Critical art reviews of Detroit galleries and museums weekly

Author: Ron Scott Page 1 of 22

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

 

 

 

 

 

Carole Harris @ WSU

The Exhibition The Journey Continues on display at the Wayne State University’s Elaine L. Jacob Gallery

Carol Harris, Installation image and those to follow are provided by DAR and WSU

The exhibition of Carole Harris’s work on the gallery’s upper level opened November 5, 2021, in conjunction with the lower level exhibition of Harold Neal’s work, both on display through January 20, 2022. Over the last ten or more years, the fiber artist has overcome the trappings of traditional quilting to explore form, shape, and color expressed as non-objective abstract expressionism.

She says, “My work relies on improvisation. I am fascinated by the rhythms and energy created when I combine multiple patterns and textures. I let the materials and colors lead me on a rhythmic journey”.

The video presented here was created as part of her 2015 Kresge Visual Arts Fellowship award and provides insight into how the artist sees her work.

This writer has written about Ms. Harris and her work several times over the past five years at the Detroit Art Review and observed her work that has redefined the basic concepts of quilting to suit her own purposes. In taking her “working background” in fiber, she has expanded those tools to create colorful abstract compositions comprised of stitchery, irregular shapes, and textures.

Carole Harris, Installation image.

It is well known that Harris was taught needlework in her early years by her mother, providing a base of knowledge and experience that served her well as she studied art and design throughout her educational experience. Her abstract compositions have been described as maps, perhaps ariel in nature, and often dominated by warm dark organic colors. The edges of shapes vary from torn to cut, as does the entire form of the works parameter. Although Harris’s work is rooted in a culture that has a deep respect for fiber, there may have come a time when the influences of contemporary artists such as Al Loving, Sam Gillam, or Frank Stella seeped into her sensibility.

Carole Harris, Installation image.

The most recent development in her work is a centuries-old Korean felting technique known as Joomchi, where these layered pieces are built from heavily soaked and worked Mulberry paper. The composition is filled with unique surfaces that often reference maps of real and sometimes imagined landscapes. Using this process, Harris has archived the transformation of multiple elements into completely new structures.

Harris has recently (2021) had an exhibition at the Hill Gallery in Birmingham, MI where she had a display of both paper and fabric collages. From her statement in a recent review by K.A. Letts for the New Art Examiner, she says, “I now draw inspiration from walls, aging structures, and objects that reveal years of use. My intention is to celebrate the beauty in the frayed, the decaying and the repaired. I want to capture the patina of color softened by time, as well as feature the nicks, scratches scars and other marks left by nature or humans. I want to map these changes and tell the stories of time, place and people in cloth, using creative stitching, layering and the mixing of colorful and textured fabrics.”

For those young artists who are studying fabric/fiber visual art, it would seem the work of Carole Harris would be on their radar, not just the compositional designs, but the voyage of a lifetime of quilting and textile collecting – to making a significant transition from functional art to the gallery or museum wall.

Carole Harris’s work has been exhibited in museums and galleries nationally and internationally, including the Renwick Gallery at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C; The Detroit Institute of Arts in Detroit, MI, The Museum of Art & Design in New York City, as well as exhibitions that traveled throughout Europe & Asia.

Carole Harris earned her BFA from Wayne State University.

Note:  Due to the upsurge in COVID cases and new protocols the show is now only available virtually through WSU Elaine Jacobs Gallery website.

 

 

 

Allie McGhee @ Cranbrook

Detroit Artist Allie McGhee exhibits a Retrospective, Banana Moon Horn, at Cranbrook Art Museum

Installation image, Allie McGhee, Retrospective, Banana Moon Horn, at Cranbrook Art Museum, all images courtesy CAM

Cranbrook Art Museum (CAM) opened a retrospective exhibition of artwork by artist Allie McGhee on October 30, 2021, which spans five decades of work produced at McGhee’s Jefferson Avenue studio in Detroit.

Laura Mott, the chief curator of contemporary art and design at Cranbrook Art Museum, curated the exhibition. She says, “My interest in Allie McGhee’s work came from seeing his paintings at local galleries in Detroit, but when I did my first studio visit with him, it was a revelation.  In his studio, I saw decades of work and an incredible arc of his artistic practice since the 1960s.  There is also a richness of ideas in his methods of production and research into history and science. When one encounters an incredible mind like Allie’s, it becomes a necessity to tell his story.  Furthermore, his work needed to be contextualized in art history, which is why it was important to have both an exhibition and publication.”

The exhibition brings together artwork that demonstrates the evolution of McGhee’s work back to the 1960’s, beginning with early representational work that quickly evolved to abstraction. McGhee’s work was heavily influenced by trends in the abstract expression movement and influenced by jazz musicians in the Black community.

Andrew Blauvelt, director of Cranbrook Art Museum, said of some of McGhee’s work, “Learning of McGhee’s interest in astronomy, their crumpled and twisted forms have taken on a new resonance, one that recalls the spatial complexities of Catastrophe theory and, in particular, the relative notion of the fold.”

This exhibition takes on more than forty years of paintings and drawings and documents the growth of one of Detroit’s most important artists. The museum produced this short 6-minute video as an introduction to Allie McGhee and his work.

From his recent talk at Cranbrook, the story goes that McGhee came upon an object in the street that reminded him of a KKK hood.  The object was an icing cone used in a bakery.  This occurred in a time period just a year or so after the 1967 Detroit Rebellion and caused McGhee to harness that energy and create an object that hung on the wall alongside a petrified banana, foreshadowing what would repeat itself for years to come.

Allie McGhee, The Ku Klux Klown, Mixed Media on found object, petrified banana, 1961.  All images courtesy of CAM

Ku Klux Klown coincided with his association with a black artist cooperative founded by Charles McGee. Charles organized the landmark 1969 exhibition Seven Black Artists at the Detroit Artists Market and founded Gallery 7. Along with Allie McGhee, members included Lester Johnson, Robert Murray, James Lee, Harold Neal, and Robert J. Stull.  For years, Allie McGhee pursued abstract expressionism using a variety of sizes, shapes, and materials on a flat canvas that hung on the wall. The object and the banana became the center of what was to be called Banana Moon Horn, the title of this exhibition and the Cranbrook publication.

Allie McGhee, TWA Light on Washburn, Mixed Media on canvas, 1989

One of the strongest compositions in the exhibition was from 1989. TWA Light on Washburn, repeats the reoccurring banana symbol that follows him over time. One of the trademarks of McGhee’s work is that he leaves behind the use of traditional brushes for flat sticks of varying sizes to move paint across the surface. In addition, he has a variety of tools to remove paint from a given area, be it cloth, wood or plastic.  This could easily have been when he preferred placing the canvas on the floor instead of using an easel to hold the stretched canvas on a frame. Gravity is his friend on the floor, not an obstacle, where mixing paint worked to his advantage.  In TWA Light on Washburn, we see the primary colors dominating the composition while using the spacing of thirds on the grid, both vertical and horizontal.  There is no evidence of brushwork on the canvas, only the stroke of a long stick he used to create geometric lines, shapes, and sometimes texture. Various values of red, blue, and yellow assist in holding everything together.

Allie McGhee, Apartheid, Mixed Media on Masonite, 48 x 120″, 1984

Most recently viewed in 2017 at the Detroit Institute of Arts as part of a large exhibition, McGhee’s Apartheid was on display in the Art of the Rebellion and Say It Loud, commemorating 50 years since July 23, 1967, when African Americans took to the streets of Detroit to express their anger and frustration with the injustice of law enforcement. It would come to be called the Detroit Rebellion.  McGhee’s work was then being shown by the N’Namdi Center for Contemporary Art. This painting highlights his use of angular shapes and splatters of paint to evoke and represent the tension of the time. The title Apartheid refers to the oppressive political system that existed in South Africa. The Civil Rights and Black Power movements inspired many African American artists to internalize the fight for civil rights in Detroit.

Allie McGhee, Fall Rush, Acrylic on enamel paper, 2013

Throughout his talk at Cranbrook Art Museum, McGhee continued to stress and talk about his approach. “ The process is more important than the subject.” Thanks to his diligent years of daily work, we see the artwork on the floor begin to evolve and ultimately create something very new. The work Fall Rush (2013) is acrylic and enamel on paper where McGhee has applied his sensibility to both sides of this heavy-duty paper and then worked on producing a crushed and folded object that would present itself on the wall. When I first viewed the work, my only context was the artwork by sculptor John Chamberlain who did something similar with scrap metal, usually mounted on a base as in Homer, 1960.  Chamberlain didn’t paint the metal, instead, he would find parts from scrap car lots where he discovered his colors in the parts of fenders and related shapes of metal. Here, McGhee, the painter, created his own material by painting both sides of the paper, canvas or vinyl, and inventing his shape using his well-developed sensibility. He puts his trust in the process.

Allie McGhee, Flip Side, Acrylic on enameled vinyl, 2015

In the piece Flip Side (2015), we see the evolution of this work where he adds elements after the object is created and on the wall. During the artist talk, he mentioned his interest in science and the various visual aspects of the universe, either through a telescope or a microscope.  McGhee mentioned participating in an Art & Science program that paired artists with scientists from the University of Michigan. The artists then made an artwork that was auctioned off to support scientific research. McGhee was seeking information based on scientific discovery where he sought truth and imagery in the cosmos.

And Allie McGhee talked briefly about the role of music in creating art with an emphasis on the Black jazz musicians John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, and Charles Mingus. They all co-mingled with his process.

Russian abstract artist Wassily Kandinsky has said he was deeply inspired by music. He played the violin from an early age and even gave his works of art musical titles: ‘Improvisations’, Compositions’ and ‘Fugue.

I know I carefully select what I play in my studio. I always select instrumental-only by a variety of musicians like Dave Brubeck, Mozart, or Arvo Part.

Richard Dorment, the art historian, said of Paul Klee, “He started every picture with an abstract mark—a square, a triangle, a circle, a line or a dot—and then allowed that motif to evolve or grow, almost like a living organism.” Whether it is from subconscious dreams or Eric Dolphy on the Saxophone, Allie McGhee worked daily to the sound of jazz. The improvisational riffs provided support for the creation of rich abstraction in the studio, experimenting with materials, making the same mistakes over and over until something emerges and falls into place or rises to the top. What resonates in my thoughts is McGhee’s emphatic statement, “It’s the process, not the subject.”

In the Cranbrook publication, McGhee says, “A really good picture looks as if it’s happened at once. It is an immediate image. For my own work, when a picture looks labored and overworked, and you can’t read in it…there is something in there that has not got to do with beautiful art.  And I usually throw these out, though I think very often it takes ten of those over labored efforts to produce one really beautiful wrist motion that is synchronized with your head and heart, and you have it and therefore it looks as if it were born in a minute.”

Allie McGhee, Bloom, Acrylic, and enamel on fiberglass, 2019

In the acrylic and enamel on fiberglass Bloom, McGhee gives the viewer some insight with the title and adds details to the piece after its painted and folded creation. Who knows? The inspiration may have come from a memory of sitting at his mother’s kitchen table where some flowers were blooming in a vase. We see the surface where the artist draped and dragged the stick over the fiberglass on the floor, then the folding produced fluidity and pattern.

Laura Mott quoted McGhee in her writing about him as saying, “I can tell stories in my paintings about these significant contributions made through our history. To me, that’s a lot more exciting scientifically, spiritually, and visually to feed off of. It’s never-ending. The only limitation is the entire cosmos…I don’t think I will be able to use that up in my lifetime.”

Allie McGhee, Long Look, Acrylic and enamel on vinyl on wood. 2021

Right when you think these folded and crushed colorful objects art are the beneficiaries of a life’s work and might be his last body of new work, he comes back with new flatwork on the wall, like the painting, Long Look, an acrylic and enamel paint on vinyl attached to wood. Is he looking through a microscope or a telescope? Or is he reading The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene about how artists look to science for inspiration?  From the Cranbrook publication, McGhee writes, “I will see the Science section of The New York Times where there will be a photograph that is almost identical to something I painted years ago, like a picture from the Hubble telescope.”

There is something to be said about McGhee’s longevity with respect to being able to continue his process and reap the success of this later work. He is still exploring his evolutionary process, a painter of extraordinary ability who continues to contribute to the art record of Western civilization.

Allie McGhee exhibits a Retrospective, Banana Moon Horn, at Cranbrook Art Museum, through February 13, 2022.

 

 

 

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