she has worked since 1988. During her tenure she has organized more than 40 exhibitions from the DIA’s collection, including Ordinary People by Extraordinary Artists: Works on Paper by Degas, Renoir, and Friends (2014–15), Picasso and Matisse: The DIA’s Prints and Drawings (2012-13), Government Support of the Arts: WPA Prints from the 1930s (2009–10), The Big Three in Printmaking: Dürer, Rembrandt and Picasso (2006); Martin Lewis: Drawings and Related Prints (2000); Prints by Terry Winters: A Retrospective from the Collection of Robert and Susan Sosnick (1998–99), and Prints and Drawings in the Age of Rubens (1994).

“Over the years Nancy has organized dozens of exhibitions drawn from the museum’s rich collections of prints and drawings,” said Salvador Salort-Pons, DIA Director. “While we will miss Nancy’s ingenuity and expertise, we wish her the best in her retirement.”

Among the featured works are Berenice Abbott’s New York at Night, Robert Frank’s Belle Isle Detroit, Erich Heckel’s Die Brucke poster, Edvard Munch’s Lovers, Charles Burchfield’s In the Parlor, Helen Frankenthaler’s Tales of Genji III, James McNeill Whistler’s Yellow House, Lannion, Martin Lewis’ Which Way?, along with selections from Robert Rauschenberg’s Bellini Series.

“During her tenure at the Detroit Institute of Arts, Nancy Sojka has provided passionate scholarship, connoisseurship, and exposure of the graphic arts to an expanding citizenry from the Michigan counties of Wayne, Oakland and Macomb and museum attendees from far beyond Metropolitan Detroit.” says Norm Stewart, Director of Stewart & Stewart.  “The exhibitions she has presented in the Schwartz Graphic Art Galleries represent a curator with exceptional knowledge of graphic arts history, a keen awareness of contemporary graphics, and an understanding of the developing technologies that will shape what is to come.”

The exhibition provides a small glimpse of the complete collection showing 125 art objects, (from a collection housing approximately 35,000 objects, that breaks down to 10,000 photographs, 10,000 drawings, and 15,000 prints) which includes a good number of local artists.

Commenting, “The exhibit, What’s New – Recent Acquisitions in 2004 was evidence of the adventurous way in which Nancy grew the collection of art on paper at the museum. Nancy was very supportive of the artist’s in Detroit who worked on paper and I am deeply appreciative for her support over these many years.” by Doug Semivan, Art Chairman of Madonna University.

 

Whistler in his Studio

Paul François Arnold Cardon, French, 1859 – 1941 Whistler in His Paris Studio at 106 Rue Notre Dame des Champs 1892 Albumen print mounted to board. Sheet and image: 17 x 14 in.

French photographer, Paul Francois Arnold Cardon, or Dornac, specialized in personalities, and took this 17 X 14 photo in 1892 using the albumen print process mounted on board. The photo captures a rare moment of James A. M. Whistler, the American-born, British-based artist in his studio whose Yellow House, Lannion is also part of the exhibition. This image is a moment in time just as the art of photography starts to develop throughout Europe. The photograph was a gift of Leonard and Jean Walle.

Kertesz - carrefour

André Kertész, American, 1894-1985 Carrefour Blois 1930 (printed 1970/1985) Gelatin silver print Image: 10 11/16 x 13 11/16 in. (27.4 x 35.8 cm)

The Hungarian photographer André Kertész spent many years in Paris and is known for his aerial black & white compositions that often capture the effects of low light casting long shadows on his subjects. After his education in 1912 at the Academy of Commerce in Budapest, he eventually found his way to Paris, where he spent the majority of his life producing portraits, streetscapes and distortions. When I visited the Getty Museum in 1996, the museum had recently purchased all of his remaining work and had just mounted a retrospective. Kertész brought a unique vision to the art of photography and influenced generations of photographers that followed.

Seydou Keita

Seydou Keita, African, 1923 – 2001 Untitled #42A51 1956/1957 Gelatin silver print Image: 15 11/16 x 22 1/8 in. (39.8 x 56.2 cm) Sheet: 24 x 20 in. (61 x 51 cm)

The untitled 24 X 20 photo print by Seydou Keita typifies the work by this photographer from Bamako, Mali who spent much of his life photographing the people of this once-French colon. The self-taught photographer was introduced to his Kodak Brownie Flash camera in 1935 by his uncle and went on to pursue a career as a professional photographer. His strict sense of formality is combined with his ability to develop a level of intimacy with his subjects and capture a moment that withstood time. This photo was a museum purchase, with funds from William and Ellen Kahn.

saar_allison-snake_man

Alison Saar, American, born 1956 Snakeman 1994 Woodcut and lithograph printed in color on oriental paper Image and sheet: 27 7/8 x 37 1/8 in. (70.8 x 94.3 cm)

A younger artist from the west coast, Alison Saar, has created a color woodcut and lithograph, Snakeman, 1994, (a gift from Marc Schwartz). She is a well known African-American artist whose work explores themes of African culture and spirituality. A recipient of a Guggenheim Foundation fellowship and a fellowship for the National Endowment for the Arts, Saar’s work has often included a variety of materials (bronze, lead, tar and wood) with which she creates a highly personalized amount of cultural context in her painting, sculpture and print formats.

Walker Evans

Walker Evans, American, 1903-1975 Roadside Stand Vicinity Birmingham, Alabama 1936 (printed later) Gelatin silver print Image: 7 1/2 x 9 1/2 in. (19.05 x 24.13 cm.)

It could be said easily that Walker Evans is one of the most influential artists in the twentieth century and the progenitor of documentary-style photography in the United States. Although I had read about his work during my college years, it was the retrospective of his work at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City in 2000 that left an indelible impression. Born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1903, Evans spent a year at Williams College where he indulged himself in literature and where he first envisioned himself as a writer. Fortunately for the art world, Evans gradually redirected himself toward photography. His lifetime of photography took him through the Depression years during which he worked alongside Dorothea Lange, Arthur Rosthstein, and Russell Lee as part of the government New Deal agency. He had been assigned to capture the essence of American life. His black & white images were of people found along the roadside, cafes, home interiors, and small town main streets. The photograph, Roadside Stand, from 1936 is a gift from Beverly Franzblau Baker, in memory of Morris D. Baker.

2004_65-d1_o2

Richard Diebenkorn, American, 1922-1993 Folsom Street Variation III 1986 Soapground, aquatint, flatbite, and drypoint printed in color on off-white wove paper Plate: 12 x 25 7/8 in. (30.5 x 65.7 cm) Sheet: 26 5/8 x 40 1/8 in. (67.6 x 101.9 cm)

This aquatint and dry-point print from the work of Richard Diebenkorn, Folsom Street Variation III, 1986, gives us information about a West Coast abstract expressionistic painter who also engaged in printmaking. Best know for his abstract landscape series, Ocean Park, Diebenkorn’s work seems rooted in the outside world. His works on paper also included drawings using gouache and crayon, but it is his large body of painting that retains a quiet and distinctive intensity while presenting the viewer with an informal use of space, as oppose to, say, Piet Mondrian. The print is a gift from Dr. and Mrs. Robert J. Miller and Dr. and Mrs. Robert Moss.

The 125 pieces selected by Nancy Sojka and her staff for the exhibition 50 Years of Collecting Prints, Drawings, and Photographs serves as a nice send-off for Sojka and her years of work at the Detroit Institute of Arts. In this exhibition, she pays some attention to the Detroit artists in the collection, including Stanley Rosenthal, Janet Hamrick, Bill Rauhauser, Norman Stewart, Dave Jordano, Doug Semivan, Susan Campbell and others. As the public focuses on exhibitions of painting, sculpture, film and installation, let us not forget about the drawings, various print forms and photographs that rest in this grand collection at the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Detroit Institute of Arts – Hours and Admission

9 a.m.–4 p.m. Tuesdays–Thursdays, 9 a.m.–10 p.m. Fridays, 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. General admission (excludes ticketed exhibitions) is free for Wayne, Oakland and Macomb county residents and DIA members. For all others, $12.50 for adults, $8 for seniors ages 62+, $6 for ages 6–17. For membership information, call 313-833-7971.

 

Rick Vian @ Robert Kidd Gallery

Where Light enters the Mind

RickVian install 1_2

Rick Vian, Installation / Opening image, Courtesy of the Robert Kidd Gallery

As a young, aspiring painter, before I had any idea that Rick Vian was a local artist, I greedily snipped out every advertisement from Art in America his work was featured in and collaged them into my journal, alongside the work of other painters who inspired me. I loved the way his work rode a Rothko-esque razor’s edge between abstraction and representation (channeling Rothko as well in subjective spiritual punch) and how smartly it appropriated recognizable phenomena that were already abstract, such as reflections and strange effects of atmosphere and light, into works that were as much about form and surface as they were about content and illusion. Seeing Vian’s recent work this week, therefore, felt doubly special- being surrounded by masterful, imposingly scaled paintings that come from a body of work I’ve followed closely for years.

R.Vian install 2

Installation Image, Courtesy of the Robert Kidd Gallery

The title of Rick Vian’s retrospective, currently on view at Robert Kidd Gallery in Birmingham- Using the Whole Chicken– belies the perceptive, multi-layered formal gravitas that unfolds as one moves from piece to piece. Consisting of paintings spanning 1972 to 2015, Using the Whole Chicken, takes as its prima materia two iconic spiritual forms from two vastly different faiths- the Western Baroque genre of trompe lois church ceiling paintings (Vian mentions two ceilings in Roman churches in his artist statement, painted by Giovanni Battista Gauli and Andrea Pozzo) and the Eastern mandala (or mandorla, which, as Vian points out, appears in early esoteric Christian and Islamic art as well). Both forms seek to foster a transcendent spiritual experience, delivered visually- Both consist, very basically, of a round, bright center surrounded by darkness. Vian takes this visual coda of contemplation and transcendence outward, into nature, and inward, into the visual cortex of the human brain- an interesting conceptual mirror for the outer journey of Western painting, with its focus on beauty, perspective, and high illusion, versus the inner path of Eastern aesthetics with its deceptively simple abstractions and vague, groundless atmospherics that channel a more subjective, synesthetic experience of the world.

Sky in the Water

Rick Vian, Sky in the Water, Detail, 60 X 84, 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vian’s great gift as a painter is his apparently effortless ability to conjure images that are at once fully nonobjective and grounded in depth- windows onto the world in the Italian Renaissance tradition. The paintings in Using the Whole Chicken appear before the viewer’s eyes as formal abstractions, while creeping up behind the eyes as atmospheric landscapes. Their surfaces are formal, their deeper implications illusionistic. The more time one spends with a Rick Vian painting, the more subtle, ungrounding, and revelatory this interplay becomes.

It’s appropriate that Vian has chosen to frame the work in Using the Whole Chicken in terms of iconic spiritual image systems- he’s picked the beauty, turgid hues, and attention to surfaces from Western painting and the subjective, unfixed viewpoint and groundless atmospherics from Eastern painting, roping in references to the inner processes of the brain into the mix. The honeycomb-like grids that appear here and there in the work represent the process by which light enters the visual cortex of the human brain and is broken up into colors, shapes and space- another symbolic connection to the traditions of church ceiling painting and the mandorla, which Vian describes as “looking towards a place of light from a place of darkness.”

Using the Whole Chicken exhibition is on display at Robert Kidd Gallery in Birmingham, MI from 11/19/2015 – 12/19/2015. www.robertkiddgallery.com