Critical art reviews of Detroit galleries and museums weekly

Author: Ron Scott Page 1 of 21

Nanette Carter & Contemporaries @ N’Namdi

The work of Nanette Carter is joined by Al Loving, Sam Gilliam, and Gregory Coates at N’Namdi Center for Contemporary Art

A Survey, Thirty Years of work by Nanette Carter, Install Image courtesy of DAR

The new exhibition at N’Namdi Center for Contemporary Art centers on the artwork of Nanette Carter and three of her contemporaries. All the work is based on various ways to approach the depth and variety of abstraction. The exhibition surveys thirty years of work going back to 1983 when N’Namdi first exhibited the work of Nanette Carter. The video below gives the reader an in-depth explanation of her artwork where she talks about using oil paint on mylar and then cutting up and arranging forms, shapes, color, and line to express a unique composition.  Here, she takes the viewer through her process that begins with a small drawing.

Nanette Carter, Bouquet for Loving #17, Oils on Mylar, 57 x 50″ 2011

Carter has developed a painting style that consists of abstract designs and effects superimposed on top of each other in ways that emphasize chance but often reflect a theme as in the artwork Bouquet For Loving #17.  Carter does not precisely follow a particular tradition, and that’s evident in each of her works, which are stand-alone concepts to which she brings materials such as fabric into her oil paint on mylar world.

Nanette Carter, Aqueous #49, Oil Collage on Mylar, 46 x 53″ 2008

An example is a work Aqueous #49 where Carter elegantly composes a circular composition using her mylar collage on an expansive surface of textures based on an organic color palette. The random placement of patterned designs within the paintings, along with their slightly free-form outlines, establishes Carter’s desire to work both inside and outside the conventions of her genre.

Nanette Carter earned her B.A. at Oberlin College where she majored in Art and Art History.

Al Loving, Red Hook #1, Mixed Media on Board, 38 x 28″

Born in Detroit in 1935, Al Loving studied painting at the University of Michigan–Ann Arbor. After graduation, he relocated to New York where he found himself among a social group that included artists Robert Duran and Sam Gillian. In 1969, Loving famously became the first Black artist to have a one-person show at the Whitney Museum of American Art.

In the work Red Hook, Loving showcases his traditional spiral shapes creating a more organic abstraction.  A kind of shaped canvas relief on the wall, the mixed media piece draws primary colors together in a collage-type construction. His work became known for using geometric shapes and shaped canvases where he was drawn to corrugated cardboard and rag paper.

 

Sam Gilliam, In The Fog, Relief, hand-sewn, acrylic on hand-made paper, 36 x 48″, 2010

The color field painter is recognized for representing the United States at the Venice Biennale in 2017.  Gilliam was born in 1933 in Tupelo, Mississippi, and grew up in Louisville, Kentucky. The Black painter and lyrical abstractionist artist are associated with the Washington Color School, a group of Washington, D.C.-area artists who developed abstract art from color field painting in the 1950s and 1960s.

His works have also been described as belonging to abstract expressionism and often a more lyrical abstraction. He works on stretched, draped, and wrapped canvas and adds sculptural 3D elements. He is recognized as the first artist to introduce the idea of a draped, painted canvas hanging without stretcher bars around 1965, and this was a major contribution to the Color Field School.

Gilliam has worked with polypropylene, computer-generated imaging, metallic and iridescent acrylics, handmade paper, aluminum, steel, plywood, and plastic in his more recent work.  Sam Gilliam earned a B.A. and his M.A. at the University of Louisville.

 

Gregory Coates, I Made It, Mixed Media on Wood, 48 x 45″

Gregory Coates was born in Washington D.C. in 1961 and grew up in the northeast part of the district. He is a Black artist known for working in the realm of social abstraction. In this exhibition, the work I Made It is a composition of concentric circles of various sizes on an orange-red background.

Gregory Coates attended the Corcoran School of Art in Washington, D.C., from 1980-1982 and later the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in 1990.

George N’Namdi founded G. R. N’Namdi Galleries in 1982 in Detroit, Michigan. It is one of the oldest commercial galleries in the United States and features works of contemporary abstract artists. The gallery has established its reputation as the leader in educating and inspiring new and seasoned collectors.  They have worked hard at building art collections around Metro Detroit and beyond. Works from the gallery are featured in some of the most prominent public and private collections worldwide.

Nanette Carter & Contemporaries @ N’Namdi is on display through December 31, 2021

 

 

2021 Fall Exhibitions @ BBAC

The Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center Opens this Fall with Two Female Artists

One of the most prestigious non-profit art centers in Oakland County, the BBAC curates exhibitions in their five spacious galleries, including professional artists and art students taking classes at the art center. These two new exhibitions: Leah Waldo: Memory Gate and Glenna Adkins: Modern Impressions,  provide some fresh and accommodating visual art approaches from both of these up-and-coming artists.

Leah Waldo, Installation image, BBAC 2021

The sculpture of Leah Waldo includes a large variety of materials like clay, glass, wood, and cement. The minimalist forms touch on an assortment of geometric shapes and forms.  The reoccurring vertical clay objects dominate many of the clay pieces. Waldo describes her work by saying, “I consider my work to be distilled landscapes – the essence of physical and emotional landscapes infused into an object. Each piece is a little pocket universe, a soft invitation for the viewer to simply inhabit the emotional space and the spirit of raw, pristine nature. Because of my intention, history, and instinct as a healer, the objects and experiences I create are healing spaces. These pieces are invitations to share intimate moments of my life.”

Waldo utilizes a method called glass casting, in which molds are made out of plaster and silica. The molds are then filled with casting rocks, which melt together in the kiln. Waldo likes to melt the rocks, so they just begin to fuse and clump together, a technique she arrived at by experimenting with different casting cycles.

Leah Waldo, Heartopener, Clay, Glass, & Steel

The oblong vertical form in Heartopener is constructed with low-fire terra cotta and as both cast and etched glass elements supported with fabricated steel.  This introspective and contemplative clay sculpture achieves a contrast of material juxtaposing the exterior self while the glass represents the interior self.

Leah Waldo lives and works in the Asheville, NC area and earned her degree from the College of Creative Studies.

 

Glenna Adkins, Installation image, BBAC, 2021

In the Robinson Gallery, Glenna Adkins introduces her work with an exhibition titled Modern Impressions and provides the viewer with a light palette of color and a moving arrangement of abstract shapes and forms. The artist makes her home in Cincinnati, where her longtime studio is located at the Pendleton Art Center.  These abstract expressionistic paintings could be viewed as aerial landscapes with deliberate contrast between large masses of color and fine lines.

Glenna Adkins, Lucere, Acrylic paint on canvas, graphite.

In the painting Lucere, the work takes on a straightforward landscape painting with a horizon along the bottom and a sky shape dominated by white and blue.  Here she lays down a base layer of acrylic paint using a palette knife and brushes, then comes over the top with graphic pencil and oil stick for detail. Glenna’s work has an attraction to designers looking to place a large abstract in a modern setting.

Glenna Adkins earned a Bachelor of Fine Art at the University of Cincinnati’s College of Design, Art, and Architecture.

The Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center, founded in 1957, serves the Detroit region’s visual arts community. The mission is “to connect people of all ages and abilities with visual arts education, exhibition and other creative experiences. The BBAC does this by offering classes, exhibits, workshops and events to the public, and their exhibits are always free and open to the public.”

In addition to the two exhibitions reviewed here, the culinarian turned painter, Mary Wilson, has spent years painting with flavors in her own premier catering company. Mary has found her way from the flavor palate to the artistic palette with an eye for color and contrast. In keeping with having student exhibitions, there is an exhibition of work by the students of Fran Seikaly an artist working with oil, pastel and watercolor.

President and CEO Annie VanGelderen talks about this past year. “Courage has been needed in so many ways this past year! Whether it’s about venturing out, re-connecting with friends and loved ones, or exploring your talents, the BBAC has wonderful opportunities for creativity.”

The Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center exhibitions opened October 1 and runs through November 4, 2021.

 

 

 

 

The Pescovitz Art Collection @ Oakland University Art Gallery

Selections from the Mark and Ora Hirsch Pescovitz at Oakland University Art Gallery

Installation image, Pescovitz Collection, OUAG, 2021

In general, collectors have little regard for investment or profit. Rather, art is important to them for other reasons. The best way to understand the underlying drive of art collecting is by describing it as a means to create and strengthen social bonds and for collectors to communicate information about themselves to the world and newly formed networks. Great collectors are often as well-known and widely respected as the art they collect.

Look at the Eli Broad collection, the Barnes collection or the Paul Allen collection, just to name a few.  Collectors like these are famous because they demonstrate talent in selecting their art. J. Paul Getty, an oil baron from Minnesota, started collecting European paintings right before the Second World War, and Peggy Guggenheim, the niece of Solomon R. Guggenheim, was an early 20th-century socialite who became one of the most famous art collectors in the 1930s and 1940s.

Dr. Ora Hirsch Pescovitz, President of Oakland University, and her husband Mark collected art for forty years before he passed away in 2010. What started out as a small collection by her husband in the early 1970s evolved into a lifetime commitment.

The exhibition opened September 10, 2021, at the Oakland University Art Gallery, and is curated by Dick Goody, Chair, Department of Art & Art History and Director, Oakland University Art Gallery.

Chuck Close, Self Portrait, Silkscreen on Paper, 2000

Chuck Close rose to attention in the early 1970s with his grid-based compositions that replicated a type of photographic realism. The basis for his work depends on a photo image made up of small colorful shapes but, when viewed at a distance, reveals the more significant intended subject, usually a person or portrait. It is the invention of these small shapes that sets the work apart.  Close just recently passed away in August 2021. Chuck Close earned a BFA from the University of Washington and an MFA from Yale.

Christo & Jeanne-Claude, Package on Radio Flyer Wagon, 1993

Christo Vladimirov Javacheff and Jeanne-Claude were artists known for creating large-scale, site-specific environmental installations, often large landscape elements wrapped in fabric. Christo and his wife and artistic partner viewed their work as conceptual, as best seen in The Gates in Central Park, NYC, where visitors would pass underneath steel frames supporting free-standing panels of saffron-colored fabric. Much of their work was done preparing for an installation, supported with numerous drawings and prints. Radio Flyer Wagon, created in 1993, is a preliminary idea created using lithography and silkscreen printing.  Christo passed away on May 31, 2020, in New York, NY. Their works are held in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art collections, the Musée d’art moderne et d’art Contemporain in Nice, and the Cleveland Museum of Art, among many others.

Robert Mapplethorpe, Thomas, Silver Gelatin Print, 1986

Robert Mapplethorpe was an American photographer, best known for his black and white images. His work featured various subjects, including celebrity portraits, male and female nudes, self-portraits, and still-life images. His most controversial works documented and examined the gay male BDSM subculture of New York City in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Mapplethorpe lived with musician Patti Smith in his early years. She says, “Robert took areas of dark human consent and made them into art. He was presenting something new, something not seen or explored as he saw and explored it. Robert sought to elevate aspects of male experience, to imbue homosexuality with mysticism.” The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation maintains and manages his work which raises millions of dollars for medical research.

Peter Milton, Family Reunion, Etching & Sugar Lift, 1986

Peter Winslow Milton is a colorblind American artist diagnosed with deuteranopia after hearing a comment about the pink in his landscapes. He attended the Virginia Military Institute and earned his MFA in 1961. Milton is a visual artist of black and white etchings and engravings that often display an extraordinary degree of photo-realistic detail placed in the service of a visionary aesthetic. His themes include architecture, history, and memory, as he employs complex layers in the printmaking process. In the work Stolen Moments, the method of aquatint printmaking is used where the artist creates wash effects by brushing them on the printing plate with a fluid in which sugar has been dissolved. The plate is then covered with stopping-out varnish and immersed in water; the sugar swells and lifts the varnish off the plate. Peter Milton attended the Virginia Military Institute and earned his MFA in 1961.

Christyl Boger, Off Shore, Glazed Earthenware, 2004

The artwork of Christyl Ann Boger is largely idealized nude ceramic figures that resemble 18th-century Greek porcelain sculpture with aspects that mimic contemporary ceramics.  In her statement, she says, “ The pieces featuring figures posed with a variation on inflatable beach toys that reference the heroic narratives of Greco Roman mythology in an absurdist way.”  The figures are 1/3 life-size earthenware, often incorporating gold enameling and typical western patterns such as fruits and flowers.  She worked as a Professor at Indiana University and earned her BFA at Miami University and her MFA at Ohio University.

Phillip Campbell, Afternoon Escape, Acylic on Canvas, 1991

Philip Campbell creates paintings and objects that have a physicality about their presence. These are either assemblages or collages on canvas, and he works with wood, paper and cloth. Afternoon Escape’s abstracted landscape is an acrylic collage on paper with simplified shapes of colorful objects.   He says in a statement, “By completing this major transformation, I have become a physical reflection of my art and a living product of my life’s work to date as well as inspiration for my future creations. A completely changed, renewed human being. My renewal experience has been the topic of many interesting conversations, and because of the discomfort of the healing process, I have been acutely and constantly aware of my transformation.”  Philip Campbell earned his BFA from the Herron School of Art.

Installation image, Pescovitz Collection, OUAG. 2021

There’s a difference between buying art and collecting art. Buying art is more of a random activity based on likes, preferences or attractions at any given moment while collecting art is more of a purposeful, directed long-term commitment.  The Pescovitz Art Collection on display at the Oakland University Art Gallery provides the students and the public with a large variety of artworks representing a diversity of art forms and expression.  It is worth a visit.

This exhibition includes artworks by: Yaacov Agam, Philip H. Campbell, Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Chuck Close, James Wille Faust, Sam Gilliam, Janis Goodman, Robert Mapplethorpe, Peter Milton, Judy Pfaff and John Torreano.

Selections from the Mark and Ora Hirsch Pescovitz Collection, will run through November 21, 2021 at Oakland University Art Gallery.

 

2021 All Media Exhibition @ Detroit Artist Market

Detroit Artist Market: All Media Exhibition, 2021, All images courtesy of DAR

The Detroit Artist Market has been mounting this All Media Biennial Exhibition for many years and getting a wide range of work based on the juror and their particular persuasion.  This exhibition’s juror, Valerie Mercer, DIA curator of African American Art, has significant experience in this market between her time at the Detroit Institute of Arts and the Detroit Artists Market. She says, “The 2021 All Media Exhibition reveals how Detroit artists kept busy during the surge of the pandemic. They created artworks that expressed, through varied artistic approaches, the importance of hope, survival, love, humanity, identity, beauty, community, nature, and culture for their and our lives.”

The exhibition includes nearly seventy artists reflecting a large variety of media. Here are works of art that might give the reader a feel for the variety of work in the exhibition.

Harold Allen, Laocoon, Acrylic on Canvas, 2020

The painting Laocoon by Harold Allen jumps out at the viewer with this abstract expressionistic non-objective action painting that piles these five-inch brush strokes up on top of each other, working from dark tones in the background to bright primary colors in the foreground. He says, “What I want is for the viewer to have is the concept that the shapes and color have a narrative sense about the interaction, activity, and relationship with each other.” Harold Allen earned his BFA from the College of Creative Studies and an MFA from Wayne State University.

Ian Matchett, Jazz, Oil on Canvas, 2021

The painter Ian Matchett captured the sizeable realistic oil portrait from a low angle, as his subject sits on a porch edge with a Covid mask hanging off his ear. The painting Jazz was selected Best in Show and sends a message that figure painting still has some life left in this century-old mainstay of expression.  He says in his statement, “I use a mixture of processes to compose my paintings including reference images, sketches, and when possible collaboration with the subjects. When depicting living people, I prioritize meeting with the subjects of my paintings. We discuss what drives their work, what keeps them going, what I see, what they want to share, and ultimately how I could build all of this into a painting.” Matchett is a graduate of UofM in fine art and social studies, which he continues as a part-time social organizer living and working in Detroit. Most of his work focuses on the connections and continuities between revolutionary movements of the past and present.

Ann Smith, America the Beautiful, Steel, Paper Mash, Wood, Bark, Paint products, 2020

The sculpture located on a base, Ann Smith’s America The Beautiful, is a large free-standing organic plant-like work constructed on a steel armature, shaped with paper mâché and painted colorfully with paint products. She says, “These sculptural accretions are visual artifacts of the thoughts and experiences of one contemporary organism, and investigate my place in the system.” Ann Smith has an art studio in the 333 Midland studio in Highland Park where she is one of twenty-five resident artists, collectively known for their BIG shows. Ann Smith is a graduate of the College for Creative Studies.

Nolan Young, Untitled Relief, Encaustic, Mixed Media, 2021

This young artist, Nolan Young, presents a relief that reminds this writer of Cass Corridor’s work from the 1970s.  It could be described as “Newton-esque.” He says in his statement, “Reconstruction through destruction is a key element to my work.  I use found objects, often discarded and forgotten objects to represent observations I have made about post-industrial Detroit. As a product of this environment, I cut and vandalize these objects to create scenes in which the events of deconstruction is a process for Reconstruction.”

Donita Simpson, Portrait of Carl Wilson, Photograph, 2017

The image Portrait of Carl Wilson demonstrates the photographic quality in this well-known Detroit photographer, Donita Simpson. Best known for her portrait of Gilda Snowden (2014), she has captured the larger-than-life quality in her image of the famous abstract Detroit artist. In the Portrait of Carl Wilson, Simpson frames her subject surrounded by contemporary art, just right off-center, capturing this relaxed expression of Mr. Wilson. For years, Simpson has been documenting Detroit artists in their work and where they live. Donita Simpson earned her BFA and MFA from Wayne State University.

Woodbridge Estates, Acrylic on Panel, 2021

This small oil painting, Woodbridge Estates, is representative of the urban landscape painting by the artist Bryant Tillman. Streets, parked cars, neighborhoods, and low light casting high contrast shadows across these subjects with a fluid palette of paint. Bryant Tillman was a 2013 Kresge Visual Arts Fellow.  https://www.kresgeartsindetroit.org/portfolio-posts/bryant-tillman  The Detroit artist has painted in the City of Detroit for thirty-five years and has given his audiences his indelible style of impressionism, exemplified by the painting of a Honda Accord with his own shadow cast on the car’s body.  Bryant Tillman was awarded the Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant, New York, NY, in 2017.

Participating Artists:

Jide Aje, Harold Allen, Zoe Beaudry, Robert Beras, Boisali Biswas, Davariz Broaden, Marguerite Carlton, Chris Charron, Sherell Chillik, Winnie Chrzanowski, Glenn Corey, Amelia Currier, Valarie Davis, Edmund Dorsey, Artina Dozier, Laurel Dugan, Jan Filarski, Anne Furnaris, Myles Gallagher, Bill Gemmell, Alex Gilford, Dae Jona Gordon, Albert Gordon, Jabrion Graham, Margaret Griggs, Talese Harris, Steven Hauptman, Carol Jackson, Naigael Johnson, Dawnice Kerchaert, Rosemary Lee, Brant MacLean, Lilly Marinelli, Ian Matchett, David McLemore, David Mikesell, Timothy O’Neill, Bruce Peterson, Marcia Polenberg, Shirley Reasor, Laura Reed, Philip Ross, Angelo Sherman, Donita Simpson, Cameron Singletary, Ann Smith, Nicolena Stubbs, Rosemary Summers, Ron Teachworth, Roger Tertocha, Bryant Tillman, Vasundhara Tolia, Kimberly Tosolt, Alan Vidali, Bryan Wilson, Marsha Wright, Nolan Young, Lori Zurvalec.

Detroit Artist Market: All Media Exhibition, 2021

Detroit Artist Market: All Media Exhibition, through September 11, 2021

 

Richard Lewis @ Galerie Camille

Installation image, Richard Lewis at Gallerie Camile, 8.2021

My first impression of artist Richard Lewis came from an exhibition at CCS Center Galleries in 2017. Evidence of Things Not Seen was written by Sarah Rose Sharp and consisted of a collection of drawings, featuring works on paper by Richard Lewis, Mario Moore, Sabrina Nelson and Rashaun Rucker and, let’s not forget, was curated by Michelle Perron. It was the drawing, Rent Party, 48 x 60” where Richard Lewis demonstrated his incredible ability to imagine and draw. For Richard Lewis, it was something that he began at age four.

Fast forward to the opening of his solo exhibition on August 13, 2021, at Galerie Camille and a collection of eleven oil paintings, a combination of figure and still life paintings that are both bold and traditional representational artwork. “These are mostly friends and family.” He said in a modest, hushed voice.

Lewis grew up in Detroit, attended Cass Technical High School, and after college and graduate school, returned to live his life where it began, among his family and friends in the city.

 

Richard Lewis, Tokyi The Boxer, Oil on Canvas on Plywood, 48 x 44″

From ancient times to the present, the visual and emotional drama that is inherent in the sport of boxing has always attracted and inspired artists. What leads the show is this large oil painting, Takyi the Boxer, which draws on George Bellows, Club Night in 1907, where realism is on view from a point placing the viewer close to the action and looking beyond into a large audience of dark-skinned people. The painting Club Night was followed by The Brown Bomber by Robert Riggs, 1938, and here Lewis is drawn to the Ghanaian Boxer Samuel Takyi, where he won the Bronze medal in the Olympic games. It is a nostalgic painting, paying homage to the famous boxer of color.

Richard Lewis, Tracey with an Ankle Brace, Oil on Linen on Plywood, 72 x 48″

Richard Lewis conveyed to me that he is using family and friends as models for these somewhat casual figure paintings that capture a pose quickly and go so far as to say they are works in progress. “The show is called ’Works in Progress’ because I usually consider my paintings ongoing.  I never have drastic changes in my work, but a deepening understanding, or simply a different perspective, that comes from working on something over time.”

Richard Lewis, Still Life with Fish and Greens, Oil on Canvas, on Playwood, 36 x 48″

The still life painting, Still Life with Fish, flattens out the space and leans on the work of Paul Cezanne in this depiction of a plate of three fish and some lettuce, peaches and a bottle of Champagne using primary and secondary color, and the print missing from the bottle label. The artwork in this exhibition is simple, traditional, straightforward and personal.

Richard Lewis, Still Life / Alter, Oil on Plywood on Canvas, 48 x 48″

Spatially and equally flattened out, the still life, Still Life with Alter, has its light source coming from the right across the table cloth and combines pitchers, a bowl, a plate of chocolates, a small picture of a friend, and two religious statues. The larger statue dominates the entire composition.  I am drawn to the sacred statues, but that may just be a personal preference. I also like the addition of the small photo and the print pattern on the floor.

Richard Lewis, Noir, Self-Portrait, Oil on Linen on Plywood, 48 x 48″

The large self-portrait he titles Noir Self-Portrait is a big close-up of the artist wearing a BIG green shirt, hat, and a blue glove. One of its strengths is that it is simple enough. Noir is French for black, a type of fiction with tough characters, cynical, bleak, and pessimistic nature. It is good to always have some self-portraits, and Lewis delivers here by keeping his eyes on the viewer.

Richard Lewis was born in Detroit in 1966. He graduated from Cass Technical High School in 1985. He earned his B.F.A. from College for Creative Studies and his M.F.A. from the Yale School of Art. He was awarded the Kresge Foundation Fellowship in 2011, which was well deserved.

The Galerie Camille presents A Work in Progress, August 13, and runs through September  11, 2021

 

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