Detroit Art Review

Critical art reviews of Detroit galleries and museums weekly

Jose Parla @ Library Street Collective and Heather Day @  Louis / Buhl

An installation view of José Parlá’s Polarities at Detroit’s Library Street Collective through Aug. 24. Courtesy Library Street Collective.

An explosion of color, Polarities by Cuban-American multi-media artist José Parlá is now on view at the reconfigured Library Street Collective in downtown Detroit – oddly, a richly-hued show prompted in large part by the covid pandemic. Polarities will run through Aug. 24.

Brooklyn-based Parlá is part of a growing cohort of artists, from Detroit’s Scott Hocking to New York photographer Camilo José Vergara, who are mesmerized by the effects time and weathering work on the world, and in particular on urban landscapes. In Parlá’s case, this leads to color-rich canvases with a complex accretion of layered acrylic, plaster, script and paper collage.

José Parlá, Breath, 2022, Acrylic and oil paint on canvas, 72 x 48 in. Courtesy Library Street Collective.

The nine paintings on display, all quite large, are highly textured. A number of them, like Breath, have a bit of Jackson Pollack about them in their looping lines of color — others have compared the Brooklyn artist to Cy Twombly — though Parlá’s work is looser and less controlled than either of those masters. In some respects, Breath resembles a time-lapse image of munitions exploding, with crazy, sharp lines criss-crossing and looping back over a thicker, wider substrata of color. Art writers often say a given painting has energy. This one has momentum, which somehow, inexplicably, feels different.

Interestingly, given the title of Breath, Parlá, who’s 49 and grew up in Puerto Rico and Miami, spent months in the hospital with covid early in the epidemic – reportedly so sick his doctors were skeptical he’d ever return to painting. With Breath as well as his other canvases, all completed post-illness, there’s a core of strong color that looks vaguely like an organ – call it a heart – from which brushstrokes and incredibly fine, energetic lines explode, in the process creating odd and absorbing sub-cutaneous maps and topographies.

José Parlá, La Habana y Detroit, Acrylic, collage, ink and enamel on wood, 90 x 55 x 10 in. Courtesy Library Street Collective

 Seven of the Library Street pieces are paintings hung on the wall, but two others are free-standing and resemble stone monoliths (they’re actually wood constructions). Daubed with broader splotches of paint, La Habana y Detroit is rendered in rich tropical tones, while Detroit/Habana – in light blue, grays and black — is chillier and more monochromatic.  Both stand in distinct counterpoint to Breath or the equally immersive Polarity, with its shattered explosions streaking across the canvas.

In her catalog essay, Laura Mott, the Cranbrook Art Museum’s chief curator, argues that the pairing of Detroit and Havana might be more logical than it looks at first, at least in the quality of their respective urban decay. “There is a similar entropy on the surfaces of their architecture,” she writes, a layered and progressive erosion that Parlá harnesses to his own work.

José Parlá, Detroit/La Habana, 2022, Acrylic, collage, ink, and enamel on wood, 90 x 55 x 10 in. Courtesy Library Street Collective.

If you haven’t been to Library Street in a while, be forewarned that you will have to enter through the back. The reorganized space now opens onto The Belt, the cool “activated” alleyway with outsider-art murals, bars and restaurants between Grand River and Gratiot that Anthony and JJ Curis, LSC owners and founders, helped to create eight years ago.

As it happens, Library Street and its founders are dramatically expanding their footprint in Detroit.  The Crruses are partway through restoring an east-side Catholic Church and parish house into an art compound to be called The Shepherd, debuting next spring, along with a sculpture garden open to the public honoring the late artist Charles McGee that Dan and Jennifer Gilbert will underwrite.

The Curises will run the art center out of the old red-brick Good Shepherd Catholic Church in addition to LSC downtown, so all in all, this represents a significant growth in their corner of the Detroit art world.

Also new downtown is what LSC is calling a next-door “sister gallery,” Louis Buhl, which opened in 2020 on The Belt when Library Street was reorganized. (The front of LSC is now administrative offices and a private showroom.) Louis Buhl grew out of an online store and takes a more consumer-oriented approach to the gallery experience with, in addition to original art shows, a limited selection of art books, ceramics, and artist-designed fashions.

On display at Louis Buhl now, also through Aug. 24, is Night Crackle by California artist Heather Day, whose home and studio are in the desert town of Joshua Tree adjacent to the national park.

Heather Day, Last Light No. 2, 2022, Mixed media on stitched canvas, 30 x 22 in. Courtesy Louis Buhl Gallery.

 Day has reportedly been inspired by the rich hues of the California desert, and the dramatic sunrises and sunsets that are a large part of its seductive charm. Her washes on canvas, once completed, are then dissected, cut up and fastened back together in geometric fashion. The works on display come in either hot reds and oranges or sharp blues in a range of late-light hues. Common to many of her paintings are what the artist calls “that last burst of color,” like a blotch of pink on the otherwise flaming red Last Light No. 2.

Also on view along with Night Crackle are a series of monoprints Day produced with the off-grid, solar-powered Farrington Press, located in the high desert of southern California as well.

Heather Day, Night Crackle No. 3, 2022 (left) 50 x 58 in., and Night Crackle No. 4, 2022, 55.5 x 47.5 in. Courtesy Louis Buhl Gallery.

 Polarities by José Parlá at Detroit’s Library Street Collective will be up through Aug. 24. Next door at Louis Buhl Gallery, Heather Day’s Night Crackle will also be up through Aug. 24.

Family Ties @ David Klein Gallery

Family Ties, David Klein Gallery, Detroit, installation,  photo by Samantha  Bankle Schefman and all other images courtesy of David Klein Gallery

The four artists in Family Ties, now on view at David Klein Gallery in Detroit through August 6, demonstrate a kind of taxonomy of relationship—a way of claiming kinship while comparing and contrasting thought processes, techniques, and materials. As in any family where resemblances like the arch of an eyebrow, a laugh or a sense of style can demonstrate common ancestry, these artists share ways of making and thinking that illustrate the complex interaction of their shared, yet distinct histories.

Ceramicist Ebitenyefa Baralaye, who organized the show, says in his curatorial statement:

Family Ties touches on the multi-layered bonds that connect our given and adopted family members, friends, and community. These bonds are manifested in traditions, shared history, common spaces, and elements of identity encompassing everything from the rituals and patterns of styling hair, the particulars of gathering places for meals, and the textures and shades that mark bodies.

Ebitenyefa Baralaye, Grace, 2022, stoneware, slip, 21” x 14” x 14” photo: courtesy of David Klein Gallery

 

Ebitenyefa Baralaye, Aishetu, 2022, stoneware, slip, 23” x 13” x 13” photo: courtesy of David Klein Gallery

 

Baralaye sets the tone of the exhibition with his 4 compact yet monumental stoneware heads. They are vessels turned upside down and presented as stylized sculptural portraits. These chunky heads bear a passing resemblance to folk art stoneware face jugs traditionally made by African American slaves, re-purposed to celebrate Baralaye’s female ancestry. There is an element of affectionate caricature here, as well as a liveliness in the slight irregularity of their coiled clay construction. Grace and Anna depend mostly upon the surface application of rolled clay on unadorned fired stoneware for their features, while with Apreye and Aishetu, Baralaye does a particularly masterful job of balancing the three-dimensional low relief surface detail with painted-on black markings–no mean feat.

Shea Burke, Vessel Portrait III, 2022, porcelain, glaze, 10” x 8” x 5” photo courtesy of David Klein Gallery

Shea Burke, Clothed Vessel, 2022, brown stoneware, porcelain, glaze, 20” x 15” x 15”

Shea Burke, a ceramic artist from Rochester, New York, shares some of Baralaye’s methods and themes; they use coil construction to build Vessels, Portrait I, II and II, but the coils have escaped the constraints of the classic shapes to suggest wild, snaky topknots of exotic ceremonial headdresses. The artist places particular importance in the temporal process of building, layer upon layer, an object that is a record of time’s passage. “While coil-building I shape the vessel as a place to put the things that slip through our fingers. There is comfort in the idea of having a place to store what we struggle to hold onto: memories, traditions, and moments that are eroded by time,” they say.

Things take a homely turn with Burke’s earthily tactile, coiled and pinched vessels, contrasted with slick, shiny porcelain sheets draped over and around, a kind of metaphoric clothing for the fleshy clay.

 

Patrice Renee Washington, Onyx Peak, 2022, glazed stoneware, concrete, 36” x 15” x 15”

 

 

Patrice Renee Washington, Dirty Jasper, 2022, glazed stoneware, 20.5´x 13” x 13”

Formal family resemblance continues in the work of Patrice Renee Washington, originally from Chicago, but now living and working in Newburgh, New York. She hand-builds her pagoda-shaped vessels and decorates them with twisted and braided clay applique reminiscent of African hair weaves. The gray color and pointy tops of Onyx Peak and Dirty Jasper take these vessels into the realm of fantasy architecture—or perhaps they are reliquaries. A hidden meaning may be contained in their interior, but it remains inaccessible, mysterious.

Patrick Quarm, Royal Ama, 2020, mixed media, oil and acrylic paint on African fabric, 65” x 54” photo: courtesy of the artist

Patrick Quarm, The Obverse, 2020, mixed media, oil and acrylic paint on African print fabric, 43” x 33” inches photo: courtesy of the artist

To this otherwise intimately-scaled collection of three-dimensional ceramic pieces in subdued earth-tone colors,  Ghanian painter Patrick Quarm adds color as well as the implication of a broader relationship of the artists in the exhibition to the family of African and African American artists worldwide. In relational terms, Quarm could be called a cousin to Kehinde Wiley and Yinka Shonebare, both of whom use the patterns of African textiles and brilliant color to tell complex stories of European colonialism and the African diaspora. His contribution to the cultural conversation is a thoughtful yet intuitive visual analysis of the complex interactions, some positive and many not, of civilizations at their point of contact.

Quarm’s paintings are acts of synthesis, weaving veils of pierced, painted and patterned fabric into a meaningful whole from the disparate elements of his past. Stories of his father’s life in colonial Ghana are added to his own experience as an inhabitant of cultural and social spheres in Africa and the U.S. Many of Quarm’s pieces feature separate sheets of painted fabric loosely fluttering from battens which, viewed from the side, look three dimensional. But from the front they coalesce into a unified composition, perfect metaphors for his aim to create a coherent identity from the diverse and sometimes antithetical parts of his history. He says of his work, “My task or duty as an artist is to strip each layer after the other to bring clarity, to understand the past and how the past shapes the present.”

Not everything about any family—or this family of artists–can be known. There is an interior conversation among these four that must remain a mystery outside its sacred circle, even as it nourishes the creativity of its members. But Family Ties gives us an intriguing intimation of the usually unseen lines that connect them. As Baralaye says, “Family ties are a reminder of the commitment and the persistence of connection even in hard times and through complicated realities.”

Family Ties,  on exhibition at the David Klein Gallery, through August 6, 2022.

Cezanne @ Art Institute of Chicago

Right now in Chicago, there is probably more Cezzane under one roof than anywhere else in the world. The Art Institute of Chicago goes big with its special exhibitions, and its current offering of works by Cezanne is a beast of a show, comprising 80 paintings, 20 watercolors, two sketchbooks, and a smattering of pencil sketches, and together they demonstrate the artist’s stylistic and thematic breadth. This is Cezanne’s first American retrospective in 25 years, and it brings together works from collections in North and South America, Australia, Europe, and Asia. The show emphasizes Cezanne’s multigenerational appeal; lauded after his death as the “father of modern art,” his paintings (including many on display) were owned by well-known 19th and 20th-century artists, and his enduring reach extends to the present day.

CÈzanne Paul (1839-1906). Paris, musÈe d’Orsay.

Although Cezanne was never formally accepted into art school, he was firmly rooted in art historical tradition, and he studied the masters of the past. When he moved to Paris in 1861, he frequented the Louvre, which he once described as “an open book I am continually studying.” There, he studied and copied Renaissance and Baroque paintings and sculptures. Several early graphite drawings on view demonstrate his ability to draw the figure in a classical, academic style. These tightly rendered drawings are contrasted in the same room with other early experimental works from the 1860s in which Cezanne applies the paint thickly, using only a palette knife to scribble in his subject. These early works are suggestive of a versatile style and artistic swagger.

Cezanne’s vision brought new life to the centuries-old genres of still life painting and landscape painting, and in his hands the two could become strikingly similar, as a room of his increasingly busy still life paintings demonstrates. There’s nothing “still” about his still-lifes. Thoroughly unburdened by any adherence to linear perspective, these counterintuitive canvasses seem to heave and buckle. Add into the mix a tactfully arranged patterned tablecloth replete with ridges, furrows, and crevices, and the result is tabletop topography.

Still Life with Apples; Paul Cézanne (French, 1839 – 1906); 1893–1894; Oil on canvas; 65.4 × 81.6 cm 25 3/4 × 32 1/8 in.

Paul Cezanne. The Basket of Apples, about 1893. The Art Institute of Chicago, Helen Birch Bartlett Memorial Collection.

Although he studied in the great museums of Paris, Cezanne self-styled himself as a provincial artist. He was born and raised in Aix-en-Provence, and he frequently left Paris to paint the region, geographically defined by the imposing limestone Mont Sainte-Victoire– the location of a second-century Roman military victory and source of local pride. Some of Cezanne’s most recognizable paintings are the serialized studies he affectionately painted of the angular mountain, mostly executed during the last fifteen years of his life. This exhibit presents over a dozen studies and paintings of the mountain, and they represent some of Cezanne’s most daring works.  The individual brushstrokes of his paintings become an increasingly noticeable presence, and the clarity of the landscape dissolves into a mosaic of scrubbed-in patches of color. One of his aims was to “make the air palpable,” and in these paintings, he certainly succeeded. There isn’t any negative space in the most abstract of these paintings; the air itself is rendered with thick chunks of color. These paintings speak to Cezanne’s artistic philosophy, which held that a painting was complete not when it was finished in the conventional sense, but rather when it successfully achieved his personal artistic intent.

Paul Cezanne. Montagne Sainte-Victoire with Large Pine, about 1887. The Courtauld Gallery, London. © Courtauld Gallery / Bridgeman Images

But even while Cezanne pushed the boundaries of abstraction, leading the charge toward modern art, this show makes it clear that he retained a deep affection for the art of the past. He produced many paintings crowded with frolicking or fighting nudes that acted as contemporary responses to the fleshy Baroque-era Gardens of Love and Bacchanals by the likes of Titian and Reubens. Cezanne’s Battle of Love, in which pairs of abstract nude figures naughtily tussle in a pastoral setting, directly echoes Titian’s 16th century Bacchanal of the Andrians.

The exhibition concludes with the largest and most realized of Cezanne’s Bather paintings, a subject he returned to throughout his life (other similar, smaller versions appear elsewhere in the show). It’s an idealized scene; the models were entirely products of his imagination, and Cezanne rendered the landscape to compliment and answer the composition and movement of the models. Stylistically, these abstracted figures are emphatically modern, and it’s easy to see why they appealed to artists like Henry Moore, Pablo Picasso, and Henri Matisse, all of whom once owned some of the paintings presently on these walls.

Paul Cezanne. Bathers (Les Grandes Baigneuses), about 1894–1905. The National Gallery, London, purchased with a special grant and the aid of the Max Rayne Foundation, 1964.

Cezanne is sometimes described in print as a “painter’s painter.” Perhaps this is unfair since it suggests that the average person just won’t understand his work. But this exhibition gives non-experts plenty of reasons to like his art, whether for his relentlessly imaginative re-working of classical artistic tropes, or perhaps the sheer complexity of his still-life paintings. This exhibition demonstrates his artistic reach, and specialists and non-specialists alike will find the exhibit rewarding. The abundance of works on view amply demonstrates Cezanne’s indebtedness to the past, even as he challenged artistic conventions and boldly anticipated the art of the future.

Cezanne is on view at the Art Institute of Chicago through September 5, 2022. 

LGBTQ @ Scarab Club

“Mighty Real / Queer Detroit: Remembrance of Things Present” will be up at Detroit’s Scarab Club through July 9. The other 16 exhibition spaces will take the show down on June 30, 2022.

An installation view of “Mighty Real / Queer Detroit” at the Scarab Club, up through July 9.

“Mighty Real / Queer Detroit: Remembrance of Things Present,” the monumental art exhibition of LGBTQ art that sprawls over 17 venues, underlines just how much has changed in America in the new millennium. Even 10 years ago, this sort of mammoth undertaking devoted to queer artists and their allies would be hard to imagine outside of a few trend-setting cities, mostly on the coasts.

Boasting more than 700 pieces by 150 artists both established and emerging, as well as some who’ve passed on, MRQD is being mounted in partnership with the City of Detroit’s Office of Art, Culture, and Entrepreneurship.

The shows at participating galleries are up through the end of June.

Apparently sparked by a suggestion from Detroit artist and longtime gay activist Charles Alexander, the project was curated and muscled into glorious existence by Patrick Burton, a visual and performance artist who teaches in the Detroit schools. The exhibition was originally set for 2020, and at the time involved just four or five galleries. But two years of covid delays gave Burton time to extend his reach, pulling in other outlets all over town.

“Patrick did just a beautiful job putting together portfolios of work for all the different spaces,” said Treena Flannery-Erickson, gallery director at the Scarab Club. “It’s historic and amazing.”

Among the participating galleries are Hatch Art in Hamtramck, Detroit Artists Market, the David Klein Gallery and, out in Mt. Clemens, the Anton Art Center – said to have one of the liveliest displays.

“This project is presenting queer artists, or humanizing us, in a new way,” Burton told The Detroit News. “We’re not often represented. We’re often sexualized and we’re not thought of us as full beings who live life and create art. This is about offering a queer culture and expanding minds and hearts.”

Stephanie Crawford, Green Still Life 3, Watercolor on paper, 22” x 15,” 2018. Courtesy The Scarab Club.

At Detroit’s Scarab Club, the 32 artists on view represent a wide and intriguing range of work, which will stay up longer than at other venues — through July 9. Some pieces here are thematically tied to the queer experience, like the late Jack O. Summers’ collage of itsy-bitsy naked men, while other canvases, such as the technicolor trio of still-lifes by Stephanie Crawford, a Black native Detroiter in her 80s, eschew messaging in favor of simple, striking beauty.

By contrast, the 1999 “Blue Bathroom Blues 1” by Frederick Weston, raised in Detroit before moving to New York, clearly points to the AIDS catastrophe. Look closely at this gorgeous, geometric collage in shades of blue and aqua and you’ll find a reference to the protease inhibitor Crixivan, an anti-HIV drug right beneath an advertising slogan, “Safe for Septic Systems.”

Frederick Weston, Blue Bathroom Blues 1 (detail), Mixed media collage, 11” x 8.5”, 1999. The Scarab Club.

Corktown resident Jon Strand, a meticulous painter with work in the Detroit Institute of Arts’ collection, calls the exhibition a seismic event for the local queer community and its visibility. “This is like a declaration that we’re real and we make beautiful art,” he said. “We weren’t trying to promote or indoctrinate. It’s just about great creativity coming from all kinds of sources.”

One of those sources is Strand himself, who has work in this particular show at both Collected Detroit and Detroit Artists Market. The latter includes “The Flaming Pearl of Infinite Wisdom, A Silvery Moon, and Seven Hidden Dragons,” which typifies the artist’s fascination with oddly whimsical, otherworldly canvases created by means of a back-breaking form of pointillism.

Jon Strand, The Flaming Pearl of Infinite Wisdom, A Silvery Moon, and Seven Hidden Dragons, Ink on canvas, 2019. Courtesy of the artist.

Much of the work throughout MRQD is recent, but Burton also reached back far for some particularly arresting visuals as far away as New York City. Among the most striking, for reasons that are a little hard to decipher, is Marcus Leatherdale’s black-and-white portrait of Sam Wagstaff from 1981, 10 years after he left his curatorial position at the DIA in some disgrace. (For a contemporary art project, Wagstaff in his last year at the museum drove a bulldozer across the museum’s pristine north lawn dragging a 35-ton monolith, “Dragged Mass Displacement” by Michael Heiser, that gouged its own trench and sent the DIA’s board of directors into conniptions.)

Marcus Leatherdale, Sam Wagstaff, Archival pigment print, 22” x 22”, 1981. The Scarab Club.

Leatherdale, a photographer of New York’s demimonde who died in May, gives us a sharply observed portrait of the curator and photography collector at 60, with chiseled good looks and a skeptical gaze some eight years before his lover, Robert Mapplethorp, would die of AIDS.

Another striking image from the now-distant past is Detroiter Katy Hait’s “Marc Mannino, Detroit,” with the tousle-haired artist holding up what look like two punk marionettes. The juxtaposition of the puppets’ menace and Mannino’s youthful gaze, apprehensive but as yet unbruised by life, is a knockout.

Katy Hait, Marc Mannino, Detroit, Archival pigment print, 19” x 13”, 1977. The Scarab Club.

Other participating venues hosting “Mighty Real / Queer Detroit” include Affirmations, Cass Café, the College for Creative Studies Center Galleries, Galerie Camille, M Contemporary Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Design Detroit, N’Namdi Center for Contemporary Art, Norwest Gallery, Oloman Café & Gallery, Playground Detroit and Public Pool.

In breadth, scope and daring, MRQD will be remembered as a landmark in Detroit’s artistic and gay history. In Flannery-Erickson’s words, “It was a monumental undertaking that involved so many people. At the end of the day, it’s a beautiful salute to community.”

Like all curators, Burton hopes for lasting impact. “It’s a community defining ourselves,” he said. “When you think about, it was just over 50 years ago that there was the Stonewall uprising (in Manhattan). I just think there’s a lot of work still to be done. This exhibition is a beginning here, and we wanted to do it big and we wanted to make sure it got the right attention. The only way to do that was to not just do one gallery.”

“Mighty Real / Queer Detroit: Remembrance of Things Present” will be up at Detroit’s Scarab Club through July 9. The other 16 exhibition spaces will take the show down on June 30.

Nick Doyle: Farmers and Reapers @ Reyes/Finn Gallery

Nick Doyle, Please Let me Go, 2022, collaged denim on panel, 90” x 125” (belt), 11” x 36” (lighter), 72” x 15” (spoon) All photos: Adam Reich

The perils and attractions of consumption driven by the dynamics of corporate greed—when what we are conditioned to want might just kill us–forms the theme of Nick Doyle’s current exhibition Farmers and Reapers at Reyes Finn, on view in the gallery from June 4 – July 16. Doyle has chosen deceptively beautiful images to lure us toward the revelation that we may be the unsuspecting victims of our own desires.

In his previous show with Reyes Finn, Paved Paradise, the artist examined and seemed to celebrate—or at least feel nostalgia for–the assumptions inherent in the American Dream of limitless expansion and endless possibility. But with Farmers and Reapers, his vision has sharpened and darkened to tell a cautionary tale about the perils of falling for the false promises of capitalism.   Or as Doyle says in his artist’s statement:

Today, as we experience an opioid epidemic, everything has become a drug.  Social media, advertisement, market research: all born out of attempts to create false desires in a population with no actual resolution to those desires, only a constant cycle of momentary satisfaction that intends on keeping us locked in a state of perpetual, hankering consumption.

Of course, Doyle’s subtle jeremiad wouldn’t resonate with his audience if the artworks he has created were not attractive.  And they are. His beautifully crafted and carefully constructed images of pretty flowers, shiny cutlery and glittering disco balls—even his wall-mounted portrait of a black garbage bag containing who-knows-what—are (sanctioned) pleasures for the eye, given force by their titles. Hence the disco ball is entitled Death Star, his lush bouquet of poppies is called A Siren’s Symphony. Even as we viscerally feel the attraction, we are brought up short by the artist’s ominous caveat.

Nick Doyle, Body at Rest, 2022, collaged denim on panel, 51” x 40”

 

Nick Doyle, Siren’s Symphony, 2022, collaged denim on panel, 95” x 89”

All except one of the artworks in this exhibition are handmade out of quotidian denim, the fabric of the common man and Doyle’s signature material. The artist has meticulously cut and laminated shapes reminiscent of paint-by-numbers kits to silhouettes made of shaped medium density panels. Individual pieces like Cold Sweat, an oversized, pink, melting popsicle, and Morning Shake, a cup of coffee surrounded by a spill, are disturbingly specific images of personal addiction. Please Let Me Go combines magnified images of drug paraphernalia—a belt, a spoon, a cheap lighter—in an unholy trinity.   It’s impossible to look at Putting Two and Two Together without imagining the sensation of physical shock that comes from sticking a fork in an electrical socket.

Nick Doyle, Putting Two and Two Together, 2022, collaged denim on panel, 72” x 10” (fork), 40” x 25”

The poppies in Farmers and Reapers introduce an unexpected lyrical note—and possibly a sly irony–into Doyle’s visual vocabulary, which up to now has consisted mostly of manufactured objects. Doyle employs images of mass-produced items–still ubiquitous, pandemic-related supply chain issues notwithstanding–as a kind of shorthand for capitalism and colonialism, and in a broader sense, American individualism and toxic masculinity. The opioid-producing poppies, sourced mostly from Southeast Asia and Latin America, might represent the revenge of the third world, which has now created a reciprocal addiction.

Nick Doyle, Cold Sweat, 2022, collaged denim on panel, 67” x 47”

Only one of the artworks in Farmers and Reapers is a three-dimensional miniature similar to those that have appeared in Doyle’s previous shows. Gone, a doll-size, perfect replica of a hospital bed, is made of wood and comes complete with rumpled hospital sheets and blanket. It is a poignant comment on the ultimate price that many will pay for their addiction. Positioned on a low pedestal, we see the bed from above, the ghostly point of view of a departing soul. The sensation of looking down is shocking, but already we feel the remoteness that must accompany the passage of the recently deceased.

The undeniable attractions of the artworks in Farmers and Reapers heighten the emotional charge of their dark subtext by simultaneously seducing and repelling the viewer. These poppies and mirror balls, these garbage bags and spoons and forks, together constitute both a warning and a lament for the destructive yet often unacknowledged power of invisible economic forces. As Reyes/Finn partner Bridget Finn says of the artist, “He opens conversations on addiction, destruction and capitalistic greed and the ways in which they are opposed to the fallacy of the American Dream, thus using the fiber of American culture to craft its critique.” With Farmers and Reapers, Nick Doyle seems intent on raising awareness of the traps laid by malign elements as the first step toward moving beyond them.

Nick Doyle, Gone, 2022, maple, cotton, wax, 2022, 13” x 22” x 11”

Nick Doyle: Farmers and Reapers at the Reyes/Finn Gallery through July, 16.   All images courtesy of the artist and Reyes/Finn, Detroit

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