Critical art reviews of Detroit galleries and museums weekly

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Critical Voices @ Oakland University Art Gallery

Critical Voices: Selections from the Hall Collection at OUAG

Install Image Critical Voices: Selections from the Hall Collection 2022

The Oakland University Art Gallery opened the fall season with Critical Voices: Selections from the Hall Collection on September 9, 2022,  curated by Leo Barnes, the new OUAG Gallery Manager.  This is Barnes’ curatorial debut, but he’s leveraging five years of prior experience working with the Hall Foundation and its highly respected collection of both American and German contemporary art.  He says, “The artworks, collected by Andrew and Christine Hall, present a unique index of the best contemporary art of the late 20th and 21stcenturies. It provides a window onto the complementary social conditions prevailing in two distinct continental spheres: Germany and the United States.

Tony Matelli, Fuck’d, Mixed Media Sculpture, the Hall Collection

Tony Matelli is an American sculptor perhaps best known for his work Sleepwalker. He was born in Chicago and received his MFA from the Cranbrook Academy of Art in 1995. He now lives and works in New York City. He incorporates figurative, botanical, and abstract forms in his sculpture, creating uncanny objects that are both unsettling and comical.  Fuck’d up is a good example of these characteristics as it takes center stage in the OUAG gallery. Mr. Matelli has employed his formula of high-quality craftsmanship and lewd provocation, like the chimp being crucified using garden and household implements. Whatever the message, the artist leaves the viewer to interpret and make sense of the experience based on their own experience.

David Shrigley, Horror, Acrylic on Canvas, 40 x 40″, the Hall Collection

Horror is a kind of pop art with drips.  When you scroll through David Shrigley’s Instagram page, there is a continuous stream of simple, single images of objects, all using bright colors. A maverick and an artist working in multiple disciplines, David Shrigley is now considered one of the most significant figures in contemporary British art.  Making sense seems like nonsense is one way to describe his faux-naif work, which combines sweet childlike renderings with a sour, sardonic tone.   In January 2020, the artist was awarded the decoration of Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE). The British visual artist was born in 1968 and is now living in England after living in Scotland for 27 years.

Al Weiwei, Oil Spills, 10 pieces, Porcelain, The Hall Collection

Oil Spills is an early piece by the renowned Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, a visual artist, dissident, and documentarian who is often referred to as the most influential artist of our time. Ai Weiwei was born in 1957 in Beijing. His father, the poet Ai Qing, was labeled a “rightist” in 1958, and Ai and his family were exiled, first to Heilongjiang in northeastern China and then soon after to the deserts of Xinjiang in northwestern China. Mr. Weiwei moved to the United States in 1981, living in New York between 1983 and 1999, where he briefly studied at the Parsons School of Design. His output over the past thirty years explores his ambivalent rapport with Western culture and with the culture of his own country.  Oil Spills is an example of his conceptual art that explores the social issue and the aesthetics of an oil spill. This short video documents his exhibition in New York City in 2017.   https://www.nytimes.com/video/arts/100000005490574/ai-weiwei-puts-up-fences-to-promote-freedom.html

Robert Longo, Icarus Rising, Single Channel video projection, 9 minutes & 44 seconds. The Hall Collection

The video Icarus Rising from the title of the exhibition, Amerika, is the German spelling of America, where Robert Longo references the Franz Kafka novel that traces an immigrant’s journey from Germany to New York.  The nine-minute black and white video splices together images of torn paper and appears to be the artist’s first video work since the 1990s. The film features slowed footage of layers of printed photographic images, tweets, and headlines from news media being torn apart. The recorded incidental sounds of the tearing slowed in synchronization with the visuals, creating a soundtrack of groaning scrapes. The combined effect unsettlingly underscores the force, and often violence, of the actions captured in the images as well as the role the images play in shaping our world.  Sculptor, painter, and draftsman Robert Longo is well known for his bold drawings and sculptural works fusing pop culture and Fine Art. Longo attended the University of North Texas before deciding to study sculpture in New York; he later received a BFA from SUNY Buffalo.

Katherine Bradford, Beautiful Lake, Oil on Canvas, 57×48″, 2009, the Hall Collection

The figurative painter, Katherine Bradford, provides this lush, color-saturated, and metaphorical lake to the Hall Collection. She combines a theatrical sense of light with an oblique narrative. The work here in Beautiful Lake is a kind of romantic realism, whimsical and spacious.  Best known for her irregular grids and rows of dots spread out and around the figures, her representational work is meditative, laconic, and poetic.  Born in 1942 in New York City, she attended Bryn Mawr College and later received her MFA from SUNY Purchase. The artist currently divides her time between Brooklyn, NY, and Brunswick, ME.

Joseph Beuys, The Dictatorship of the Parties Can be Overcome, Printed on a polyethylene shopping bag, 29.6 x 20, the Hall Collection.

Joseph Heinrich Beuys was a German artist, teacher, performance artist, and art theorist whose work reflected concepts of humanism, sociology, and anthroposophy.   He was a founder of a provocative art movement known as Fluxus and was a key figure in the development of Happenings.  The chart How the Dictatorship of the Parties Can Be Overcome was printed on a polyethylene shopping bag. It was produced by the Organization of Non-Voters Free Collective Referendum as a means by which to publicize their policies. The first diagram, which was originally hand drawn by Beuys, urges the replacement of political parties with a process of a direct referendum in German society.   Do you get the idea?  The complexity of his work is too large and long to mention here, but he says, “Only a conception of art revolutionized to this degree can turn into a politically productive force, coursing through each person and shaping history.” Joseph Beuys was born in 1921 in Krefeld, Germany, and died in 1986. After military service and time as a prisoner of war, Beuys studied sculpture at the Kunstacademie in Dusseldorf and served as Professor there from 1961 until 1972.

Derrick Adams, Figure in Urban Landscape, Acrylic paint and mixed media, 25 x 25″ the Hall Collection

In Figure in the Urban Landscape 40, Brooklyn-based Derrick Adams employs the tradition of portraiture to navigate and reimagine life in an urban society. On matte and painterly backgrounds of teal, silver, emerald, and integrated earth tones, two miniature model cars traverse the open, perpendicular blacktop roads that cut the ends of the composition. Adams draws inspiration from pop culture, personal memory, and neighbors; he says, “I pay attention to everything, from store windows to people in cafes talking, to people on the corner communicating. I like to think about surroundings as source materials.” Adams received his MFA from Columbia University and BFA from Pratt Institute.

Critical Voices: Selections from the Hall Collection includes artists:  Derrick Adams, Joseph Beuys, Katherine Bradford, Edward Burtynsky, Naoya Hatakeyama, Georg Herold, Barbara Kruger, Robert Longo, David Maisel, Tony Matelli, Carlos Motta, Robin Rhode, Wilhelm Sasnal, David Shrigley, Ai Weiwei.

For more than 40 years, the Oakland University Art Gallery (OUAG) has delivered diverse, museum-quality art to metro Detroit audiences. From September to May, the OUAG presents four different exhibitions – from cutting-edge contemporary art to projects exploring historical and global themes. The gallery also presents lectures, performances, tours, special events, and more.

The exhibition at OUAG  is open through November 20, 2022.

 

 

 

Quiet As It’s Kept @ Whitney Biennial 2022

Whitney Museum of Art Biennial 2022, Installation image

The Whitney Biennial is the longest-running survey of American art and has been a hallmark of the Museum since 1932. Initiated by the Museum’s founder Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney as an invitational exhibition featuring artwork created in the preceding two years, the biennials were originally organized by medium, with painting alternating with sculpture and works on paper. Much has evolved over the years and this year the Biennial comes after being postponed because of the pandemic. The spaces here contrast significantly, acknowledging the acute polarities in American society. One floor is a labyrinth, a dark space of containment and another is a clearing, open and light field. The subtitle of this year’s Biennial is Quiet as it’s Kept, is a colloquialism.  The quote comes from the writer Toni Morrison and is said prior to something, often obvious that should be kept a secret. The curators, David Beslin, and Adrenne Edwards have been entrusted with making the exhibition that resides within the Museum’s history, collection and reputation. This is the 18th iteration and continues to function as an ongoing experiment.

Denyse Thomasos, Displaced Burial/Burial at Gorée, 1993.

The sixth-floor section of the Biennial opens with two large-scale abstract works by the late artist Denyse Thomasos, who died in 2012 at 47. For these striking works, Thomasos was interested in creating the sense of claustrophobia felt by enslaved people crossing the Atlantic crossing and inmates being held in prisons. Her goal was “to capture the feeling of confinement,” she once said, per the wall text, as a way to explore how structures like ships and prisons have “left catastrophic effects on the Black psyche. Her black and white overlapping grids create a feeling of claustrophobia and captivity. There are two twin paintings presented here as the viewer enters a space that is entirely black. Most of this floor is divided up into rooms (all black) that serve as viewing rooms for art videos.

Rebecca Belmore’s sculpture, “ishkode (fire),” 2021

At the Whitney Biennial, center, the Indigenous artist Rebecca Belmore’s sculpture, “ishkode (fire),” 2021, made from clay and bullet casings.  The Anishinaabe artist Rebecca Belmore—who was the first Indigenous artist to present Canada at the Venice Biennale, in 2005—made this commanding ceramic sculpture from a sleeping bag cast in clay and surrounded it with an arrangement of empty bullet casings. The work, a critique of the historic genocide and ongoing disproportionate violence against Indigenous people, is a centerpiece of the sixth floor of the exhibition, illuminated from above in the otherwise darkened space. “The work carries an emptiness,” the artist writes. “But at the same time, because it’s a standing figure, I’m hoping that the work contains some positive aspects of this idea that we need to try to deal with violence.”  In the background, Guadalupe Rosales’s photographs of East Los Angeles, 2022.

Daniel Matinez, Post Manifesto for the Future, 2022

There are five photographs that document what Daniel Joseph Marinez has described as “radical performative experiment of becoming post-human and the evolution of a new species.” Martinez used his own body to interrogate and bear witness to the extraordinary moment in human history, our own self-destruction.”  The recent abstract paintings on view here involve a process of accumulation in which the surface of the canvas is constructed of sweeping gestures, letters, drips, splatters, and moments of erasure is a reflection of how we evolve in life.  The black and white silkscreened work of marks and impressions tries to articulate who we are or who we might be at any given moment: a kind of visual poem or disruption.

Adam Pendelton, Untitled 2021

Ralph Lemon is an interdisciplinary artist who works primarily in performance and has made drawings throughout his life.  For the Biennial he has created a choreography of work that is presented in a group and moves throughout the exhibition in a circle.  Every so often the work moves to a new position in the collection. Themes range from elaborate visual mediations and the nature of the artistic process itself to experiments refracting Black American culture, icons, music, and joy.  It is fair to say this is an installation of images that changes its position during the exhibition.

Ralph Lemon, One of several from an untitled series, that changes. 2022

There are five paintings by Jane Dickson who shares the hopes and aspirations that commercial signs convey both in contemporary suburban spaces she photographed in New York City during the 1980s.  The Motel is one of the five.   Dickson’s careful depictions suggest that certain violence comes with making generalizations in the writing off of those who lead their lives in the areas that are frequently overlooked or dismissed. In her statement she says, “I chose to be a witness to my time, not to document its grand moments, but to capture the small telling ones, the overlooked everyday things that define a time and place.

Jane Dickson, Motel 5, Acrylic on Felt, 2019

Coco Fusco, Your Eyes Will Be an Empty Word, 2021.

In this new video, Coco Fusco directly reflects on the death toll caused by the pandemic. We see her in a boat just off Hart Island, near the Bronx. The island has long been the site of New York City’s potter’s field, where unclaimed bodies are buried. At the height of the AIDS crisis in the ’80s and ’90s, many bodies of people whose families had disowned them were sent here; over the past two years, it has again become active at an alarming rate. Fusco tapped poet and writer Pamela Sneed, an AIDS activist who penned a 2020 memoir Funeral Diva about that era, to provide the narration—written by Fusco—for this poignant mediation on death, loss, and grief. Over the course of 12 minutes, Sneed tells us that there could be as many as a million bodies buried here, but no one accurately knows. With the staggering total death totals from Covid, she notes, bodies become numbers in ways that make us forget the stories of those who are lost. Throughout the film, like a chorus, Sneed repeats, “‘When death comes it will have your eyes,’ he said.”

If you are visiting New York City before September 6, 2022, it is always a good experience to see what is going on around the country.  Something worth note is there are four indigenous artists represented from various parts of Noth America.  The exhibitions are on floors, 1, 3, 5, and 6.

In Summary, I would agree with the art critic Peter Schjeldahl who says “ long on installations and videos and short on painting, conventional sculpture, and straight photography.” When he writes for The New Yorker. Whitney Biennial 2022

Maya Stovall @ Reyes / Finn

Maya Stovall offers videos of dance on sidewalks and neon objects to vividly juxtapose art and humanity.

Maya Stovall, Installation image, Sail, Reyes / Finn, 2022

On April 16th, 2022, the Reyes / Finn gallery opened an exhibition of artwork, Sail, as a continuation of Maya Stovall’s extraordinary conceptual artwork that permeates her being. The accumulation of Liquor Store Theater, 1526, Theorem no. 2, The Public Library, LUXRazon/Reason, and now Sail, reveals a visual artist who uses her conceptual art to communicate her social grievances…her data-driven observations, her hatred for human rights abuses and the sins of human slavery. Not in my recent experience has an artist’s work been so simple yet created by such a complex, thoughtful and complicated artist.

Stovall employs a mix of anthropological observation and urban intervention to create what she considers performance and ethnography.  I was first introduced to her work at the Whitney Biennial in 2017 when I saw her row of videos, each screen playing one of the Liquor Store Theater episodes. I realized she was an artist from Detroit whose work was selected by the curator, Christopher Lew, to be part of the Whitney Biennial 2017, and I included her work in my review. At the time I did not understand the meaning of her work, but in time, with more exposure to the work and her writing, I have come to understand that the Liquor Store Theater contrasts dance performance in the store parking lot (or on the sidewalk) to the everyday activity that is intricately braided with significant socioeconomic distress. Through dance, interviews, and many conversations, Stovall reviews the dismal demographics in the McDougall-Hunt (Detroit) neighborhood, including the median annual income of $13,500 and an unemployment rate of 40%. All of this as the Arab liquor store ownership draws $400,000 per year in profits.

Maya Stovall, 1526 neon, LUX at White Columns, NYC, 2018

Leading up to Sail was the 1526 series of neon dates that included a citation next to a wall-mounted neon sculpture that reads simply ‘1526’. At White Column in 2020, the gallery mounted LUX, Maya Stovall’s first solo exhibition in New York City.  LUX comprised 16 wall-mounted neon sculptures from the artist’s ongoing series.  The number is of great personal significance to Stovall, since it marks the year of the first rebellion of enslaved people, which took place in North America’s first European settler colony. Each hangs in chronological order.

Initiated in 2018, the 1526 series emerged from Stovall’s extensive research into historical archives. From tens of thousands of pages of research, the artists developed a series of dates, from 1526 to 2019, that reflect, in the artist’s words, “critical moments in U.S. history.” Each sculpture, a year expressed as numerals inscribed in neon is accompanied by a postcard that visitors were free to take. The postcard expands upon the significance of each particular date or historical ‘moment’.

Maya Stovall, Installation image, A____that defies gravity, Image courtesy of Reyes / Finn, Detroit, 2022

Maya Stovall’s most recent work proceeds further away from the obvious where her conceptual thinking moves to Minimalism by creating these vertical neon bars of color.  The apparent context is the work of Dan Flavin, an American artist and pioneer of Minimalism, who is known for his seminal installations of light fixtures. His illuminated sculptures offer a rigorous formal and conceptual investigation of space and light in which the artist arranged commercial fluorescent bulbs into differing geometric compositions.  If conceptual art aims to present an idea, the work takes precedence over traditional aesthetics.

In the new exhibition Sail at Reyes / Finn, Stovall creates enlightenment through a minimal arrangement of vertical neon bars with subtle color changes. One can assume that like all of her work, she seeks to draw the viewer into these elegant compositions of neon light with research, discovery and the creation of a better world for those in need.

Maya Stovall, Installation image A_____that defies gravity, Image courtesy of Reyes / Finn, Detroit, 2022.

By design, each elegant, linear composition in the A____that defies gravity series evades direct recognition and simultaneously provokes many algorithmic and structural associations.

The artist says, “In the work, the concept is considered after theory and after abstraction, such that the concept, object, subject, thing, etc., is able to defy gravity itself.”

The Sail concept becomes a metaphor for reaching out to where place, space and time are complex constructs requiring critical and conflicting analysis. Such an analysis is reflected across the artist’s work. In relentlessly searching out contradictions to both investigate and impose within her work, the paradox of abstraction becomes stunning, sensual and compelling amidst the density of the concept, and the creation of Sail is the result.

Maya Stovall is a conceptual artist and anthropologist whose practice spans objects, performance, text and video. She earned her Ph.D. in Anthropology, Wayne State University, MBA, University Of Chicago Booth School of Business and BBA, Howard University.

Maya Stovall, Image of the artist, Reyes / Finn,

She is currently an Assistant Professor in Liberal Studies at California State Polytechnic University (Cal Poly), Pomona.

Maya Stovall: Sail at Reyes / Finn, April 16th – May 28, 2022

Betty Brownlee @ The Annex Gallery at 333 Midland

Betty Browlee, Into the Woods, Installation image, Annex Gallery, All images Courtesy of DAR

The Annex Gallery at 333 Midland opened an exhibition, Into the Woods, of new work by the longtime Detroit painter Betty Brownlee. The artist, who transitioned from Landscape paintings in the 1990s, is now a well-known figurative painter (which includes self-portraits) where this body of work focuses on women and the female body.

Betty Brownlee, Briar Rose, Oil Paint on Paper, 51 x 90 inches, 2022

One of the most powerful paintings in this exhibition is Briar Rose where scale and composition make a difference. The choice of composition reminds this writer of 18th century neoclassic work by Jaques-Louis David. The contemporary attributes of Brownlee’s dripping paint provide a coeval effect that brings the artwork into the present. The six figures, most asleep, spread out horizontally against lush green surroundings, making the painting romantically inviting. It does what every painter wants: It brings the viewer back… again, and again.

Betty Brownlee, The Audience, 19 X 25 Inches, Penetrating Ink on Paper, 2022

The other elements present in these works on paper are the pencil grid, the dripping of paint, and the setting found in commercial illustration from the 1950s, maybe the 60s. The grid that Brownlee uses and leaves behind could be used with small illustrations and then enlarged to support the drawing process. Brownlee is not hiding this penciled grid from these works. It is as if she finds an attractive section from an illustration in the past and captures a moment in time in The Audience. Is the female character looking back at something that startles her? The artist remains very conscious of her use of color, relying on the interaction of primary and secondary color using a variety of penetrating inks.

Betty Brownlee, The Cook’s Revenge, 19 X 25 Inches, Penetrating Ink on Paper, 2022

Much of the show’s subject matter is contemporary, but the painting, The Cook’s Revenge, could skillfully go back to an earlier time when the artist successfully combines the figure with still life. This work is different from the smiles and cheery figures in most of the paintings. Instead, we find a sober expression surrounded by earth tones, Brownlee maintains her grid and the two-thirds/one-third composition formula that always works. Is there a throwback to Vermeer in there somewhere?

Betty Brownlee, Bouffant, 51 X 36 Inches, Oil on Paper,

Who doesn’t like a self-portrait included in a solo show? Brownlee sets herself, head and shoulders, left of center, dominates the composition in terms of scale, and includes a painting in the background (perhaps one of her own). She stares the viewer down with a smile and continues with what has become a signature: A penciled grid, and drips of paint. After observing these subjects in most compositions, the figures are not drawn from life but instead captured from photo compositions. And fair to say, this writer likes these consistent elements appearing in every piece. After all, it is a contemporary tool that separates her work from other similar work, something that one does not forget.

Betty Brownlee, You never have any ideas, Only Feelings, Penetrating Oil on Paper, 2019

I recall seeing this work at MOCAD, the Double Vision exhibition,  where artists were asked to work in couples (Betty Brownlee and Cristin Richard), and I liked this painting then. Again, it feels like a throwback to commercial imagery from the 1960s via the clothing and hairstyle. The pigmented ink captures the moment as the transparency of the light is casually illustrative. This painting is based on a film still from a Jean-Luc Godard film.

Betty Brownlee is a longtime artist residing in Detroit. Having received her MFA at Wayne State University, she has been included in many local exhibitions (30 plus) and remains a steadfast participant in the Detroit arts community. Her work is distinctive and deserves wider exposure.

Betty Brownlee, Installation image, South Wall, Penetrating Oils on Paper

Betty Brownlee earned her BFA and MFA from Wayne State University. Her work has been exhibited at the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Cranbrook Academy of Art Museum, the Kresge Art Museum in East Lansing, the legendary Willis Gallery in Detroit, and most recently at the Annex Gallery in Highland Park.

Located in a large, industrial site in Highland Park (a city within the borders of Detroit), 333 Midland is a historic factory, formerly the Lewis Stamping Plant, that provides extensive space to artists and sculptors, especially those who wish to create large-scale works. The owner, developer and sculptor Robert Onnes came to Detroit in 2013 from Whangaparaoa, just outside of Aukland, New Zealand to invest in the Detroit art community. This solo exhibition by Ms. Brownlee is her second solo exhibition, part of fifty art exhibitions & events at 333 Midland spaces since 2014.

The exhibition Into the Woods at the Annex Gallery at 333 Midland is on display through April 5.

Image and the Photographic Allusion @ OUAG

Oakland University Art Gallery presents: Image and the Photographic Allusion

Installation image OUAG: Image and the Photographic Allusion, 2022

The Oakland University Art Gallery opened a photographic exhibition on January 13, 2022, that will run through April 3, 2022. The curator of this exhibition is Dick Goody, Professor of Art in Oakland University’s Department of Art and Art History. Goody also serves as director of the Oakland University Art Gallery.

In a statement, he says, “Photography is thriving, but in a different way than before. We used to preserve our treasured paper snapshots in photo albums, but today, smartphone images have become digital ephemera. Incalculable numbers of them are taken only to be forgotten. Photography exhibitions like this give us pause to reconsider the aesthetic grandeur of a printed-out, permanent, archivable image. In no way a conceptual concern, these rarified images are nothing if not transcendental.”

Louis-Jacques Mand’e. Boulevard du Temple, 1838, Daguerreotype, 5 x 6.5”

Photography, when its end result is called a photo, a picture, or a pic, gives meaning to an image, real or abstract. The types are amateur, commercial, journalistic, scientific, and artistic with too many to name.  Today, it finds its application into every part of human life. It was invented in France in 1829 when an artist and a chemist named Louis Daguerre obtained a camera obscura for his work on theatrical scene painting. Daguerre was put into contact with Nicéphore Niépce, who had already managed to record an image from a camera obscura using the process he invented: the early photographic process employing an iodine-sensitized silvered plate and mercury vapor. Daguerre got stuck with the process in his name, Daguerreotypes – that gave the early photographers the ability to preserve an image and their collective history. From these early images using glass and paper, the process eventually found its way to film and now to digital cameras containing an array of electronic photodetectors, all with the same intent: capturing light and forming an image.

Pieter Hugo – After Siqueiros, Oaxaca de Juárez, 2018 archival pigment print, 47 x 63 inches

Pieter Hugo’s work is dominated by images of the human figure and their condition. His work is informed by a self-taught approach to photography after beginning his career by starting out working in the Film Industry. Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, Pieter started taking photographs at the age of twelve when his father bought him a camera. He gained an impressive reputation and an enviable following for his documentary photography and his striking fashion images. Choosing to focus on marginalized or unusual groups of people, Hugo has published many books and has been exhibited worldwide. The South African artist currently lives in Cape Town.

He says in a statement, “While working in Mexico I was particularly looking at muralist paintings. This image was constructed using a group of garbage collectors who moonlight as a theatre troupe at the market where they work. I showed them a reference to a tableau from Alfredo Siqueiros and asked them to recreate it. I love the junction between premeditation and accident.”

Markus Brunetti – Wells, Cathedral Church of St. Andrews, 2015–16 archival pigment print, 59 x 70.8125 inches

Markus Brunetti’s work, Wells- Cathedral Church of St. Andrews, is part of a series titled Façades, which features a technically precise image of European religious buildings’ exteriors, primarily from the 14th century. This work reminds this writer of a time when cameras were fitted with architectural lenses that were adjusted when getting a perfectly flat image of a building. Using today’s technology, Brunetti depicts the facades of the building in a highly exact hyper-realistic manner by combining scores of individual frames into a single image.

He says in a statement, “The builders and architects that built the churches had to be patient. Most of them never saw the finished result of their endeavors, as it would take decades or sometimes hundreds of years to complete the building. I try to work on this series with the same spirit and patience they must have had when starting to work on those new historical monuments.”

Raïssa Venables – Sukkah, 2020 archival pigment print, 54 x 44 inches

The Sukkah image by Raissa Venables is a large-scale photograph that requires numerous photographs stitched together to form the illusion of movement without a human presence. The illusion of movement is created from the use of multiple vanishing points. Assumptions of reality are disrupted, creating a realm where inanimate objects seem alive. The result is both an architectural puzzle and a landscape of the mind. It is a kind of interior environment that makes the viewer ask questions.

In her statement, she says, “At first glance, they may seem to be realistic images or even entrances into existing places. My photographs are experiential visions of our environments, whether they are interior or exterior, mundane or opulent. Rather than reveal visible details captured by my camera, I delete what I perceive to be distractions.”

Zanele Muholi – Phaphama, at Cassilhaus, North Carolina, 2016 archival pigment print, 43.375 x 30 inches

Zanele Muholi is a South African woman who uses photography to capture portraits of black, lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, intersex people, including herself. Her images capture the realities of people she believes need to be heard. Her works in this exhibition are portraits of herself, where she intentionally darkens the exposure of her skin and compliments this with either her hair or the clothing she wears.

She says, “I wanted to use my own face so that people will always remember just how important our black faces are when confronted by them- for this black face to be recognized as belonging to a sensible, thinking being in their own right. The key question that I take to bed with me is: what is my responsibility as a living being – as a South African citizen reading continually about racism, xenophobia, and hate crimes in the mainstream media? This is what keeps me awake at night. You are worthy. You count. Nobody has the right to undermine you – because of your being, because of your race, because of your gender expression, because of your sexuality, because of all that you are.”

It is worth mentioning that many of these images are large prints (30 x 40-inch range), where scale plays a part in the art, and the printmaking is equal to the capture of the image. Most people don’t have or make prints, especially large prints, and when it is part of the creation it takes on an elevated meaning and presence. In addition, this exhibition is designed to give viewers an experience outside what is normally available to both students and the public alike and therefore differs in its audience and purpose. It is definitely worth a visit.

Artists represented: Mary Ellen Bartley, Peter Bialobrzeski, Markus Brunetti, Lucas Foglia, Cig Harvey, Jacqueline Hassink, Erik Madigan Heck, Pieter Hugo, Joshua Lutz, Michael Massaia, Jeffrey Milstein, Zanele Muholi, Christopher Payne, Toshio Shibata, and Raissa Venables.

The Oakland University Art Gallery presents Image And The Photographic Allusion, which runs through April 3, 2022

 

 

 

 

 

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