Critical art reviews of Detroit galleries and museums weekly

Category: Paintings Page 1 of 45

Group Exhibition @ M Contemporary

General Rules Do Not Apply at Ferndale’s M Contemporary gives a quick, refreshing tour of the lyrical possibilities of colorful abstraction produced by an intriguing set of Detroit artists:  Matt Eaton (now in Los Angeles), Lauren Harrington, MALT, Jaime Pattison, Senghor Reid, Zach Thompson and Dino Valdez.  General Rules is up through June 15. 

Jaime Pattison, Afterimages, Acrylic and oil on canvas, 72 x 58 1/2 inches, 2024. (Photos courtesy of M Contemporary).

These are sophisticated abstracts — even if Zach Thompson’s striking, half-and-half canvas stars, respectively, Wylie Coyote and Pig-Pen of “Peanuts” fame. Indeed, taken as a whole, the contrast in stylistic approach from one artist to the next is exhilarating.

A downright mesmerizing work is Jaime Pattison’s Afterimages. This is a severe gridwork composition, yet rendered in utterly seductive shades of startling red and aquamarine where the former frames the latter with thin, wispy lines to great visual effect. It’s all rather high concept. Pattison’s playing with what happens when you stare at intense red good and hard, and then close your eyes. The “after image” that pops up leaps from the opposite side of the color spectrum, almost like a photographic negative. And after looking at red, that negative will always be some shade of green.

Each of the 140 aquamarine rectangles within its red frame is a tiny, meticulously constructed abstract in itself, giving the whole a visual depth that, combined with the shock of the red – in this case approaching a neon intensity — is pretty darned transfixing.

In an April interview with the online publication Canvas Rebel, Pattison says she’s been working on “a series of large dichromatic paintings investigating notions of the screen and embodiment. Painting for me is an analog process,” she added, “a process based in the hand, a sifting through digital material to make connections to this time.”

Gallery director Melannie Chard says she’s been following Pattison, who hails from Toronto, since she first saw her work a couple years ago in the annual Student Exhibition at the College for Creative Studies. At the time, Chard says, Pattison was working in a figurative vein, “but now she’s moving into pattern” –- for which we should all be grateful.

Zach Thompson, The Coyote Has to Eat Too, Oil pigment stick, spray paint, and acrylic on canvas, 48 x 36 inches, 2024.

If Afterimages gives an impression of freehand precision, the left half of Zach Thompson’s canvas, titled The Coyote Has to Eat Too, announces itself with a blast of what appears to be  slapdash enthusiasm, with an array of colorful, “careless” blotches scattered across a vivid yellow background.

At once comic and disturbing, the visual focus is our friend Wylie Coyote, lying prone in the bottom-right corner, as if shortly after being obliterated by one of those falling anvils he always seemed to attract like metal filings to a magnet. There’s also a miniature version of Mr. Coyote up above, on the edge of a vortex of swirling hues, holding a teensy sign reading, “Why me?” — a question that can’t help but trigger a laugh, even as it gets to the heart of the human condition.

A similar mix of the absurd and the profound characterizes the other half of Thompson’s work, Everything Returns to Dirt, which sports Charles Schulz’s Pig-Pen floating over, of all things, a roosting parrot. Rendered in an array of rich earth tones, including burnt orange, Thompson pulls off another oddball composition that just won’t let go.

 

Dino Valdez, Family Values, Acrylic and silver leaf on canvas, 72 x 48 x 1 1/2 inches, 2024.

Ready for something completely different? Painted in black acrylic and elegant silver leaf, Dino Valdez’s Family Values stands out in marvelous counterpoint to the color-rich works surrounding it. An energetic swirl of highly textured black brush strokes, Valdez, formerly exhibitions director at Red Bull House of Art Detroit, manages to achieve a surprising amount of depth that feels downright three-dimensional.

His CV says his recent work focuses on the understanding of violence, conflict, and resolution, which would seem to sum up Family Values, with its barely suppressed fury, rather neatly. Anchoring this visual storm is one perfectly straight white line (although it reads as gray in the image above) that seems to prevent the turbulence from blowing away and dissipating.

Chard says this particular piece is related Valdez’s martial-arts training, and likens the work to that of the classic abstract expressionist Franz Kline, “but not as aggressive. I like Family Values because it almost looks like a dance,” she added, “so expressive and so much energy behind it.”

Matt Eaton, Celestial Blanket (Yellow), Aerosol on canvas, 48 x 36 inches, 2024.

Once an energetic presence in Detroit connected with the Library Street Collective, Contra Projects and Red Bull House of Art before his move to the West Coast, Matt Eaton has sketched out a career exploring inventive possibilities in the world of abstraction. Using materials associated with graffiti and graphic arts alike, Eaton’s work has been characterized by a skilled use of color and form.

At M Contemporary, his four identically sized canvases are hung in a square like four panes of a window, through each of which we see what appears to be a piece of fabric fluttering in the air as if hung from a clothesline. Two of these are in rich colors, as with (Yellow) above, while the other two are composed in black and silvery tones. Taken altogether, they make a rich stew.

In a 2016 interview with The Detroit News, Eaton credited the visual universe of the 1980s with steering his artistic instincts in a particular direction. “Growing up at the end of the good punk-rock age,” he said, “there was a lot of hugely influential graphic design at the time. I genuinely would be content if nobody ever saw my art again,” he added. “I’m compelled to make it. It’s more a meditative ritual than a career.”

Senghor Reid, Decision at Sundown 6, Acrylic on canvas, 2024.

If Eaton’s blankets mine the potential of simplicity, Senghor Reid’s Decision at Sundown 6 deals with almost stupefying complexity and detail. An explosion of line and squiggle radiating out from a central core near the bottom, it almost reads like – going way out on a limb, here – a visual representation of nuclear fission.

But Chard, who would know, says Decision actually has water as its subject. “It’s one of Senghor’s abstracted water series,” she said. “A lot of people recognize him for portraiture and figurative work, but he has a whole other part of his practice that deals with water, water justice and water rights.” Indeed, anyone who caught last winter’s Skilled Labor: Black Realism in Detroit at the Cranbrook Art Museum might note the resemblance — in line, at least — between Decision at Sundown and the swimming pool in the artist’s large, cheerful Make Way for Tomorrow, that was one of the focal points of that exhibition.

Zach Thompson, Everything Returns to Dirt (detail), Oil pigment stick, spray paint, acrylic, 48 x 36 inches, 2024.

General Rules Do Not Apply will be up at Ferndale’s M Contemporary through June 15.

Benjamin Pritchard @ David Klein Gallery

Installation image of three paintings DKG 4, 2024

Artist Benjamin Pritchard opened a solo exhibition, Nature Worship, comprised of paintings at the David Klein Gallery on March 23, that will run through May 4, 2024. The thick oil paint in these mostly monochromatic compositions with heavy line work, either dark or light backgrounds, are Expressionistic Abstractions with attention paid to the structure by working in multiple layers of color that seek to find the balance and substance in each canvas.

Prichard grew up in Franklin, Michigan, and set voyage to grad school in London, earning his MFA from the Royal Academy of Arts to time spent on the West Coast, ending up in Brooklyn, N.Y., only to return home to a small studio space that seemed to nurture and find answers.

He says, “The irony is that I left for so long to find a solution or an answer… And then, of course, I come back, and here it is. It’s always been right here.”

Benjamin Prichard, Light Years, 108×132″, Oil on Canvas, All images courtesy of DKG

It is easy to say the painting that dominates the exhibition is Light Years. This large (108 x 132”) diptych does so with its scale. The orange and red circular organic motifs place themselves throughout this roadmap of lines and shapes. The feel of these designs can be described as a field of organic Petroglyphs (not figurative but more plant-like) that meander space informally. If only all these paintings were larger in scale, the power and influence would follow.

Benjamin Pritchard, Structure/Surface, 36×30″, Oil on Canvas.

One of the most successful smaller paintings (36×30”) is Structure/Surface, where Prichard divides the rectangle with a white line. Here, the artist lays down an attractive grid over a black horizontal field of brush strokes.

Benjamin Pritchard, Arboreal, 48×36″, Oil on Canvas

The painting Arboreal (48×36″) pulls on the heartstrings from the sky in The Starry Night by Van Gogh, using an Ellipse shape instead of circles. However, color and abstract expressionism are present in both. The spirit of Van Gogh lives in the sky, while the spirit in Arboreal lives in the trees.

In a statement from New York Artist Equity, he says, “I like to think that the direct, honest daily practice of painting over time reflects both the cares and concerns of the deep self and an optimistic projection regarding concerns of the world. I believe that being with work over long periods reveals humanistic qualities in relation to the observer and is added to by the viewer. In this way, art functions as both psychic nourishment and as a mirror to the self and the world. I think of painting as a quasi-religious activity involving the concept of the sacred. What this actually means and how it is represented is revealed piece by piece in the work. In this way, I think that the subject of painting exists outside of language and is more involved with the unsayable experiential aspects of life and the world.”

Artist Benjamin Pritchard at the home studio

Benjamin Pritchard is a Brooklyn-based artist originally from Detroit. He has had solo exhibitions at Daniel Weinberg Gallery (Los Angeles, CA), John Davis Gallery (Hudson, NY), and Life on Mars (Brooklyn, NY). The artist earned a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and an MFA from the Royal Academy of Arts, London. He attended the New York Studio School from 1994-1996. Ben Pritchard lives and works in Detroit and Brooklyn.

Benjamin Prichard’s Nature Worship at the David Klein Gallery on March 23 will run through May 4, 2024.

Look At Me! Look At Me Now! Magical World of Dr. Seuss @ Art Leaders Gallery

An installation view of Look At Me! Look A Me Now! Exhibition at West Bloomfield’s Art Leaders Gallery, up through March 30.

In a treat for anyone who loves cartoons, The Imaginative, Profound & Magical World of Dr. Seuss: The Rare Editions Exhibition will be up at Art Leaders Gallery in West Bloomfield through March 30, 2024. On Saturday, March 23, the gallery will host a special open house for the Seuss exhibit from 3 to 6 p.m.

This show of prints and sculptures, which you’ll find at the center of the Art Leaders space, is surprisingly magnetic. On display are a number of treasures that will appeal to fans, including several “before and after” pairings, where the original rough draft – with multiple, seemingly messy lines working out each visual element – is framed in a diptych with the polished, final version. It makes for fun viewing and gives a little glimpse into the process that produces what looks like simple art.

Consider the two versions of Look at Me Now, starring Seuss’ best-known creation, the Cat in the Hat, who’s juggling all manner of breakable items while balancing on a ball. It’s classic Seussian absurdity, and an almost universally recognizable childhood image.

Dr. Seuss, Look At Me Now!, Look At Me Now!,  Diptych, 26.5 by 17.5 inches. (Photos courtesy of Art Leaders Gallery.)

Dr. Seuss published his first children’s book, “And to Think I Saw That on Mulberry Street,” in 1937. But it was “The Cat in the Hat” exactly 20 years later that really catapulted the artist into the pop-cult stratosphere. It was fame that never flagged. His death in 1991 at 87 prompted all sorts of elegiac summaries: In its front-page obituary, the New York Times called Seuss “the modern Mother Goose,” while Time Magazine declared he was “one of the last doctors to make house calls – some 200 million of them in 20 languages.”

(“The Cat in the Hat,” by the way, was significant not just for its unhinged hero — who generated childish excitement and anxiety in equal measure — but also because it employed a limited vocabulary of about 220 “beginner’s words” recommended by reading specialists. Seuss then wrote it all up in a cadence — “anapestic tetrameter,” if you must — that was particularly easy for young readers to master and learn. From there on in, his books aimed to make learning how to read fun – quite a shift from the old “Dick and Jane” primers of the time.)

One of the charms of Seuss’ work, of course, has always been its complete lack of pretension and his willingness to make fun of himself. Four months after the launch of “Cat in the Hat,” the Saturday Evening Post helped the artist do just that when it ran what would become the most-iconic Seuss self-portrait, The Cat Behind the Hat – featuring the good doctor as his famous feline, looking dyspeptic, complete with stovepipe hat – in its July 6, 1957 issue.

Dr. Seuss, The Cat Behind the Hat, 20 by 10 inches.

Theodor Seuss Geisel – aka Dr. Seuss – initially got his start in advertising. Two years out of Dartmouth College in 1927, the young Geisel, from Springfield, Massachusetts, got a job drawing ads for “The Flit” — a household insecticide spray Standard Oil of New Jersey produced which promised to kill almost anything that crept, fluttered or crawled. Charmingly, the style of one ad from the early forties is unmistakably Seuss-ian, with an impish bug in a red-striped shirt who’s just flown right through a woman’s fancy hat, sparking predictable outrage.

Once Seuss was working full-time on children’s literature – his output was staggering – he took to working on his own personal art at night and on weekends, much of which is in the Art Leaders exhibition. Some, like the luridly colored Worm Glowing Bright in the Forest in the Night, approach abstract expressionism, albeit with the puckish intrusion of a befuddled yellow worm. Others, like Life’s a Great Balancing Act, play with patterns in a way that’s slightly reminiscent of Escher, but always, again, with a dash of oddball humor.

Dr. Seuss, Life’s a Great Balancing Act, 30.75 by 22 inches.

A man of his times, Seuss has, perhaps inevitably, come under fire for depictions of minorities that now seem tone-deaf and condescending. The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum in Springfield, Massachusetts, announced in 2017 that it would replace a mural that included such images. And in 2021, the Seuss estate said it would voluntarily stop selling six titles, including Mulberry Street, thought to contain egregious examples of racial and ethnic stereotypes.

Happily, the art in this spirited exhibition avoids those sorts of dated allusions. Most just underlines Dr. Seuss’ gift for enchanting idiocy, and his ability to spin magical, gossamer worlds out of thin air. His approach is almost unfailingly gentle, indulgent, and tolerant of the frailties of this brittle world. In Seuss-land, all human rancor can be boiled down to the contentious standoff between two neighbors featured in My Petunia Can Lick Your Geranium, competing over who had the better garden.

Dr. Seuss, My Petunia Can Lick Your Geranium, 27 by 34 inches.

 The publisher of The Art of Dr. Seuss, Robert M. Chase, notes that almost everyone has a “significant Dr. Seuss memory” and that any number of creative artists and writers acknowledge the master’s influence on their work. “Indeed,” writes Chase on the website of the same name, “what Walt Disney was to entertainment, Theodor Seuss Geisel was to art and literature.”

Dr. Seuss, Cat from the Wrong Side of the Tracks, 22 by 44 inches.

The Imaginative, Profound & Magical World of Dr. Seuss: Look At Me! Look At Me Now! The Rare Editions Exhibition will be at West Bloomfield’s Art Leaders Gallery through March 30, 2024.

 

 

 

Islands Inlands: James Collins @ Matéria Core City

Islands Inlands: James Collins at Matéria Core City previously Simone DeSousa

The series of paintings on display at Matéria Core City embodies the most recent explorations of Detroit-based artist James Collins. Since the onset of his career in the late 1990s, Collins has been working with the harmonies and disharmonies of oil and acrylic paint on canvas. His dedication to the study of these materials has resulted in an array of abstract compositions that align his work with minimalist philosophy from the 1960s, bringing it into the present day.

James Collins, installation of Islands Inlands at Matéria Core City, 2023,  All photos courtesy of Matéria Core City.

Minimalism emerged as a creative movement in New York City as a reaction to the traditional expectations of artists to be messengers of narrative or conduits of expressive thought. Many artists of the time became bored of methods used in abstract expressionism and other preexisting movements. Setting out to challenge the concept of romanticism in art, artists like Donald Judd, Agnes Martin, John Cage, and Meis van der Rohe simultaneously worked to explore material abstraction and the reduction of meaning in creative production. This resulted in the blurring of boundaries between painting, sculpture, architecture, writing, and music that became profoundly revolutionary.

James Collins, installation of Islands Inlands at Matéria Core City, 2023

Frank Stella, one of Minimalism’s founding painters, was famous for saying “what you see is what you see,” and in this statement, summarized the movement’s embrace of the literal properties of any object presented as art. Size, form and the work’s relationship to its surrounding environment held precedence over symbolism and emotion. Artists used prefabricated forms and geometric shapes to reduce the influence of the artist’s hand and promote an exploration of the form or process as subjects in themselves.

James Collins, installation of Islands Inlands at Matéria Core City, 2023

Naturally as a painter, the presence of the rectangle is prominent in the artist’s practice, but in addition to this geometric form that mirrors the surrounding architecture, James Collins’ “employment of the process as content” sustains traditional minimalist characteristics. The exhibition text underlines this sentiment through descriptions of the household items used to produce these images that resemble detailed aerial views of natural landscapes. However, despite us learning about what he used to make the paintings, the details of how he used them remains a mystery. Viewers have the opportunity to engage in a phenomenological experience that challenges perception through direct interaction with the work. From afar, many of them seem to be photographic prints only to reveal intricate applications of paint upon closer analysis.

James Collins, installation of Islands Inlands at Matéria Core City, 2023

Illusionism, dating back to ancient times, is an artistic tradition that attempts to mimic three- dimensional forms on two-dimensional surfaces. Artists of this practice have used color and perspective to mimic reality to such a degree that it could deceive any eye that sees it. In fact, there is an old myth from the elder Pliney in 464 BCE Greece that tells a story of the artist Zeuxis painted grapes so realistic that the birds attempted to eat them right off the wall. The occupancy of illusionism in these twelve paintings by Collins is carried forward as an effect achieved through the artist’s exploratory approach to the medium of paint. Texture is used to suggest space on these flat surfaces the way line was used to imply depth in his previous works. What is interesting about the body of work is its tendency to oscillate between an illusionist and minimalist approach, both of which are inherently opposite of one another. The sophisticated use of color in them further stimulates our tendencies to make sense of abstract
forms based on optical likeness, but in the end, time spent with the work becomes a moment of visual play that forgoes definition due to its high degree of investment in abstraction.

Photograph of the artist with his painting, 2023, photo: Matéria Core City

Each painting in Islands Inlands utilizes patterns of sharp lines that mimic the visual qualities of arteries found in nature. Blood vessels, root systems, and canyons become visible through contrasts in color and tone, and these two-dimensional simulations are achieved through the delicate chromatic gradients that render shadows into these micro or macro pathways. Small hints to inspire this read occur in titles like Here Come the Warm Jets, Points Beyond, Untitled (arquipelago #1) and Untitled (arquipelago #2). A denial of external references becomes present, however, through the majority of untitled works in the show, and it is again confirmed through the same textures having seemingly exploded into fragments on a few white canvases. The reduction of subjectivity is another marker of minimalist thought that emerges not only in limited visual elements but also in the sparseness of information provided to guide translation. Like many creative approaches in this postmodern era of art, minimalism continues to be investigated decades after its debut. Perhaps the reason it continues to be relevant amongst the wide scope of methodologies is its ability to provide an experience of open interpretation. It can be rewarding to locate meaning in such abstraction and the ambiguous nature of these minimalist compositions allow for a range of meaning as broad as its diverse audience.

James Collins, installation of Islands Inlands at Matéria Core City, 2023.

The exhibition will be on view at Matéria Core City until March 23rd.
Learn more about the gallery here:  https://www.materia-art.com

Nostalgia & Outrage @ OUAG

Mary Fortuna and Adrian Hatfield @ Oakland University Art Gallery January 19-March 24, 2024

Nostalgia and Outrage, Installation, Oakland University Art Gallery. All photos by K.A. Letts.

Nostalgia and Outrage, an exhibition of artworks by fiber artist Mary Fortuna and multi-media collagist Adrian Hatfield, opened on January 19 at Oakland University Art Gallery in spite of Michigan’s typically lousy winter weather.  The paintings, textiles, toys, mobiles and dioramas on display address death, mass extinction, disaster (both personal and societal) and general apocalypse–doomsday themes that might seem gratuitously gloomy for this dark time of year. But instead, this lively–even cheerful—exhibition reminded me of the well-known aphorism: “The situation is hopeless but not serious.”

Mary Fortuna, Protection Flag, 2023, linen, cotton applique, embroidery.

Fortuna and Hatfield approach their art in ways that simultaneously diverge from and resonate with each other.  In the slim but informative catalog that accompanies the show, gallery director Dick Goody teases out insights from the artists on their motives and methods. “We both have a sense of humor and we’re both anxious or pissed off about the state of the world. We share environmental concerns,” says Fortuna. Hatfield adds that the two also use storytelling or narrative as a hook and often reference archetypal characters in their work. In the interview, Hatfield and Fortuna trace recurring themes in their art to childhood experiences. Echoes of each artist’s early obsessions linger in their current art practice and lend an air of playfulness to many of the artworks.

Adrian Hatfield, Teamwork makes the dream work, 2022, oil and acrylic on canvas.

Mary Fortuna

Fortuna remembers that as a child she expected to become “a nun, a cook or a nurse.” She grew up mostly in the company of her older sister Mady and describes this pivotal relationship as one based on creativity and invention. “We spent hours together drawing, making up stories, sharing books, dressing up, making dolls and puppets and paper dolls and comic books. We wrote little plays and made up songs,” she says.

Mary Fortuna, Button Skull Mask, 2021, wool felt, buttons, embroidery.

Fortuna’s medium of choice is fiber and she is adept at manipulating the formal properties of fabric, beads and thread to produce a variety of appealing objects and images. She uses the submerged cultural references of stitched objects—toys, flags, masks–with the fluid ease of long practice to reveal hidden meaning. The emotional resonances of her carefully embroidered vintage linens, the creepy effect of her masks and hoods and the humor  of her idiosyncratic insect dolls and baby devils show her to be not only a master of her medium,  but also a virtuosic and subtle storyteller.

Mary Fortuna, Let it Be, 2018, embroidery on vintage textile.

These talents come together with particular force in Fortuna’s heartfelt grouping of embroidered vintage textiles that memorialize her recently deceased brother and sister. The artist remembers her brother Jon as a protector, an inventive playmate and a companion on innumerable camping trips; she has embroidered the two of them on vintage cloth with a tent in the background, together in memory.  Fortuna commemorates the special bond she shared with her sister Mady in an embroidered image of the two children from a photo taken on the occasion of Fortuna’s First Communion. As is typical of much of her work, he identifies these images as ex votos, calling them “offerings to the universe on Mady’s behalf.”

Mary Fortuna, Nageena, 2015, leather, fur, horsehair

The varied objects produced by Fortuna for this show are so uniformly well-conceived and executed that it would be hard to pick a favorite. But I was particularly drawn to Nageena,  a soft sculpture that combines the charm of a doll that a child might play with and the subversive menace of a voodoo fetish. Typical of much of her work, Nageena combines cozy approachability with a slightly sinister subtext.

Adrian Hatfield

Hatfield, whose parents were scientists, remembers his rather specific childhood ambition to become “a vertebrate paleontologist or marine biologist.” Many of the images he incorporates into his paintings and installations come from early memories of comic book characters juxtaposed with figures from historical art sources.

Adrian Hatfield, Manifest Destiny: there ain’t no party like a Donner Party, 2020, oil and acrylic on canvas.

The scenes he creates are more assembled than painted, with elements of art history, vintage illustration and pop culture reproduced using photographic silkscreens and overlaid on large format canvases. Nineteenth-century Romantic landscape painting is referenced in the compositions by skillfully painted clouds, trees, and mountains rendered in acid pastels not found in nature.

Adrian Hatfield, Plotting happiness and flinging empty bottles, 2023, oil and acrylic on canvas.

Hatfield seems to have a particular fondness for the absurdist icon Alfred E. Neuman of Mad Magazine fame, whose face appears in several of the paintings in the exhibition. (Actually an earlier iteration of the famous nitwit which more closely resembles Hatfield’s version appeared in an 1895 ad for Atmore’s Mince Meat and Genuine English Plum Pudding. But I digress.) His gap-tooth visage sets a tone of absurdist catastrophe, undercutting and perhaps trivializing the ostensibly tragic themes. Disasters of all kinds and descriptions figure in the pictures, from the Donner Party to snakes attacking a man stuck in a barrel. The oversized face looking out idiotically from behind the picture plane seems to imply that the human race deserves its sad and silly fate.

Adrian Hatfield, King of the Impossible, 2011, mixed media

On a more serious note, Hatfield references the Swamp Thing in his painting Plotting happiness and flinging empty bottles. The Swamp Thing was a comic book character that the artist remembers from his childhood, a scientist devastated by exposure to toxins that transform him into a creature composed of plant matter, who then becomes a tragic and heroic protector of the environment. Hatfield’s characteristic pastel underpainting is overlaid with black photographic depictions of a sinking ship and tire-filled toxic sludge from which the Swamp Thing emerges. The speech balloon in the upper center of the canvas remains empty. Could it be that in the face of disaster threatening human existence, we have no coherent response?

In a change of pace, Hatfield has created several dioramas in addition to his paintings. A notable example is his wall-mounted King of the Impossible which features a tiny half-figure—who might be the Invisible Man–on an elaborate decorative plinth overlooking a fantasy landscape, complete with a stegosaurus at one end of the scene and a tiny lambkin by a pool at the other. The rocky scene seems to float in mid-air, and the relationship of the figure above to the goings-on below is unclear, at least to me. Still, the whole thing is pretty entertaining.

The comic satire of Hatfield’s paintings moves us to both laughter and chagrin, while the emotional complexities of Mary Fortuna’s fabric creations gently and humorously remind us of our human connection. It’s clear that both artists have thought long and hard about where the human race has been and where it’s headed, and have come away with some serious reservations. But they also intuitively understand that it’s not the job of the artist to despair.  Nostalgia and Outrage, instead, offers us hope against all odds, a feast for the eyes and food for thought in this wintry season.

Mary Fortuna and Adrian Hatfield @ Oakland University Art Gallery until March 24, 2024.

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