Critical art reviews of Detroit galleries and museums weekly

Category: Paintings Page 1 of 43

“One to Remember”, Davariz Broaden @ Louis Buhl & Co.

Davariz Broaden, One to Remember, 2023. Installation image.  Photo: PD Rearick. Courtesy of Artist and Louis Buhl & Co.

The rich tradition of figurative painting can be traced back to prehistoric times as a way to portray and represent the artist’s surrounding culture. Infinite stylistic choices have animated the flatness of stone, paper, fabric or canvas to render scenes of adjacent worlds, encouraging viewers to enter, observe and learn from the subjects presented. It has become clear throughout the history of art that the brush holds power in its ability to tell a story, depict current times, or propose a future world, and it is the painters who are conscious of this power that approach their practice with careful attention to detail. The five paintings on display at Louis Buhl & Co. mark a significant point in the career of the artist Davariz Broaden. As a self-taught Detroit-based painter, his professional trajectory has grown quickly since he started exploring the medium in 2021. In just a few years, Broaden’s work has been exhibited locally and nationally as he has become increasingly recognized for his contemporary depictions of Black culture as well as the nostalgia of the Black experience. “One to Remember” is Broaden’s second solo exhibition with Louis Buhl & Co., functioning not only as his official debut into the world of artist representation but also into the world of large scale painting.

Davariz Broaden, Young All Stars, 2023 Acrylic, oil, and sugar on canvas. 70 x 70 in Photo: Tim Johnson. Courtesy of Artist and Louis Buhl & Co.

The collection of works in the wide and shallow Buhl gallery space envelops its guests with what seem like memories of a birthday celebration or a family reunion. Their scale alone allows for relatability as the nearly six feet tall canvases illustrate life-size figures, but in addition to this mirroring of proportions, we witness this party and its nuances as a tradition familiar to so many. The sky jumps from canvas to canvas like a panoramic photograph to enhance the impression of actually being there, while the muted color palette, gentle approach to paint application and unique drawing style combine to promote sensations of movement and life.

Davariz Broaden, Youngest of 4, 2023 Acrylic and oil on canvas 60 x 48 in Photo: Tim Johnson. Courtesy of Artist and Louis Buhl & Co

Prior to 2021, Davariz Broaden worked in other avenues of creative production. While studying Fashion Technology at Kent State University, he expressed a desire to emphasize and foster discussion surrounding the relationship between the past, present and future. Many aspects of Broaden’s current work seem to be continuing on that path. An assessment of his paintings from the beginning until now demonstrates an informed approach to composition and subject, recalling prominent African American artists from the modern era until now. Similar to artists like Kerry James Marshall, Amy Sherrald and Michalene Thomas, Broaden’s strong use of color, his contrasts between light and dark tones and his depictions of love and leisure in Black communities move the Black subject into a future where their main story is no longer of oppression but of autonomy and joy.

Davariz Broaden, Birthdays & Block Parties, 2023 Acrylic, oil, and sugar on canvas 60 x 48 in Photo: Tim Johnson. Courtesy of Artist and Louis Buhl & Co.

The titles of the paintings in “One To Remember” aid in keeping the mood of the show as light as a day at a park. The compositions are based on photographs of family and friends which has become an ongoing trend of Broaden and can be found in work by him that has been previously shown by Luis Buhl & Co., The Detroit Artists Market, M Contemporary in Ferndale, and a solo presentation at Future Art Fair with Medium Tings in New York City. Currently at Louis Buhl & Co., the Young All Stars are four boys wearing matching shirts posing quickly mid-motion. Birthdays & Block Parties shows a boy playing jump rope. Brothers pose with the Youngest of Four in a field with a forest of pine trees in the background. A little girl stays with her mom at the Grown Folks Table where the white styrofoam container emphasizes the mildly flattened perspective that is repeated from painting to painting within the artist’s practice. Broaden’s evolving awareness and comfort with painting has encouraged him to introduce oil to his originally all acrylic-based studio and the combination of the two seems to have even further influenced his already careful approach to textures, colors, fabrics and how they would respond to each other.

Davariz Broaden, Grown Folks Table, 2023, Acrylic and oil on canvas, 60 x 48 in. Photo:Tim Johnson. Courtesy of Artist and Louis Buhl & Co.

A child of Gen Z (born in 1999) Davariz Broaden holds a youthful perspective of everyday subject matter in this contemporary world. This point of view is valued by the curatorial team at Louis Buhl & Co.  The Senior Director Alessandra Ferrara collaborated with Director Caroline Hinnant as well as JJ and Anthony Curis to introduce Broaden to professional strategies to forge and build a successful career as an artist, starting with inviting him to produce a unique series of works on paper and featuring him as an artist in their Salon Highlight initiative. Broaden is now represented by the gallery, who works with him as consultants as well as advocates and exhibitors of his work.

Davariz Broaden, Summer, 2023, Acrylic and oil on canvas, 70 x 70 in. Photo:PD Rearick. Courtesy of Artist and Louis Buhl & Co.

“One to Remember” by Davariz Broaden opened on July 8, 2023 at Louis Buhl & Co. and is on view until September 6, 2023.

Learn more about Louis Buhl & Co here:

Mark Newport and Jane Lackey @ Simone DeSousa Gallery

Mark Newport and Jane Lackey: Correspondence  @ Simone DeSousa Gallery

Installation image out front of Gallery. All images courtesy of Simone De Sousa Gallery

Former Fiber Artists-in-Residence, Mark Newport (2007-2023) and Jane Lackey (1997-2007), who served long tenures at Cranbrook Academy of Art, have reunited in a two-person exhibition at Simone DeSousa Gallery in Detroit. Though both have developed singular practices and careers, their show, self-titled Correspondence, showcases underlying similarities in their art-making processes. Indeed, despite their physical distance from one another–Newport works in the Detroit area while Lackey has resided in New Mexico since 2009–they remain in touch and together initiated the exhibition concept.

Installation view of Mark Newport and Jane Lackey: Correspondence

At first glance, observing their art on opposite walls in the main gallery, one might think the two clusters of art represent antithetical points of view and execution. Newport’s robust stitchery versus Lackey’s inclination to highlight the process of flowing; his darkling monochromatic palette, her startling cobalt blues; his army blanket supports, her meticulously hand-drawn grids on paper; his gnarly surfaces, her neat, calm meshes; his irregularly shaped compositions, her Spartan rectangles.

Yet correspondences, as Newport and Lackey remind us, emerge upon further viewing: their vertical compositions convey a kind of order and classical uniformity; asymmetric shapes and forms enliven and colorize the pictorial spaces; both employ open ended, ad hoc creative techniques; and repetitive titles emphasize the seriously serial explorations of mending and flowing, the common but enthralling modus operandi of these two makers.

Mark Newport, Mend 21, Wool, acrylic, cotton, 40 x 28 in., 2021. Photo: George P. Perez

Mend 21 (2021), a prime example of one of Newport’s ongoing Mending series, began, like most, with a cut into the wool army blanket material, indicative of the inevitable tears and abrasions in a fabric used to warm and protect a vulnerable body. The subsequent mending of the cut, via darning and embroidery, leaves a physical reminder of the repair or “scab,” as per the artist.  Executed with thick or thin thread, the circular or rectangular halos surrounding these wounds add subtle color and texture to the gray wool ground of the blanket.

Mark Newport, Swathe, Wool, acrylic, cotton, 83 x 59 in., 2023. Photo: George P. Perez

Swathe (2023), the largest and one of the latest Newport works on view, is boldly and brazenly colorful, sporting three swaths of yellow at the left, a squiggly yellow line above, green, black, and brown horizontal stitching within two amoebic forms near the top, plus an organic oozing of multicolor hues at mid-center countered by a punchy red and black plaid patch at lower right. Moreover, the scrunched and bunched ball of fabric right of center heightens tactility and tautens Swathe’s irregular shape.

Jane Lackey, Almost being said, flow 3, Acrylic, ink, graphite, paper, 35 x 23 in., 2022. Photo: Addison Doty

Lackey’s Almost being said, flow 3 (2022), one of her identically titled drawings (with numerical designations), establishes the format for a quartet of spare, asymmetric arrangements of flowing cobalt forms encroaching upon precisely drawn paper grids. Like Newport, she too begins with consistent support, his an army blanket, hers a grid, that each artist then disrupts or interrupts. Here, in flow 3, two cobalt forms appear to be advancing toward the center, one on the left edging in slowly, the other at the upper right moving (hurtling?) comet-like toward the center. As Lackey’s lyrical titles imply, something undefined is being said, thought or felt, but provocatively, what that is, is only “almost” laid bare.

Jane Lackey, Almost being said, flow 4, Acrylic, ink, graphite, paper, 35 x 23 in., 2022. Photo: Addison Doty

Similarly, in Almost being said, flow 4 (2022), the slowly descending blue form appears to be on the verge of enveloping the tight, orderly grid. The tempo varies from composition to composition, evoking states of mind, emotional ups and downs, shifting moods and, as Lackey observes, “assertions of self within a plaid of connective tissue.”

Hence, Mark Newport and Jane Lackey: Together and apart, singular but connected, Midwesterner and Southwesterner, two makers linked across the miles via stitching and flowing. Correspondence, not competition, as they’ve confirmed, is the order of the day.

Correspondence is on view at Simone DeSousa Gallery, 444 W. Willis St., Detroit, MI, through August 12, 2023.

Abstraction @ David Klein Gallery

Together & Apart: A Legacy of Abstraction at the David Klein Gallery, Detroit.

An installation shot from the opening of Together & Apart: A Legacy of Abstraction at the David Klein Gallery in Detroit, up through July 22.  All images courtesy of David Klein Gallery

The abstract revolution that rocked New York City and the art world in the late 40s and 50s was, famously, a mostly male affair — in the popular narrative, at least, a testosterone-fueled explosion of masculine energy and creativity.

Except, of course, there were women working in abstraction and producing epic work at the same time, like Lee Krasner, Louise Nevelson or Helen Frankenthaler. They just didn’t get the headlines, a phenomenon Mary Gabriel explores at length in her 2018 book, “Ninth Street Women.”

Rebutting the notion that abstraction and machismo are connected at the hip, the David Klein Gallery in Detroit is hosting Together & Apart: A Legacy of Abstraction, which will be up through July 22. The Klein show spotlights four artists – Elise Ansel, Caroline Del Giudice, Alisa Henriquez and Rosalind Tallmadge. (The title, Together and Apart, comes from a Virginia Woolf short story from 1925 that explored artistic affinity among several women friends.)

“In the history of American art,” said gallery director Christine Schefman, “the New York school is where abstraction happened, with all those macho guys – DeKooning, Pollack, and so on.   There were women there, and some of them became quite successful,” she added, “but they were definitely secondary to the men. The men were the geniuses.”

The women on display at David Klein pursue very different paths, from painting-and-collage to welded steel geometric forms, to name two. Drawing from different genres was, of course, part of the fun of pulling the show together, but Schefman says the women work well in unison, with their differing visions bumping up against one another. “They all have,” Schefman said, stopping for a second to pick the right phrase, “a feminine take. When you see their work together, there’s a certain harmony.”

Rosalind Tallmadge, Oberon, Mica, glass beads, sumi ink, Caplain gold leaf and sequin fabric on panel, 60-inch diameter, 2023.

Brooklyn artist Rosalind Tallmadge works with the most-exotic materials in the show, including mica, glass beads, Caplain gold leaf and sequin fabric. The majority of these works-on-panel are round, giving the distinct impression of alien worlds seen from outer space — deeply fissured and cratered landscapes with a dull metallic glint, both otherworldly and surprising.

A 2015 graduate of Cranbrook, Tallmadge was featured in that institution’s 2021 retrospective, With Eyes Opened: Cranbrook Academy of Art since 1932. The artist lives and works in Brooklyn. She was the subject of a solo show, Terrain, at David Klein in 2021.

Elise Ansel, Obsidian Butterfly II, Oil on linen, 50 x 44 inches, 2022.

 As an undergrad at Brown University, Elise Ansel fell back in love with Old Master paintings of the sort she’d seen as a child at the Frick Collection in New York City, and their drama and grandeur inspired her contemporary abstract oil-on-linen canvases – albeit reinterpreted and stripped of all figurative and narrative elements.

All the same, these canvases pack much the same emotional and visual drama, which Ansel, who got her MFA at Southern Methodist University, pumps up with deft use of color, and gestural forms that often appear to be in motion.

In editing out stories from great masterpieces, Ansel universalizes the pieces, broadening their possible meanings. She also, perhaps, feminizes the great masterpieces of yore, at once creating images both subtle and evocative – with not a Great Man in sight.

“I realized that these exquisite paintings were presented from the male point of view—as if that was the only one that mattered,” Ansel told Boston Magazine in 2022. With force and delicacy, the Maine-based artist succeeds in subverting the art-historical male gaze.

Caroline Del Giudice, Twirl III, Powder-coated steel, 24 x 29 x 25 inches, 2023.

 Caroline Del Giudice, another Cranbrook grad, is a Detroit-based artist with a metalworking studio in Redford where she crafts a range of welded-steel sculptures. The three brightly colored distorted arches that greet you as you enter read as massive, heavy objects – even though they’re actually only two feet tall and just a bit wider.

Each sports a great colored, slightly reflective surface  – crimson, purple and yellow, respectively – that’s kind of magnetic, looking very much like some industrial product of the highest order. And while their shapes describe a rounded arch of sorts, the geometry has been stretched, as it were, with one leg of the broken circle a step behind the other.

This contradicts your first assumption that these must be circular forms, at the same time that the staggered legs invest the structures with much greater visual stability. You could knock over a regular arch. Not these constructs. They stand their ground.

Alisa Henriquez, Sweet Nothings (detail), Acrylic, oil, digital prints, fabric and glitter on canvas, 63 x 53 inches, 2023.

Alisa Henriquez, who teaches at Michigan State University and got her MFA at the Rhode Island School of Design, in some ways gives us the most obviously feminine works in the whole show. At least, that’s the case with Sweet Nothings, in which a woman’s eye and fingers with painted nails play starring roles in this absorbing collage. The eye, in particular, is hard to avoid – just off-center and nicely done up in mascara, it stares out at the viewer with a questioning gaze that feels just a little sad.

In all six of her painted collages, Henriquez mixes colors with abandon, sketching out geometric objects and oddball shapes that often overlap or bleed into one another. These are crowded, active works – each quadrant, cut from the rest, could be a freestanding painting. In that sense there’s no real center, more of an intriguingly disordered visual universe.

Elise Ansel, Rosy Fingered Dawn, Oil on linen, 44 x 50 inches, 2022.

Together & Apart: A Legacy of Abstraction will be at Detroit’s David Klein Gallery through July 22.

Tom Parish @ Scarab Club

Untouched by Time – for the American painter Thomas Parish

Installation, the image of the artist, Tom Parish (June 11, 1933 – October 25, 2018), 2019, all images courtesy of DAR

He was born in Hibbing, Minnesota 1933, where blistering winters kept the young boy inside his home, coloring the pages from a Sears & Roebuck catalog. When he was four, his mother married Ken Parish, and the family moved to Chicago. He attended a public grade school where he was recognized for his art and later attended a military high school providing a small studio space. There he made paintings that were purchased by many of his teachers. During this period, he repeatedly visited the Chicago Art Institute and was excited by the work of Joseph Cornell, J.M.W. Turner, El Greco, Jean Baptiste Corot, and Edward Hopper. He often said, “My father wanted a better and more highly recognized school experience for his son.”

Upon graduation from high school, Parish’s mother helped him apply to William & Mary College, a prestigious liberal arts school in Williamsburg, Virginia. Still, it was a short time before his teachers, based on his artistic talent, recommended that he transfer to the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art with its famous museum. Well known for its academic approach to painting, the teachers taught the highly traditional skills of life drawing and painting. He recalled opening an exhibition that included Franklin Watkins, Morris Blackburn, Hobson Pittman, Robert Motherwell, and Willem de Kooning. In addition, the permanent collection housed in the oldest college museum in the country had many masterpieces by William Merritt Chase, Thomas Eakins, and Winslow Homer, and former Academy students Robert Henri and John Sloan.

It would shape Parish’s painting in a way that would soon be discovered.

Tom Parish, Pink Sky, 36 x 24″, Oil on canvas, 2000.

Parish’s graduate degree led him to two years of teaching in North Dakota and a community college teaching position at Forest Park that lasted three years. The offer of a teaching assistantship at the University of North Dakota led him to the art department there, headed by Bob Nelson, who had trained at the Chicago Art Institute and had figurative work at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C., and the Museum of Modern Art. He made several friends who taught nearby at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, with a distinguished faculty, such as Josef Albers and Max Beckman, and again, a rich collection at the museum.

Along the way, the literary influences that he sought out would shape his thinking about painting.  He would say, “An early influence was Cezanne’s Composition: Analysis of Form, by Erle Loran, which helped provide a framework for looking at composition, along with The Story of Art, by E.H. Gombrich, a widely regarded book of art criticism.”  It was his reading of Albert Pinkham Ryder, an American painter, whose descriptions of these moody seascapes, and Hart Crane’s The Bridge, a poem inspired by New York City’s Brooklyn Bridge, that pushed Parish towards landscape painting, albeit surreal and aerial images of objects and buildings.

All along the way, these constant visits to world-class museums and a new type of jazz music during the mid-1950s filtered into Parish’s view of the world. He eventually created a unique island called Zarna, a place from his childhood filled with imaginative landscapes.  These aerial images produced with minor marks of  paint often included train tracks, rooftops, and geometric objects, each with a light source casting shadows to the side.

There came a time in the mid-1960s when an Assistant Professor position at Wayne State University opened up. During a visit to Chicago, Robert Wilbert, the then Chair of Painting, was impressed with the work of Tom Parish. Mack Gilman of the Gilman Gallery said, “Parish is among the best of six living painters in the world.”  Wilbert had found what he was looking for and knew with Parish on board; he would have a good team. At that very moment, Parish was on his way to teach at L’Ecole des Arts in Winnipeg, Canada, when he got a call from Wilbert and was offered an Assistant Professor position on a tenure track to teach painting in Detroit. Located in midtown across from the Detroit Institute of Arts, with one of the most significant art collections in the United States, Parish had found a place to teach and paint near a world-class museum.

Parish had found gallery representation in Chicago with Mac Gilman in the 1960s, where he exhibited his Zarna-based surreal landscapes comprised of a compact field of stones, producing a color field. The work attracted the attention of the Martha Jackson Gallery in New York City, specializing in American painting. Parish participated in three exhibitions at the Martha Jackson Gallery in the early 1970s after David Andersen (Martha Jackson’s son) had seen his work in San Francisco. 1980 Parish resumed the relationship with the Gilman Gallery. This was to become the Gilman Gruen Gallery and eventually the Gruen Gallery. There would be ten years of exhibition in Chicago, and by this time, Parish had solidified his reputation for painting in the Chicago and Detroit art communities.

By then, Parish was searching for a direction to take the work until a visit to Europe and Venice in 1986 provided him with a replacement for the Zarna imagery. The canals, corners, terraces, and undulating water shimmering with elongated light satisfied his love for landscape painting. It was an ‘Old World’ atmosphere with the architectural form and mystical light that seemed to draw him into a significant compositional transition.

He needed to keep his teaching position and his studio in Detroit, so he and his wife, Shirley, began to plan extended trips to Venice, sometimes twice or three times a year, spanning the last thirty years. The time in Venice was spent on observation and capturing images photographically during a two-, sometimes three-week stay. The photos were both in spirit and part informational in creating what I have called magical realism, using a literary term. The early work would include a Vaporetto, water taxi, or gondola and be always set against a salty, worn section of architecture and elongated reflections flight on water. The underlying strength is always compositional. Parish returned to everything he had experienced in his reading to his observations of Cezanne, combined with a lucid imagination to form special longitudes of form and gentle reflections of light.

Tom Parish, Sogo Dream, 55 x 75″, 2016

Parish’s work, like Sogno Dream, 55 x 75-inch Oil on Canvas, combines his strengths: a composition that stretches out spatially and draws on elements in abstraction and his command of painting in the reflection-struck water in the turbulent canal. The viewer is drawn into the water’s texture above and below the water’s surface.  Venice, Italy’s famous artists Jacopo Bassano, Giovanni Bellini, Giorgio e, Titian, Palo Veronese, and Tintoretto have left their mark primarily by painting religious allegories. Parish focused on architecture and light.

Tom Parish, San Marco, 61 x 85″, 2014

Writers succumbed to the city’s unique charm, vitality, and decadence including Goethe, Herman Hesse, and John Ruskin. Thomas Mann (1875 – 1955), the Nobel Prize winner in literature, was fascinated by Venice and used it as a setting for one of his most famous novels. He writes the following in 1912 in “Death in Venice”: “Yes, this was Venice, this the fair frailty that fawned and that betrayed half fairy-tale, half star; the city in whose stagnating air the art of painting once put forth so lusty a growth, and where musicians were moved to accords so weirdly lulling and lascivious.”

It took an American painter, Thomas Parish, from Hibbing, Minnesota, home to the musician Bob Dylan, to find the landscape in Venice, part of the shallow Venetian lagoon and an enclosed bay between the mouths of the Po and the Piave Rivers. His Venetian landscapes expose the beauty of the architectural setting and swirls of reflective water that transcend a soft blend of magnitude and mystery.  The memorial exhibition, Untouched by Time, was curated by Dalia Reyes, Gallery Director at the Scarab Club, with assistance from Shirley Dombrowski Parish.

Untouched by Time, Tom Parish, Scarab Club, open until June 17 – 2023. 


Brenda Goodman @ Simone DeSousa Gallery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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



Page 1 of 43

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén