Performance @ Popp’s Packing: Jessica Frelinghuysen

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Though I flatter myself that I am a somewhat avid runner and yogi, I was not prepared for the hardcore booty-shaking that artist Jessica Frelinghuysen led her audience through at the opening of her new show, “It’s Exercise Time!” last Friday at Popp’s Packing art space in Hamtramck. I guess at such events my body is in rest-and-present-yourself-well mode, most of my energy going into chit-chatting and craning my neck to get a glimpse of the work on display around the clusters of opening attendees. One doesn’t stand by and observe at Frelinghuysens performances, however. Indeed, the very designation of “audience” collapses before Frelinghuysens’ boundless energy, quick wit, and all around fantastically grounded presence. It’s also a safe bet that you’ll find yourself diving into some activity that you wouldn’t hitherto have dreamt of doing in a gallery setting- which is exactly the point.

The walls around the gallery were posted with Trail Fit-esque exercise instruction graphics explaining how to properly do lifting reps with large bags of rice and knee-lift-and-punch sets while singing along to “Eye of the Tiger” (which happened to be playing over the sound system while I read that particular instruction- the invitation became irresistible.) Interspersed between instruction graphics were surprisingly lovely photographic portraits of Frelinghuysen going through her workout paces at many unconventional sites around Hamtramck- tossing sides of meat in Bozek’s meat locker and lifting a huge bag of onions outside Al Haramain Market. She told me a funny story about that moment- as she struggled to lift the unwieldy sack, a man in very conservative Yemeni dress pulled up and parked right in front of where she was lifting. He watched, without budging from his car, and when she finally got the fifty-pound bag lifted over her head, he burst into a sudden round of applause. It seems Frelinghuysens’ energy is just as infectious outside the gallery space.

Jessercise Poster, Jessica Freylinghuysen 2015 Photo by CLara DeGalan

“It’s Exercise Time” has transformed Popp’s art space into one easily mistaken for a small, mom-and-pop gym, except for the bottles of champagne that are there for both lifting and drinking purposes. This effect was pushed still further at the opening, as folks gathered around Frelinghuysen while she mounted the carpeted platform, dressed in full rainbow-hued workout regalia. She proceeded to lead us in a lengthy, fast-paced, serious cardio workout that had me out of breath inside of three minutes- Frelinghuysen broke a sweat, loosened up and launched into the next round of time-steps and air punches. Here the long tradition of displays of endurance in performance art was channeled with a lightness and hilarity that suited the bright palette and self-deprecating humor of Frelinghuysens’ exhibition. One by one, audience members were drawn into participation, as enchanted by the artists’ unaffected, funny, down-to-earth performance style as that man outside al Haramain Market. The total (and somewhat surprising) absence of irony in Frelinghuysens’ manner helps, as well. In a setting where people tend to be very concerned about how they appear, the extent to which we all followed her example, cutting loose and just having fun with our bodies, was a revelation.

All of the best performance artists I’ve seen in action assume characters that are somewhat amplified versions of themselves. Frelinghusen is a natural at this. While her performances certainly bear a trace of the theatrical- she assumes a particular garb and enters her performance space, be it the gallery or city street, with a point to make- she inhabits them in such a way that she never stops feeling present, accessible, to her audience. Significantly, she refers to the clothes she designs and wears for her performances as “uniforms” rather than costumes. This points to the importance of the uniform as an entry point, cultural signifier, and problem-solving accessory. Frelinghuysens’ many bodies of work all have a problem to be solved as their starting point. Her ongoing “Paper Helmets” series aims at solving problems of personal communication; her “Coffee Cart” performance at Cranbrook aimed to remedy the absence of available coffee for Cranbrook students and staff. “It’s Exercise Time!” makes up one part of her exploration of a somewhat more complex problem- the vast divide between “art” space, and the rest of the world.

It's Exercise Time album cover Photo by Jessica Freylinghuysen

Her impetus to dovetail gym culture with gallery culture, she told me, lay in her long-standing, serious commitment to both worlds, and how odd it seemed that her social life in the gym was so completely different than her social life on the art scene, when the two disciplines (of the body, on the one hand, and the studio on the other) bore such a close resemblance to one another. She pointed out that endurance, commitment, and serious play are all common factors between the two worlds. That resemblance extends to the aesthetic, as well- she noted how the white, clean walls of the gallery closely resemble those of the gym. Transplanting the gym to the gallery, with a veneer of humor over seriously exploratory intent, proved delightfully disruptive to the usual flow of an art opening. Frelinghuysen manages such actions with a light, humorous touch which leave people in the art world and outside of it feeling tickled and intrigued, rather than confused and defensive. She noted, “If it’s disrupting everyday life a little bit, then I’m interested in it.” Disruption is the calling card of so many performance artists- not so many manage to channel it into actions for positive engagement and change that flow identically inside and outside traditional art-viewing spaces. Frelinghuysen has already moved past those boundaries- and is playfully beckoning us to follow.

http://www.poppspacking.org

Saturday, October 24, at 2 pm at Popp’s Packing

 

 

Many Layers to Lan Tuazon’s BAD GRASS NEVER DIES at Youngworld

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Lan Tuazon, Installation View, All Images Courtesy of Sarah Rose Sharp

As a mildly obsessive-compulsive individual, BAD GRASS NEVER DIES, a solo show by Lan Tuazon, which opened at Youngworld on Saturday, September 26th, appeals to me first on an aesthetic level. The work seems primarily interested in order and space—particularly the way that the bodies of mass manufactured plastic objects, such as water bottles, detergent containers, and even traffic pylons, can fit inside each other. In an act of reverse-knolling (a methodical arrangement of objects separated on a surface at right angles), Tuazon creates matryoshka-like collections which form layered shapes, which are neatly-halved. Their cross-sections are displayed on a series of shelves, as in Beyond the Surface of Your Skin, or in freestanding installations like Bad Grass Never Dies or From the Cradle to the Grave.

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The nesting shapes of these waste objects, meticulously architectured into perfect relationship with each other, rescues them from the waste bin—both literally, and by revealing the care and agency in their original design. The elegance of their fit and display elevates these objects, returning them from refuse. In the center of the gallery is a two-sided piece mounted on a rolling whiteboard, and it is this work, “Pit of Mundus: Smoke” and “Pit of Mundus: Scribble” that link the work on display to the performance which took place as part of the show’s opening.

Tuazon leads the ceremony for casting objects into the pit.

Lan Tuazon, Tuazon leads the ceremony for casting objects into the pit. Image Courtesy of Sarah Rose Sharp

In an outdoor ceremony during the show’s opening, Tuazon led the crowd in the ritualized casting out of possessions into a “Pit of Mundus” or “hole of the world”—literally dug into Youngworld’s courtyard. Attendees were invited to jettison objects that represented aspects of themselves or their lives that they wished to separate from. Tuazon was prepared, with a set of work clothing that symbolized a vestige of herself that she was ready to move on from. The assembled crowd had not come prepared for a transformative ceremony on the scale of the deep pit, which Tuazon referred to as a “negative monument”—but they obligingly manifested what they had on hand: two people threw in insurance cards for cars that had been totaled, a jacket, a ring (offered without commentary). Once the crowd was finished making offerings, Tuazon ceremoniously closed the pit with a “cap of caps”—a seal created by cementing a series of concentric lids together in plaster. “Take a deep breath,” she instructed the crowd, after the seal was in place, “these things no longer occupy the same air as you.” The attendees, gathered around the pit, then collectively buried the site, using their feet to push fill dirt, piled all around the pit, back into place.

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The two-sided “Pit of Mundus” pieces act as a kind of gateway (a mundus, in the context of ancient Roman culture, was thought to be the gateway to the Underworld) between the trash that has been brought back from the dead to become art, and the treasured objects that were cast out to be buried. Through this two-sided process, Tuazon has affected a lively and thought-inspiring transfer of value, inspiring us to reconsider what we discard and what we keep. Bad grass may never die, but people do—and in the end, no matter what you’ve kept, you can’t take any of it with you.

Youngworld  6121 Casmere Street, Detroit, 48212

https://www.facebook.com/youngworlddetroit

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

 

The United State of Latin America @ MOCAD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 18, 2015 – January 3, 2016

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

 

David Klein Gallery in Detroit @ Washington Boulevard

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Exterior Gallery Image courtesy of Playground Detroit

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

September 17 – October 31, 2015

http://dkgallery.com