Desire Bouncing @ Wasserman Projects

Three Person Exhibition – Alejandro Campins, Nancy Mitchnick, and Alex Schweder

Installation image

Installation image, Courtesy of Clara DeGalan

The warehouse-scaled galleries at Wasserman Projects are a fitting site for an evolving, and continuously intriguing, dialog about architecture that began with its grand opening show, a glittering event featuring a life-sized, polychromed modular house- a spectacular building within a building. The vast space seems barely enough, however, to contain the work of the three artists in its current, architecturally themed exhibition, “Desire Bouncing.” It’s not so much the work itself that strains the capacity of the space (in fact everything is so gracefully installed and lit that one can fully experience each work on its own) as the raw ideas, romantic (and sometimes sexual) yearnings, and visceral snippets of emotional engagement that come spilling out of the work of these three mature, accomplished artists and ricochet around in the rafters, drawing emotional investment, in turn, back from the viewer. It’s surprising to be confronted with that so immediately in a show that turns on architecture. Make no mistake, this is not some dry, conceptual survey. I need to stick “chthonian” in front of “architecture” to begin to get my head around this work.

The centerpiece of “Desire Bouncing” lurks behind a huge theatrical curtain toward the back of the space. Though you can’t see it at first, you hear it everywhere, it’s the heartbeat of the show. That feeling you’re getting that the work here is not quite what it seems, is maybe alive? Yes. The slow beat that affirms it is the soundtrack of Alex Schweder’s sculpture The Sound and the Future. Enclosed in its own cavernous, red-lit space, The Sound and the Future is a massive, inflatable cluster of rectilinear and phallic forms crafted from silver and faux fur fabric that expands and contracts as air is pumped in and out of it.

Wasserman sculpture

Alex Schweder’s – The Sound and the Future – 2016 Image Couresty of JeffSusan Cancelosi

The sound that accompanies it is a track by Underground Resistance, one of Detroit’s and, as Detroit is the birthplace of Techno, the world’s first Techno groups. Reduced to a tenth of its speed, the track sounds like a slumbering dragon’s heartbeat. Stand in front of it and spend a few (or a lot of) moments being hypnotized by the constantly shifting forms that rise and droop in desire and repose, forming vaguely architectural structures as they engorge with air, and then breath-takingly yonic mouths that gape and close as the seductive silver fabric deflates. While two other works by Schweder describe, in two and three dimensional mock-up, alternatively designed living spaces that elaborately endeavor to keep their human occupants separate at all times, The Sound and the Future suggests no specific model for living, while emphasizing connection- juxtaposing the swaying stamens of the sculpture, a “women’s urinal,” also installed by Schweder, winks in a dark corner.

Image 2

Female Urinal, Quahog, – 2001 – Vitreous china 18″ x 32″ x 26″ Image Courtesy of Clara DeGalan











There is a similar dialog with romance through form, albeit a quieter one, in the work of Alejandro Campins, which come from a series exploring interiors of historic theatres in Detroit.

Image 3

Alejandro Campins -Eastown Theater, 2015 Oil on canvas 59″ x 78″ Image Courtesy of Clara DeGalan

There’s a fine balance of linear and painterly effects in Campins’s big paintings, and he gets the iconic outlines of theatrical architecture just right, combining these solemn interior forms with interesting landscape embellishments, blurring landscape and interior in a now iconic view of Detroit’s half fallen, once grand temples to culture.

Image 4

Close-up section of Eastown Theater

The paintings seem to have been smoothed over with a squeegee at the finish, both drawing the eye back to dwell on the finesse of his surfaces, and enclosing the works tidily.

Where Campins’s works are quiet, somber, and canny, Nancy Mitchnick’s group of paintings and works on paper, which are the first you see as you enter the gallery (and which take a walk-through and return to begin to properly grasp) express the desire of the theme in a very different way. As an artist who lives in Detroit while making paintings about it, Mitchnick naturally has more skin in the game, and this work is raw, unfurling, and pulsating like a wound- or, perhaps, a damp flower unfurling its petals. Mitchnick’s works depict structures, abandoned, half fallen, lapsing into neglect, patched over, mantled in snow and drenched in directionless, otherworldly light.

Image 5

Nancy Mitchnik, Framed, 2016 Oil on linen 77″ x 111″ Image Courtesy of Clara DeGalan

Mitchnick builds these skeletal structures- alternating bars of multihued wood and sky- in slabs, scrapes, flourishes and caresses of paint that lay both her innocence and her deep knowledge utterly bare, valuing neither above the other.

Image 6

Nancy Mitchnik, Close-up Section of Water Damage, 2016 Oil on linen

What she is able to channel, through an intuitive understanding of form, color and the nature of paint, is the desperate, howling human element of which these empty structures have become the symbol. This narrative slips the bonds of language and history, running parallel to each while being neither. Bypassing all traditional means of visual storytelling in the landscape genre- objectivity, language, handsome technique- Mitchnick wrings a wildly romantic, purely emotional insight about death and the fecund, unglamorous resurgence that inevitably follows it, as naturally as certain forms and grids, for reasons we cannot put into language, draw on our very souls.

Desire Bounsing – Wasserman Projects  Detroit, Michigan – February 5 through April 9, 2016


A Glimpse @ Galerie Camille

Galerie Camile exterious

Galerie Camille, Exterior image on Cass Avenue

The Galerie Camille opened a group exhibition, Glimpse, January 22, 2016 under the new directorship of Melannie Chard, a Michigan native who has returned from New York City where she worked as Vice President, Head of Valuations,  Americas at Sotheby’s Auction House over the past ten years. The gallery is the creation and manifestation of Adnan Charara, Detroit artist and entrepreneur who purchased the building nestled in the heart of midtown on Cass Avenue, in the block south of Willis. He says, “The gallery was founded in 1987 and renamed after the birth of my daughter, Camille. I renovated the space in midtown Detroit and first opened my artist’s studio in January of 2012 with the gallery following in May 2014. In addition to regular exhibitions, we also provide support to estates and collectors who wish to sell art and antiques on the secondary market.”

John Mclaughlin

Spike the Punch Bowl, 2016 – Mixed media on canvas

John McLaughlin’s abstraction is a kind of mixed media of cut paper, some drawing, and paint where he embraces gesture from both natural and man-made imagery. The layers of his collage are purposely balanced both in shape, form and color. McLaughlin says, “ My art depicts a daily routine, combined with nature and music, with some mistakes along the way.” His array of hardline and organic shapes in his work Spike the Punch Bowl, becomes a field of balance where he allows the audience to form their own conclusions, a popular approach made by painters of the abstract field. I think he’s right about it when he says ultimately, “I make them because I like the way they look.”

Detroit Art Jondy Fruit of Klimt

Fruit of Klimt, 2016 – Photo on aluminum, 8 x 12 inches

The exhibition includes the work of photographer John Dykstra, whose photograph Fruit of Klimt, is a variety of Photoshop work on aluminum where he brings his attraction of Gustav Klimt’s women in robes, to his image. The solemn figure holds a pomegranate, the symbol of the ancient Greeks for the “fruit of the dead.” There is a theme to Dykstra’s work: when he uses the female figure in isolation, sitting at the end of a dock, asleep in an abandoned home, or floating in a marsh, in one word… loss.

Queen Bee

in collaboration with Dr. Lycia Trouton/ 
nail project entitled “DRIVEN” Queen Bee Photograph on paper Edition 1/25

Another photographer in the Glimpse exhibition is Lisa Spindler, whose large 40 X 60 black & white photo, Driven, is a close-up of hands that have stood the test of time. A Detroiter for the last 25 years, Spindler is a commercial photographer who has made a lot of time to produce personal work, particularly her black & white photographs of the nude female figure that uses classic composition and an acute sensitivity to light. I personally know a lot of commercial photographers who have a large body of personal work, and there is no shame in making a living with the camera for artists who must survive in today’s expensive world. Lisa Spindler’s work is divided up into categories where you find more art than product, where much is non-objective and abstract. The end result is finding your work in a gallery, instead of a high-gloss magazine. Works for me.

Camille Gallery Bill Harris

Totally Serious, 2015 Oil on canvas

Among the group of artists in the Glimpse exhibition, is the representational painter William Harris, whose Totally Serious oil painting captures the figure in multiple positions overlaid with light and movement. His work carries a commentary, and he has to keep is eye on the blurry line between a painting and an illustration. His draftsmanship and composition seems to be headed towards painting. When he opens the scale of his work to larger dimensions, good things could easily happen.

Opening and pursuing a gallery business is a noble and altruistic venture that everyone in the Detroit art community has to admire. “Glimpse is a window into what the gallery will be showing over the next year” says Melannie Chard, “We hope to provide opportunities to both seasoned and emerging artists.” Galerie Camille has a good location, a well-designed space, and ownership with a kind heart.

The Glimpse exhibition participants: Jon Parlangeli, Dessi Terzieva, Karianne Spens-Hanna, William Harris, MALT, Lisa Spindler, Scott Taylor, TEAD, Aimee Cameron, Brian Day, Robert Mirek, Paula Zammit, Paula Schubatis, John McLaughlin, Adnan Charara, Tony Roko, Alan Kaniarz, Kim Fey and John Dykstra.

Gallery hours are Wed-Sat 12-5. All other hours are by chance or appointment(313) 974-6737

4130 Cass Ave, Suite C

Detroit, MI 48201


Ragnar Kjartansson, Steve Shaw, Chloe Brown @ MOCAD

MOCAD installation shot

Ragnar Kjartansson – Installation 2016, All Images Courtesy of the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit

The Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit –  Winter Exhibition: Ragnar Kjartansson, Steve Shaw, Chloe Brown

The Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit’s cavernous galleries often echo with sound, from the frequent band shows in the café space (which is my current favorite place to drink coffee and catch up with my emails) and from the steady influx of multi-media works that always lend a distilling element to MOCAD’s exhibitions. Sound really is the cornerstone of MOCAD’s winter exhibition, most notably produced by a solitary, guitar-strumming lady seated upon a revolving dais in a large, empty gallery curtained off by gold tinsel streamers. This is “Woman in E,” a performance piece created by Ragnar Kjartansson.

Parting the gold curtains to enter the space, one is confronted with eerie, resonant chords and dim, sparse space that evoke the strange interstice after a party has ended, a telling shadow of the real action, which took place sometime before. Potent symbols of Motown, glitter rock and funk are all here, with the solemn, oracle-like figure strumming in E Minor (chosen for its melancholy, reflective effect) on an electric guitar as the focal point.


Film still from Dancing in the Boardroom (Turnin’ My Heartbeat Up), 2013. Chloë Brown.

The theme of after-party fallout and cultural epoch is approached as well in the film and drawing of Chloe Brown, who’s body of work exploring the youth culture and economic gloom surrounding the closing of a Spode ceramics factory in Stoke-on Trent, England pinpoints the essential relationship between music, movement and identity in the face of great loss. Brown’s film, “Dancing in the Boardroom (Turnin’ my Heartbeat Up)” depicts a young couple dancing to Northern Soul music in a spacious, dim room with beautiful parquet floors that once bore the weight of executives, secretaries and free enterprise. Shots of the abandoned Spode factory’s lush interiors and tremulous lighting stand in stark contrast to the couple’s unabashed joy in moving to this Motown-inspired music.

A dose of life on the street is supplied by photographer Steve Shaw. Shaw’s documentary-style images of Detroiters making their way with dance, dress, and grit in a constantly shifting urban landscape supply the unstudied immediacy that is stylized out of the other artist’s work.

Steve Shaw

Steve Shaw, Black & White Photograph, Gratiot & Shene 1983, Courtesy of the artist.

In a show anchored in performance, Shaw’s photographs depict people drawing from the same cultural well and making many of the same movements as the performers in Chloe Brown and Ragnar Kjartansson’s works, only in real time, with skin in the game.

The Winter Show is on display at Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit from January 15 through April 24, 2016. 


Coleman, Gardner, & Egner @ N’Namdi Contemporary

N’Namdi Winter Line-Up :Warm Woodworks and Emotional Moving Blankets


Each work by Johnny Coleman in his main gallery show at the N’Namdi Center for Contemporary Art is dedicated to someone; “For Maya Angelou,” some say, or “For Wendall Logan,”—Andre Burbridge, Toni Morrison, Brother Yusef, Kamau Daaood, even one dedicated more generally “For the Poets.” This is fitting with the show’s title, Homage: Regular Folk, which reflects Coleman’s sense that these illustrious names “Are all regular folk…each of them is deeply connected to the people and cultures from which they emerged. They do not set themselves apart.”


Johnny Coleman “Poem for Brother Yusef”, 2015/16, Mixed media, audio


Johnny Coleman, “Lifted” (For Shoulders), 2015, Mixed media



















The homage is paid through totemic arrangements of found materials, including musical instruments, salvaged wood, and chalkboards. Coleman speaks of the chalkboards as a visual articulation of memory: “Though erased, one can see traces of what has been written there before.” But all of his materials radiate a residual energy, infusing his precisely finished woodworks with a sense of soul. The central, and most elaborate, installation features a tabletop composition supported by a base made of wood-framed chalkboard segments, which stands before an illuminated fabric scrim, amid a carpet of oak leaves. The scene is peaceful and full of autumn melancholy; gourds loll in the thick, even, scattering of leaves, two little stools support oregano and basil stuffed in bottle gourds. There is sense of an odd and elevated picnic in progress, with the table full of dry brown rice that serves to anchor a spread which includes a medley of spices, a bamboo flute, and a recovered radio set, among other items. Underscoring this ceremonial layout is an improvisation on “12 Bar Blues,” interspersed with found sound, including Yusef Lateef’s breath, and afternoon traffic outside the Detroit Public Library. Says Coleman, “The relationship between “Poem For Brother Yusef” and the blues piece emerging from within the installation, for me, speaks to the manner in which Yusef Lateef in particular, and jazz and the blues in general, serve as vehicles for the transformation of struggle and pain into something more than tenacity.”


John Egner, “Two Tone Plinth 2012, Wood



John Egner, “Al Dente Top”, 2012-15, Wood
















This is just one of almost a dozen incredibly thoughtful arrangements in Homage: Regular Folk. The incredible care in finishing these materials creates smooth and engaging tones and surfaces that speak to the sonorous qualities that lend wood to be the base material of stringed instruments. The impact of wood as a versatile material is demonstrated perfectly in the works of John Egner in the Rose Gallery. The simply-titled Wood Constructions tells it like it is, with just over a dozen compact wall hangings that suggest architectural scale models or clusters of frame-shop samples, at a glance. The small, interlocking pieces of each arrangement build up layers of depth and an interplay of colors with natural wood tones, creating little modernist houses that perch somewhere between two and three dimensions. There is glorious tension here; one imagines each piece being constructed like a game of Jenga, with Egner precariously removing and adding little slips of wood, one at a time, to find the perfect stopping point between balance and collapse.


Saffell Gardner, – Cosmic Spirits, installation view


Saffell Gardner, One within the “Cosmic Spirits” series, 2015, 72 1/2” x 81 1/2”, Acrylic on moving blanket











Eschewing wood, but picking up on spiritual explorations, a new body of work, Cosmic Spirits, by Saffell Gardner fills the Black Box Gallery and stretches along the corridor. Inside the gallery, large-scale pieces rendered on heavily gessoed moving blankets layer riots of color and form over a base layer of geometrics created by the quilting of the blankets. Gardner first experimented with moving blankets as canvases during the 2014 Big Painting show, and finds them attractive for both the texture and the scale. “The quilting texture added the depth that felt was necessary for the spiritual aspect I wanted to convey in this series of paintings,” says Gardner. With the overlay of painted shapes—including the iconic Xhango, a double-ax shape that has been a recurring motif in Gardner’s work for quite a few years—and the underlying geometries places his work in conversation with Enger’s. The sense of cosmic exploration and connection to influential figures aligns it very much with Coleman’s. “What I see going on is my idea of a tribute to my ancestors the were lost during middle passage,” says Gardner.

All three of the shows, which will run at N’Namdi until April 1st, bring a unique perspective to the table, but the overall effect is quite seamless, with the mastery each of these artists brings to his craft grounding their playful and heartfelt explorations. Whether you’re interested in tributes to regular folk, meditations on cosmic spirits, or just simple wood constructions, N’Namdi’s winter line-up has something inspiring to offer.

52 E Forest Ave, Detroit, MI 48201     (313) 831-8700



Carlos Rolón/Dzine @ OUAG

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


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.