Critical art reviews of Detroit galleries and museums weekly

Author: Michael Hodges Page 2 of 6

Brenda Goodman @ Simone DeSousa Gallery

Back on Willis Street, at Detroit’s Simone DeSousa Gallery

An installation shot at the opening of her solo show, Back on Willis Street, at Detroit’s Simone DeSousa Gallery. This image is courtesy of DAR. 

Art-wise, New York is a famously tough nut to crack. Cass Corridor legends Gordon Newton, Bob Sestok and Michael Luchs all gave it a shot decades ago but, for various reasons, came back to pursue their careers in Detroit.

Not so Brenda Goodman, one of several talented women who gave the hard-drinking Corridor boys a run for their money back in the 1970s, a talented cohort that also included Nancy Mitchnick and Ellen Phelan.

At 80, Goodman – whose solo show of recent work, Back on Willis Street, is at Detroit’s Simone DeSousa Gallery through June 10 – has finally achieved the sort of success 99 percent of artists who flock to Gotham, stars in their eyes, can only dream of. “Brenda’s the best-known and most-successful artist of the Cass Corridor,” said gallery owner Simone DeSousa. “We have so many amazing, significant artists here, but their work and stories have never really gone much beyond local awareness.”

In a nice touch, Goodman’s Detroit exhibition comes exactly 50 years after her very first solo show. It was 1973 at the Corridor’s legendary Willis Gallery, some eight years after the artist graduated with a degree in painting from the old Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts (now the College for Creative Studies).

It’s been a big year for Goodman. Back on Willis Street follows hard on the heels of her solo show in Manhattan that closed in March, Hop Skip Jump at Sikkema Jenkins & Co., the big-deal gallery in Chelsea that represents the artist, who moved from Manhattan to the Catskills in 2009. Goodman’s work has always refused to bend to commercial whims and now commands impressive prices.

Brenda Goodman, This Is the House that Jack Built, Oil, mixed media on wood, 36 x 47 inches, 2022. Photos courtesy of Simone DeSousa Gallery.

Her early paintings were achingly personal, almost confessional. In the 1994 Self-Portrait 4, a grotesque humanoid with wild eyes is jamming globules of something – some say impasto paint – into her mouth, much of it dribbling down her huge frame with its skinny, almost vestigial arms. The piece is creepy, dark, and deeply unsettling; the self-loathing behind it hits you like a hot wind.

Some have tried to draw a line between those “diarist” works, representing a powerful emotion at a given moment in Goodman’s life, with the equally dark abstractions she switched to starting in 2010, giving up figurative paintings. But the artist insists the abstractions do not tell a story per se, and have more to do with her playing with shape and color than reflecting anything about herself. Her geometric abstracts are often slashed with deep incisions made with a linoleum cutter or Dremel drill press. Some have likened the carved lines to scars, which would fit with some of her painful figurative work, but Goodman doesn’t buy that.

“I don’t think it has anything to do with scarring,” Goodman told Hyperallergic in 2019. “I’m using the linoleum cutter to do automatic writing. I used to do it with black oil marks all across the surface. Now I’m just doing it with the linoleum cutter: pulling out and using the shapes and forms which are generated, and letting that lead to the next shape.”

And Back on Willis Street is about nothing if not shapes. In a work like the gorgeous Shadows of Love, purplish-brown triangles, trapezoids and rectangles are stacked like so many foundation stones, set off here and there by unexpected splashes of yellow, lavender and blue.

 

Brenda Goodman, Shadows of Love, Oil, mixed media on wood, 36 by 47 inches, 2022.

DeSousa, who’s an artist herself, calls Goodman “a painter’s painter,” one who’s been laser-focused on “constant exploration and a directness about how she approaches her work.” But the Back on Willis Street paintings, all done in the past two or three years, stand out among the abstractions she’s produced ever since a beloved dog died 13 years ago.

“These works are lighter,” DeSousa said, “with washes of color” not seen in much of the earlier work. In another shift, Goodman’s started including references to some earlier paintings in some of the contemporary pieces. With Shadows of Love, there’s a tiny figurative insert on the far right – a running woman with a traumatized-looking face. 

 

Brenda Goodman, Shadows of Love (detail), Oil, mixed media on wood, 36 by 47 inches, 2022.

 In many ways, Goodman’s turn to abstract paintings helped foster her ascent to the big stage. They also garnered heightened interest. Author, editor, and major local collector Suzy Farbman has a large Goodman hanging in her dining room next to a standing cross by Ellen Phelan. In her recent book, Detroit’s Cass Corridor & Beyond, Farbman wrote, “As Brenda worked her way from very personal, cartoon-like images toward a unique form of abstraction, I became more attracted to her work. Today,” she added, “I’m an unabashed fan.”

One painting, in particular, stands out among the collection at the De Sousa Gallery. Whose Winning has the feel of something oddly, dramatically different. Largely black and deeply scored, creating her trademark mosaic of shapes, the work is topped by a burst of many roundish colors, a bit like a bouquet, and two pink tendrils or “arms” that hang down and seemingly embrace the painting. And at the very bottom? An odd little yellow trapezoid that DeSousa says “balances” the whole work and also makes the black and bright colors alike pop.

Brenda Goodman, Whose Winning, Oil on wood, 60 by 72 inches, 202

DeSousa had long wanted to do a solo show for Goodman, and Back on Willis Street has been in gestation for some time.  Reflecting on her origins, Goodman spoke about how different her work was from that produced by most of her Detroit compatriots back in the day. “My work was different from the other Cass Corridor artists,” she’s said. “They were mostly guys who used materials like barbed wire and surfaces with bullet holes. Detroit was a rough place, and they were representing the city. My work had a surreal feeling, and it was very personal. It was based on what was going on in my life at the time. But we were still a group, and it was really nice.”

Brenda Goodman, The Sun’s Gonna Shine, Oil on wood, 36 by 45 inches, 2023.

 

An installation shot of Brenda Goodman speaking at the opening of her solo show, Back on Willis Street, at Detroit’s Simone DeSousa Gallery through June 10.

Brenda Goodman: Back on Willis Street, at Detroit’s Simone DeSousa Gallery through June 10.

 

 

Mel Rosas @ Wayne State University

The Foreign Intimacies exhibition by Mel Rosas is at the Elaine L. Jacob Gallery on the Wayne State University campus.

An installation image of Mel Rosas’ “Foreign Intimacies” at the Elaine L. Jacob Gallery. Image courtesy of DAR.

While teaching in Canada decades ago, Wayne State professor emeritus Mel Rosas found himself struggling to stay awake just before dark as he was driving across Saskatchewan. But he snapped right to when he came upon the obstacle in the middle of the road.

Rosas, a painter whose show Foreign Intimacies is at the Elaine L. Jacob Gallery on Wayne’s campus through June 2, initially assumed the creature was a cat. But as he leaned on the brakes, he realized the animal was far too big. It was a mountain lion.

That twilight encounter, he said, was both “surreal and other-worldly.” Remarkably, it’s an experience he’d repeat, in much the same fashion, years later while driving through his father’s homeland, Panama. Again, the first glimpse down the road suggested a cat. But on closer examination, it turned out to be something entirely different and far more spiritual and thrilling – a black panther.

Mel Rosas, The Day of the Panther, Oil on panel, 48 x 48 inches, 2015. All painting images courtesy of Mel Rosas.

These brushes with mythic felines materialize in a 2015 work, The Day of the Panther, that’s well worth seeking out if you go to the exhibition. Here we find ourselves on a nameless street well south of the border. Centered dead ahead, right in our line of sight, is the panther — a black silhouette against a rich green background – who’s carefully making his way across a dirt road. We’re looking through a doorway in a wall, a device Rosas uses frequently and to great effect — an opening that ushers us from this stained and peeling world to a more lyrical place. On our side of this threshold, all is every day and a little grimy. Contrast that with the verdant countryside on the other side, where the cat’s pacing and the image is nothing short of transporting.

Rosas’ work straddles the line between a waking dream state, on the one hand, and soiled reality on the other, albeit rendered in the rich hues of the Caribbean.  It would be easy, given the material, for the artist to romanticize – or worse yet, exoticize — these urban vignettes. But Rosas works in unsentimental realism, at least when he’s sketching out the walls and streets that constitute the foreground, or scrim, of these compositions. The colors may be lush, but the walls are pock-marked and streaked. There is, of course, an undeniable pathos to decay, but the real romance here lies in the distant vistas espied through windows, doorways, and apertures of all kinds. It’s as if the work operates on two levels – a flat picture plane facing the viewer and portals that give way to hopeful worlds beyond.

The paintings in Foreign Intimacies were mostly worked from drawings or photographs Rosas has taken on his travels over 40 years through Panama, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Peru, Brazil, and Cuba.

At first, the colorful streetscapes in Foreign Intimacies might look to be empty, but that’s not the case. Many sport an individual, but never more than one — and that singularity, as with Edward Hopper’s under-populated canvases, makes the relative emptiness echo all the louder. Rosas, who studied art at Drake University and Philadelphia’s Tyler School of Art, attributes this in part to his own nocturnal storylines: “When I dream,” he said, “I find myself alone, walking around a semi-familiar environment.”

Which, in a way resembles Rosas’ take on being a foreigner abroad in Central and South America. As a “half-gringo,” he said, he still feels like an outsider looking in, never mind his family connections in Panama. Indeed, as he notes, the show’s title, Foreign Intimacies, underlines this paradox. “These experiences were foreign,” he said, “but strangely familiar.”

Mel Rosas, Pare, Oil on panel, 30 x 42 inches, 2012.

 A number of the paintings on display clearly come from Cuba – a fact given away by the awesomely preserved American cars from the 1940s to the early 60s that figure prominently in them. One good example is Pare (Give way), a particularly handsome color study starring what looks to be the back half of an early-Sixties, two-tone Ford Falcon painted a gleaming mustard yellow with a white roof. At the far end of the frame are two walls, one a matching mustard, juxtaposed with a neighbor in exuberant pink. Uniting the whole composition is a large wall in the middle, rendered in mottled shades of soft green. Mustard yellow, hot pink, sea green, and back to mustard — it’s a gorgeous, balanced composition.

Mel Rosas, Memory, and Artifact, Oil on panel, 24 x 36 inches, 202

The 2021 Memory and Artifact looks to be from Cuba as well, with its mint-condition four-door from the Forties. And once again, it’s a color study of sorts, although this time in monochromatic shades of brown and dark beige. The only exceptions are a few splotches of light blue on walls framing a neo-classical doorway, which look as if posters have been ripped down. For its part, the automobile is pristine, the architecture old and distressed.

Mel Rosas, El Policía Muerto, Oil on panel, 12 x 12 inches, 2016

Learning on another trip down south that the Panamanian term for speed bumps is “dead policemen,” Rosas knew that, by hook or by crook, he had to work that into a painting somehow.  The result is El Policía Muerto from 2016, which in many ways hits the political reality in some countries harder than the other paintings here, with its portrait of a heavily armed and flak-jacketed member of the Guardia Civil standing guard by a doorway near a car parked just short of a speed bump. Once again, the color is well curated. The wall behind the soldier is a fading turquoise, while the car – with a hood that doesn’t quite close – is an off-putting shade of dull, lemon yellow. It’s a brilliant choice for a work with undercurrents of politics and fear. The tension set up between the turquoise and the ugly yellow knocks the whole painting slightly off-kilter, which works to great advantage.

 

Mel Rosas, La Gentrificación, Oil on panel, 36 by 36 inches, 2016.

Installation image, Latin percussion with dancers at the opening. 2023 Courtesy of DAR.

“Foreign Intimacies” by Mel Rosas will be at the Elaine L. Jacob Gallery on the Wayne State University campus through June 2.

Hawtin, Malfroy-Camine, Pritchard @ David Klein Gallery

 

An installation image: Matthew Hawtin, Sylvain Malfroy-Camine and Benjamin Pritchard at the David Klein Gallery in Birmingham. Image courtesy of Sylvain Malfroy-Camine.

You’d be hard-pressed to find three abstract painters with styles more radically divergent, but such is the charm of New Work: Matthew Hawtin, Sylvain Malfroy-Camine and Benjamin Pritchard, up through April 29 at Birmingham’s David Klein Gallery. It’s a refreshing exhibition – you may well find moving from one artist to the other an unexpectedly bracing experience.

Despite differences, there is an underlying construct. “The overarching theme is abstraction and the brushstroke,” said owner and gallerist David Klein, who adds that he’s really been trying to build the gallery’s abstract-painting program. “You go from Matthew Hawtin, who completely hides the brushstroke, to Ben Pritchard who’s all brushstroke and gestural energy.” His judgment? “Ben is the grand gesture; Matthew is no gesture.”

Employing that same scale, Klein locates Malfroy-Camine, who came to Michigan for Cranbrook and stayed after getting his 2021 MFA, somewhere in-between the other two artists in terms of the prominence that the brushstrokes enjoy. Unlike Hawtin’s solid-color exercises, canvases like Malfroy-Camine’s Construct/Construct read as textured works, dotted as they are by scatterings of small shapes applied with colored pencil on top of the dried oil.

 

Sylvain Malfroy-Camine, Construct/Construct, 2023, Oil and colored pencil on canvas, 28.5 x 48.75 inches. Images courtesy of the David Klein Gallery and DAR.

There’s an airiness to these quilt-like canvases that’s simultaneously child-like and sophisticated. Indeed, they don’t hang on the walls so much as hover, and radiate a deeply original vibe with their patch-work backgrounds and oddball annotations. “Sylvain’s got a unique expression that’s kind of the backbone of his work,” Klein said, who added that the young artist has come “a long, long ways” in a short space of time, carving out a unique visual personality. “Sylvain expresses himself,” Klein said, “in a way I haven’t seen before.”

Malfroy-Camine’s compositions in this show lean heavily on pastels and “thin” colors, and as a consequence, really pop when set next to one of Pritchard’s deeply saturated paintings, whose sinuous lines and landscapes feel almost sculptural. Based in Brooklyn, Pritchard maintains studios both there and, since he often returns to Michigan, in a shed on his parents’ Oakland County property. A Detroit boy through and through, Pritchard nonetheless graduated – rather exotically — from the Royal Academy of Arts in London.

Benjamin Pritchard, Roz Painting, 2023, Oil on linen, 60 x 72 inches.

The pieces he has in New Works represent a sort of departure for Pritchard. For most of his career, Klein says, the artist worked at a very small scale – nothing like what’s hung on the gallery walls today. As it happens, Klein was able to get him some larger canvases, “and Ben just went to town and created a powerful body of work,” the gallerist said. “Being able to paint on that scale really brought him to another level.”

Size-wise, Roz Painting, which calls to mind two muscular ceramic tiles standing next to one another, is 60” by 72,” large enough to fill up an entire wall. Constructed of compressed twists and turns, Roz draws a contrast with Pritchard’s other works on display, like “Magnanimous Duality,” which feel considerably more organic in spirit. Maybe it’s the curves, maybe it’s the colors, but running through and uniting all the artist’s work is a strong, sensuous current.

Benjamin Pritchard, Floating Solution (After a Late DeKooning), 2023, Oil on linen, 60 x 50 inches.

As it happens, the word “sensuous” can be applied easily to Hawtin’s work as well, albeit in a completely different universe. Born in the U.K. and raised in Canada, Hawtin now lives in the Detroit area but is still, if you will, bi-national, maintaining a studio across the waters in Windsor. The power of these smaller canvases on display lies in their saturated, strikingly flat surface treatment — as well as the knife-edge geometry that cleaves and defines them. They’re both eye-catching and a little confrontational. Their remarkable precision, Klein suggests, calls to mind both Elsworth Kelly and Robert Mangold, two 20th-century painters whose work, while very different one from the other, practically defined “hard edge.”

Matthew Hawtin, Binary, 2023, Acrylic on canvas, 24 x 44 x 4 inches.

But the surprises here go beyond sharp lines. “Matthew’s color choices,” said Klein, “can be kind of radical, like the orange and black together in Binary. I look at that and think ‘Halloween,’ but he pulls it off really elegantly – particularly with the addition of a line to break up the monochrome color pattern.”

Disorientation plays a minor-key role here. Many of these acrylic compositions toy with triangles and trapezoids, breaking canvases – not one of which is a rectangle — into colored blocks that almost generate an unexpected but convincing illusion of three dimensions. Adding to that tantalizing confusion are Hawtin’s trademark “torqued” canvases, whose surfaces tilt and cant at slight angles to the wall instead of being completely parallel. The works in effect “lean” toward the viewer, but so subtly that you wonder momentarily – as with the apparent 3-D – whether you’re imagining things. You’re not. Examine the edges and you’ll understand the construction involved.

Matthew Hawtin, Cool Green, 2022, Acrylic on canvas, 24 x 30 x 4 inches

New Work: Matthew Hawtin, Sylvain Malfroy-Camine, and Benjamin Pritchard will be up through April 29 at the David Klein Gallery in Birmingham.

Rick Vian @ M Contemporary Gallery

 

An installation view of Rick Vian: The Growth Habit at Ferndale’s M Contemporary through Feb. 18.   Image courtesy of DAR

Over a long career, Rick Vian has alternated between two seemingly contradictory subjects for paintings. The first were breathtakingly realistic portraits of Upper Peninsula tree canopies and the sky beyond, later abstracted and given sharper colors in his Yellow Knife series in the late ‘teens. The second set of subjects, however, involve aggressive abstracts that call to mind both industrial processes and the power of elemental forms.

The engaging show at Ferndale’s M Contemporary, Rick Vian: The Growth Habit, falls entirely into the latter abstract basket, even as its title refers to trees and the shape and form each species will ultimately take. The growth habit suggests a certain inevitability – when unimpeded, the oak is destined to achieve a certain height, width and outline, characteristics that set it apart from all others. So too, apparently, with the paintings in this show.

The Growth Habit will be up through Feb. 18, when there will be a closing reception and an Artist’s Talk from 4-6 p.m.

When you boil it down, the dozen or so polyurethane-and-oil paintings hung here – which bear a glancing resemblance to the Russian Constructivists and Fernand Léger’s 1920s “mechanical period” – all come out of roughly the same mold. They’re action-packed, geometric abstracts. On occasion they’ve got an Escher-like quality, with three-dimensional shapes going places they simply can’t, while at other points, the geometry morphs into something more sculptural and biological in form. It’s a dualism that sets up an tense, interesting balance.

Rick Vian, Chickens in Bondage, II; Polyurethane and oil on canvas, 48 x 60 inches, 2021. Images courtesy of MContemporary Gallery.

There’s a dualism as well in Vian’s use of color. Works here alternate between a warm palette full of strong orange, black and vermilion, and a chillier one heavy on grays, whites, black, and occasional sharp-red details. Chickens in Bondage, II, once you get past the tongue-in-cheek title, is an absorbing color essay in tones of deep orange and red, all edged in black. As ever with Vian’s maze-like works, there’s a confusion of forms: Is that an individual on hands and knees somewhere near the surface, or the tail end of a chicken? And what’s going on with the big gear teeth over to the right? Bondage has more of a machine-like quality than most of the other paintings on hand, and the vibe isn’t entirely happy, either – not surprising, perhaps, given the realities of commercial poultry production.

Rick Vian, Tell ‘Em Earl Lied; Polyurethane and oil, 72 x 60 inches, 2022.

M Contemporary owner and director Melannie Chard has had her eye on Vian for years and has always been a big fan. “Rick’s work is very energetic,” she said. “It’s got kind of a masculine feel to me — geometric but still organic, with that kind of play, that tension there that I find really interesting.” Indeed, both the mechanical and the organic fight for mastery on Vian’s canvases. This push-and-pull suffuses Tell ‘Em Earl Lied which, like most of Vian’s abstracts, seems to work simultaneously on several depth levels. There’s what’s going on at the surface, and then what’s partly obscured below, and then beneath that.

Rick Vian, Sex Machine; Polyurethane and oil on canvas, 15 x 13 inches, 2022. Image courtesy of DAR

Sitting on its own neat stack of cement blocks mid-gallery, is a much-smaller box painting, Sex Machine, one of several where the canvas wraps around all exposed surfaces. Thematically, there’s sort of a clamp-thing going on here. Three very similar “mechanical” devices — all of which look like they want to lock onto something, hard – march from stage left to stage right, setting up crosscurrents that pull much of the rest of the work with them, including what could fairly be described as a pair of abstracted Mickey Mouse ears.

Rick Vian, Horseshoes and Socks; Polyurethane and oil on canvas, 24 x 19 inches, 2022.

Vian, who did his undergraduate at Detroit’s School of the Society of Arts and Crafts (now the College for Creative Studies) and got his MFA at Wayne State, stands out among fine artists by having time spent in his past as a commercial and industrial painter. “That’s where some of his palette comes from — like ‘Safety Yellow’ and ‘Safety Red,’” Chard said, referring to stock industrial paint colors.

This series, she says, actually got its start way back in the early 1970s, but was put down for decades while the artist went in other directions. He picked it back up over the past couple of years.

Vian’s technique, Chard said, is “really intuitive. He doesn’t really know what he’s going to do when he starts. And I think that speaks to his other life as a jazz drummer.” Indeed, in a nice touch other artists might want to emulate — to blow off steam, if nothing else — Vian keeps a set of drums right at hand in his studio.

Finally, we’ll close with the one canvas that seemed, without question, to have some mordant humor flickering around its edges, Like Trying to Explain Wagner to a Dead Horse. It’s another of the chilly-palette paintings, with a lot of over-scribbling that gives it the look of a vigorous work in progress. But there’s no denying there’s something like a slumped body in the foreground, and, poking up into the air, a couple feet. It’s hard to shake the conviction they belong to the aforementioned dead beast.

Rick Vian, Like Trying to Explain Wagner to a Dead Horse; Polyurethane and oil on canvas, 18 x 24 inches, 2021.

Rick Vian’s exhibition The Growth Habit will be on exhibition at M Contemporary Gallery through February 18, 2023

Concerning Landscape @ Detroit Artists Market

An installation shot of Concerning Landscape at Detroit Artists Market, up through Feb. 18. Image courtesy of Michael Hodges.

Over the centuries, the venerable landscape painting has evolved far from the Dutch masters who first perfected the genre — a fact underlined by the heterogeneous work in Concerning Landscape, up through Feb. 18 at both the Detroit Artists Market and the new Brigitte Harris Cancer Pavilion at the Henry Ford Cancer Institute in Detroit.

Curator Megan Winkel has adopted a refreshingly ecumenical point of view in pulling this together. Works range from Ann Smith’s intriguingly peculiar sculptures with their bunched reeds and dangling root systems to Carla Anderson’s photographic prints of geologic forms, including lyrically striated rocks in a spring in Yellowstone County, Wyoming.

A fan of the grand view? Not to worry. Concerning Landscape also embraces figurative vistas, like Helen Gotlib’s meticulous intaglio print, West Lake Preserve II, or Bill Schahfer’s lush photo study, Lagoon Life.

Helen Gotlib, West Lake Preserve II, Intaglio print, carved birch panel, palladium leaf; 2021.  All Images courtesy of DAM

 “West Lake Preserve” places the viewer right in the tall weeds, looking up a small valley to a pond and woods, a highly satisfying view. The large print’s divided into eight separate panels, and with the exception of a little dull orange at the top, it’s mostly a duotone essay in sepia and black. The photographic print, Lagoon Life, by contrast, stars a white ibis posing beneath a jungle crush of palm trees that all loom, menacingly, over the elegant bird’s head.

Winkel comes at all this curation from an interesting vantage point. She’s the manager and curator for the Healing Arts Program at Henry Ford Health Systems in Detroit, tasked with buying art for the sprawling medical empire. “Curatorial projects for me are mostly big buildings now,” she said, “and thinking about all the ways people can experience art when they’re not seeking it out.” The landscape, she adds, has understandably long found a home in medical centers given its generally soothing visions of a natural world far beyond the reach of the artificial light of the hospital ward.

Landscape as an art subject, of course, has a long, respectable history. Both the ancient Greeks and Romans enjoyed the genre, and the walls in upper-class homes were sometimes painted with pastoral views. But the status of the landscape plummeted in the Middle Ages, when religion elbowed every other art subject aside. Indeed, the natural world was reduced to a mere afterthought, and one with generally lousy perspective, to boot.

Things began to turn around in the Renaissance, particularly during Holland’s “Golden Age” in the late 16th and 17thcenturies, when an exquisite sensitivity to landscape and weather welled up in many studios, yielding in the best cases – van Ruisdael comes to mind — breathtakingly believable clouds and storm-tossed skies. Indeed, an online essay by the National Gallery of Art notes that “with their emphasis on atmosphere, Dutch landscapes might better be called ‘sky-scapes.’” (The Detroit Institute of Arts, by the way, has an outstanding collection of Golden Age Dutch paintings, well worth seeking out on your next visit.)

Catherine Peet, Looking Up from the Deep, Mixed media, 10” diameter.

The one piece in Concerning Landscape that gives van Ruisdael a run for his money is the vertiginous, gorgeous, Looking Up from the Deep by Catherine Peet, which you’ll find at the Henry Ford Cancer Pavilion gallery. This delicate sunrise or sunset-tinged cloudscape feels like it should be peering down at you from the dome of some state capitol, an impression strengthened by its circular frame.

Sharing some of the same warm tones but at the far abstract end of the spectrum is Carole Harris’ mixed-media Desert Flower. The 2015 Kresge Artist Fellow has constructed an overlapping stack of hand-made fiber sheets that read like thick, highly textured paper, in colors ranging from cocoa to an alarming red peeking out beneath all the others.

The simplicity of this particular conceit is striking, as is Harris’ ability to make real drama out of colors that only emerge as narrow strips visible beneath the warm brown sheet on top. That Desert Flower pushes the boundary of “landscape” goes without question – so, too, the fact that it kind of knocks the wind out of you.

Carole Harris, Desert Flower, Fiber, 2023

Russian transplant Olya Salimova, currently on a one-year BOLT Residency with the Chicago Artists Coalition, gives us something entirely different with her Body into Dill, one of the most original and daffy conceptions in the entire show. The centerpiece of this photograph is a rectangular garden space – disturbingly, about the size of a grave – that’s dug into the patchy lawn of some unpretentious backyard. Metal garden edging sunk in the turned-up dirt sketches a simple human shape, rather like police outlines of dead bodies on the sidewalk. Within that human-like enclosure, someone – Salimova? — has planted dill weed.

Its obvious imperfections are part of what makes this image so compelling. The yard clearly needs work, and the plantings in the “body” are scattered, newly dug and unsubstantial — apart from some vigorous leaf action filling up the head.

Olya Salimova, Body into Dill, Photography, 2021.

For those who enjoy a little disorientation in their photography – And when well done, who doesn’t? – Jon Setter’s collection of a half-dozen large prints, all up-close shots of building details, is a delight to behold. Each reads as an abstract design in 1920s Russian Constructivist mode. But in one case you’re looking at parallel diagonals on the late, lamented Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak, and in another, the Detroit Free Press building downtown on West Lafayette.  As a group, these deliberately confusing framings are both mischievous and fun to examine.

Jon Setter, Purple and Gold with Shadow (Detroit Free Press), Archival pigment print, 2021.

 Finally, Scenic Overlook 2 by Sharon Que, an Ann Arbor sculptor who also does high-end violin restoration, might remind you of a minimalist diorama minus the glass case. On a simple wooden shelf, Que’s sacked two smaller pieces of wood topped by a chalky white boulder or peak – part of the fun is the uncertainty — next to which sits a big, black, bushy… something.

Let’s stipulate that the white form is, indeed, a mountaintop. Call the spiky black, roundish thing next to it a plant, and you’ve got a surprisingly convincing perspective study of a bush and a white peak far, far in the distance – never mind its actual proximity in the assemblage.

Is it weird? Is it oddly compelling? Yes and yes.

Sharon Que, Scenic Overlook 2, Wood, magnetite, paint; 2016.

Concerning Landscape at Detroit Artists Market, up through Feb. 18.

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