Cosmologies @ CCS Center Gallery

Making Inner Space of Outer Space

CCS Group Installation

Cosmologies, Installation view – All Images Courtesy of Sarah Rose Sharp

Aesthetically, the three-person show Cosmologies, which opened at the CCS Center Galleries on January 23rd and runs through the 27th of this month, reminds me very much of a Hubble telescope picture series of a formation called formation called Pillars of Creation in the Eagle Nebula—a star-forming region. Works by New York-based painter Assunta Sera draw directly from celestial events to create abstracted landscapes—or more accurately ‘spacescapes?’—and a full wall installation of spills of glass by Kim Harty touches down onto the floor, unavoidably suggesting the Milky Way, by association. These groups of (mostly) hanging pieces provide a lovely backdrop to four freestanding sculptural works by Detroit’s own Robert Sestok, which take pride of position in the center of the gallery. Using anodized aluminum gives a refined, gold cast to Sestok’s sculptures, more usually roughly rendered in crude iron scrap material, and creates a sense of weightlessness around the crumpled aluminum pillars—large-scale balls of metal stacked into well-balanced totem poles.

Cosmo4 Sera

Assunta Sera, Fragments Near and Far, 2015, Oil on canvas

The effect is quite lovely; it is worthwhile to avail oneself of a bench that accommodates time to sit and let the space hang around the viewer. The work is not particularly confrontational, but aside from the seeming tableau of outer space, there are deeper connections at play. Sera’s rejection of the straightforward recto-linear canvas shape in favor of irregular trapezoids and indented triangles is very much in keeping with one of the foundational principles of painting in the Cass Corridor school, in which Sestok is rooted.

Cosmo5 Harty

Kim Harty, Spill, 2016, Hot cast glass and baking soda

Similarly, Harty’s consideration of spills—for each piece of the installation is a frozen puddle of milky glass, arranged into a snaking pathway across the wall and floor—is dealing with incidental moments and commonplace events. Another tenant of the Cass Corridor school was the principle of dealing with materials immediate and available, and these spills, especially with their vague allusion to bodily or cleaning fluids, are an ultimate example of omnipresent daily reality. While the interplay of concepts and aesthetics can sometimes lead to friction, these objects and paintings coexist peacefully, forming a positive ambient space. Taken on their own, or set in another context, each individual body of work could have a different set of associations, but set together, they form a seamless environment.

Cosmo3

Robert Sestok, Anodized Aluminum Sculpture – installation view

“I didn’t start out trying to make a pretty show,” says CCS curator Michelle Perron, in an interview at the Cass Cafe. “The exhibit began with a longstanding interest in Assunta Sera’s paintings, since the 1980s, when I worked at the Michigan Gallery.” An encounter with Sera at a recent CCS grad event triggered a conversation that built into the seed for a show, and a studio visit to review Sestok’s newest “fantastic” body of work brought that seed into sprout. When Harty came on as head of CCS’s glass department, Perron found a previously untapped appreciation for glass as a medium. “Normally you could not get me anywhere near it,” she said. Harty’s full-wall installation draws the whole exhibit together, bringing the show into bloom.

That this serendipitous combination of very different artists has created such lovely celestial synchronicity seems appropriate, given the show’s theme. Perron declares that she had never seen the “Pillars of Creation” before I mentioned it, and the face that a reasonable facsimile has manifested within the CCS Center Galleries seems to me evidence of a higher order in the universe. While Perron demurs to embrace such New-Age association, as a native Californian, I am entirely comfortable characterizing this group show as deeply cosmic.

http://www.collegeforcreativestudies.edu/community-outreach-and-engagement/center-galleries

 

 

Desire Bouncing @ Wasserman Projects

Three Person Exhibition – Alejandro Campins, Nancy Mitchnick, and Alex Schweder

Installation image

Installation image, Courtesy of Clara DeGalan

The warehouse-scaled galleries at Wasserman Projects are a fitting site for an evolving, and continuously intriguing, dialog about architecture that began with its grand opening show, a glittering event featuring a life-sized, polychromed modular house- a spectacular building within a building. The vast space seems barely enough, however, to contain the work of the three artists in its current, architecturally themed exhibition, “Desire Bouncing.” It’s not so much the work itself that strains the capacity of the space (in fact everything is so gracefully installed and lit that one can fully experience each work on its own) as the raw ideas, romantic (and sometimes sexual) yearnings, and visceral snippets of emotional engagement that come spilling out of the work of these three mature, accomplished artists and ricochet around in the rafters, drawing emotional investment, in turn, back from the viewer. It’s surprising to be confronted with that so immediately in a show that turns on architecture. Make no mistake, this is not some dry, conceptual survey. I need to stick “chthonian” in front of “architecture” to begin to get my head around this work.

The centerpiece of “Desire Bouncing” lurks behind a huge theatrical curtain toward the back of the space. Though you can’t see it at first, you hear it everywhere, it’s the heartbeat of the show. That feeling you’re getting that the work here is not quite what it seems, is maybe alive? Yes. The slow beat that affirms it is the soundtrack of Alex Schweder’s sculpture The Sound and the Future. Enclosed in its own cavernous, red-lit space, The Sound and the Future is a massive, inflatable cluster of rectilinear and phallic forms crafted from silver and faux fur fabric that expands and contracts as air is pumped in and out of it.

Wasserman sculpture

Alex Schweder’s – The Sound and the Future – 2016 Image Couresty of JeffSusan Cancelosi

The sound that accompanies it is a track by Underground Resistance, one of Detroit’s and, as Detroit is the birthplace of Techno, the world’s first Techno groups. Reduced to a tenth of its speed, the track sounds like a slumbering dragon’s heartbeat. Stand in front of it and spend a few (or a lot of) moments being hypnotized by the constantly shifting forms that rise and droop in desire and repose, forming vaguely architectural structures as they engorge with air, and then breath-takingly yonic mouths that gape and close as the seductive silver fabric deflates. While two other works by Schweder describe, in two and three dimensional mock-up, alternatively designed living spaces that elaborately endeavor to keep their human occupants separate at all times, The Sound and the Future suggests no specific model for living, while emphasizing connection- juxtaposing the swaying stamens of the sculpture, a “women’s urinal,” also installed by Schweder, winks in a dark corner.

Image 2

Female Urinal, Quahog, – 2001 – Vitreous china 18″ x 32″ x 26″ Image Courtesy of Clara DeGalan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is a similar dialog with romance through form, albeit a quieter one, in the work of Alejandro Campins, which come from a series exploring interiors of historic theatres in Detroit.

Image 3

Alejandro Campins -Eastown Theater, 2015 Oil on canvas 59″ x 78″ Image Courtesy of Clara DeGalan

There’s a fine balance of linear and painterly effects in Campins’s big paintings, and he gets the iconic outlines of theatrical architecture just right, combining these solemn interior forms with interesting landscape embellishments, blurring landscape and interior in a now iconic view of Detroit’s half fallen, once grand temples to culture.

Image 4

Close-up section of Eastown Theater

The paintings seem to have been smoothed over with a squeegee at the finish, both drawing the eye back to dwell on the finesse of his surfaces, and enclosing the works tidily.

Where Campins’s works are quiet, somber, and canny, Nancy Mitchnick’s group of paintings and works on paper, which are the first you see as you enter the gallery (and which take a walk-through and return to begin to properly grasp) express the desire of the theme in a very different way. As an artist who lives in Detroit while making paintings about it, Mitchnick naturally has more skin in the game, and this work is raw, unfurling, and pulsating like a wound- or, perhaps, a damp flower unfurling its petals. Mitchnick’s works depict structures, abandoned, half fallen, lapsing into neglect, patched over, mantled in snow and drenched in directionless, otherworldly light.

Image 5

Nancy Mitchnik, Framed, 2016 Oil on linen 77″ x 111″ Image Courtesy of Clara DeGalan

Mitchnick builds these skeletal structures- alternating bars of multihued wood and sky- in slabs, scrapes, flourishes and caresses of paint that lay both her innocence and her deep knowledge utterly bare, valuing neither above the other.

Image 6

Nancy Mitchnik, Close-up Section of Water Damage, 2016 Oil on linen

What she is able to channel, through an intuitive understanding of form, color and the nature of paint, is the desperate, howling human element of which these empty structures have become the symbol. This narrative slips the bonds of language and history, running parallel to each while being neither. Bypassing all traditional means of visual storytelling in the landscape genre- objectivity, language, handsome technique- Mitchnick wrings a wildly romantic, purely emotional insight about death and the fecund, unglamorous resurgence that inevitably follows it, as naturally as certain forms and grids, for reasons we cannot put into language, draw on our very souls.

Desire Bounsing – Wasserman Projects  Detroit, Michigan – February 5 through April 9, 2016

http://wassermanprojects.com

 

A Glimpse @ Galerie Camille

Galerie Camile exterious

Galerie Camille, Exterior image on Cass Avenue

The Galerie Camille opened a group exhibition, Glimpse, January 22, 2016 under the new directorship of Melannie Chard, a Michigan native who has returned from New York City where she worked as Vice President, Head of Valuations,  Americas at Sotheby’s Auction House over the past ten years. The gallery is the creation and manifestation of Adnan Charara, Detroit artist and entrepreneur who purchased the building nestled in the heart of midtown on Cass Avenue, in the block south of Willis. He says, “The gallery was founded in 1987 and renamed after the birth of my daughter, Camille. I renovated the space in midtown Detroit and first opened my artist’s studio in January of 2012 with the gallery following in May 2014. In addition to regular exhibitions, we also provide support to estates and collectors who wish to sell art and antiques on the secondary market.”

John Mclaughlin

Spike the Punch Bowl, 2016 – Mixed media on canvas

John McLaughlin’s abstraction is a kind of mixed media of cut paper, some drawing, and paint where he embraces gesture from both natural and man-made imagery. The layers of his collage are purposely balanced both in shape, form and color. McLaughlin says, “ My art depicts a daily routine, combined with nature and music, with some mistakes along the way.” His array of hardline and organic shapes in his work Spike the Punch Bowl, becomes a field of balance where he allows the audience to form their own conclusions, a popular approach made by painters of the abstract field. I think he’s right about it when he says ultimately, “I make them because I like the way they look.”

Detroit Art Jondy Fruit of Klimt

Fruit of Klimt, 2016 – Photo on aluminum, 8 x 12 inches

The exhibition includes the work of photographer John Dykstra, whose photograph Fruit of Klimt, is a variety of Photoshop work on aluminum where he brings his attraction of Gustav Klimt’s women in robes, to his image. The solemn figure holds a pomegranate, the symbol of the ancient Greeks for the “fruit of the dead.” There is a theme to Dykstra’s work: when he uses the female figure in isolation, sitting at the end of a dock, asleep in an abandoned home, or floating in a marsh, in one word… loss.

Queen Bee

LISA SPINDLER/ SPINDLER PROJECT 
in collaboration with Dr. Lycia Trouton/ 
nail project entitled “DRIVEN” Queen Bee Photograph on paper Edition 1/25

Another photographer in the Glimpse exhibition is Lisa Spindler, whose large 40 X 60 black & white photo, Driven, is a close-up of hands that have stood the test of time. A Detroiter for the last 25 years, Spindler is a commercial photographer who has made a lot of time to produce personal work, particularly her black & white photographs of the nude female figure that uses classic composition and an acute sensitivity to light. I personally know a lot of commercial photographers who have a large body of personal work, and there is no shame in making a living with the camera for artists who must survive in today’s expensive world. Lisa Spindler’s work is divided up into categories where you find more art than product, where much is non-objective and abstract. The end result is finding your work in a gallery, instead of a high-gloss magazine. Works for me.

Camille Gallery Bill Harris

Totally Serious, 2015 Oil on canvas

Among the group of artists in the Glimpse exhibition, is the representational painter William Harris, whose Totally Serious oil painting captures the figure in multiple positions overlaid with light and movement. His work carries a commentary, and he has to keep is eye on the blurry line between a painting and an illustration. His draftsmanship and composition seems to be headed towards painting. When he opens the scale of his work to larger dimensions, good things could easily happen.

Opening and pursuing a gallery business is a noble and altruistic venture that everyone in the Detroit art community has to admire. “Glimpse is a window into what the gallery will be showing over the next year” says Melannie Chard, “We hope to provide opportunities to both seasoned and emerging artists.” Galerie Camille has a good location, a well-designed space, and ownership with a kind heart.

The Glimpse exhibition participants: Jon Parlangeli, Dessi Terzieva, Karianne Spens-Hanna, William Harris, MALT, Lisa Spindler, Scott Taylor, TEAD, Aimee Cameron, Brian Day, Robert Mirek, Paula Zammit, Paula Schubatis, John McLaughlin, Adnan Charara, Tony Roko, Alan Kaniarz, Kim Fey and John Dykstra.

Gallery hours are Wed-Sat 12-5. All other hours are by chance or appointment(313) 974-6737   info@galeriecamille.com

4130 Cass Ave, Suite C

Detroit, MI 48201

http://www.galeriecamille.com

 

Coleman, Gardner, & Egner @ N’Namdi Contemporary

N’Namdi Winter Line-Up :Warm Woodworks and Emotional Moving Blankets

ncoca

Each work by Johnny Coleman in his main gallery show at the N’Namdi Center for Contemporary Art http://nnamdicenter.org/ is dedicated to someone; “For Maya Angelou,” some say, or “For Wendall Logan,”—Andre Burbridge, Toni Morrison, Brother Yusef, Kamau Daaood, even one dedicated more generally “For the Poets.” This is fitting with the show’s title, Homage: Regular Folk, which reflects Coleman’s sense that these illustrious names “Are all regular folk…each of them is deeply connected to the people and cultures from which they emerged. They do not set themselves apart.”

Coleman2

Johnny Coleman “Poem for Brother Yusef”, 2015/16, Mixed media, audio

Coleman3

Johnny Coleman, “Lifted” (For Shoulders), 2015, Mixed media

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The homage is paid through totemic arrangements of found materials, including musical instruments, salvaged wood, and chalkboards. Coleman speaks of the chalkboards as a visual articulation of memory: “Though erased, one can see traces of what has been written there before.” But all of his materials radiate a residual energy, infusing his precisely finished woodworks with a sense of soul. The central, and most elaborate, installation features a tabletop composition supported by a base made of wood-framed chalkboard segments, which stands before an illuminated fabric scrim, amid a carpet of oak leaves. The scene is peaceful and full of autumn melancholy; gourds loll in the thick, even, scattering of leaves, two little stools support oregano and basil stuffed in bottle gourds. There is sense of an odd and elevated picnic in progress, with the table full of dry brown rice that serves to anchor a spread which includes a medley of spices, a bamboo flute, and a recovered radio set, among other items. Underscoring this ceremonial layout is an improvisation on “12 Bar Blues,” interspersed with found sound, including Yusef Lateef’s breath, and afternoon traffic outside the Detroit Public Library. Says Coleman, “The relationship between “Poem For Brother Yusef” and the blues piece emerging from within the installation, for me, speaks to the manner in which Yusef Lateef in particular, and jazz and the blues in general, serve as vehicles for the transformation of struggle and pain into something more than tenacity.”

Enger3

John Egner, “Two Tone Plinth 2012, Wood

 

Enger4

John Egner, “Al Dente Top”, 2012-15, Wood

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is just one of almost a dozen incredibly thoughtful arrangements in Homage: Regular Folk. The incredible care in finishing these materials creates smooth and engaging tones and surfaces that speak to the sonorous qualities that lend wood to be the base material of stringed instruments. The impact of wood as a versatile material is demonstrated perfectly in the works of John Egner in the Rose Gallery. The simply-titled Wood Constructions tells it like it is, with just over a dozen compact wall hangings that suggest architectural scale models or clusters of frame-shop samples, at a glance. The small, interlocking pieces of each arrangement build up layers of depth and an interplay of colors with natural wood tones, creating little modernist houses that perch somewhere between two and three dimensions. There is glorious tension here; one imagines each piece being constructed like a game of Jenga, with Egner precariously removing and adding little slips of wood, one at a time, to find the perfect stopping point between balance and collapse.

Saffell6

Saffell Gardner, – Cosmic Spirits, installation view

Saffell3

Saffell Gardner, One within the “Cosmic Spirits” series, 2015, 72 1/2” x 81 1/2”, Acrylic on moving blanket

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eschewing wood, but picking up on spiritual explorations, a new body of work, Cosmic Spirits, by Saffell Gardner fills the Black Box Gallery and stretches along the corridor. Inside the gallery, large-scale pieces rendered on heavily gessoed moving blankets layer riots of color and form over a base layer of geometrics created by the quilting of the blankets. Gardner first experimented with moving blankets as canvases during the 2014 Big Painting show, and finds them attractive for both the texture and the scale. “The quilting texture added the depth that felt was necessary for the spiritual aspect I wanted to convey in this series of paintings,” says Gardner. With the overlay of painted shapes—including the iconic Xhango, a double-ax shape that has been a recurring motif in Gardner’s work for quite a few years—and the underlying geometries places his work in conversation with Enger’s. The sense of cosmic exploration and connection to influential figures aligns it very much with Coleman’s. “What I see going on is my idea of a tribute to my ancestors the were lost during middle passage,” says Gardner.

All three of the shows, which will run at N’Namdi until April 1st, bring a unique perspective to the table, but the overall effect is quite seamless, with the mastery each of these artists brings to his craft grounding their playful and heartfelt explorations. Whether you’re interested in tributes to regular folk, meditations on cosmic spirits, or just simple wood constructions, N’Namdi’s winter line-up has something inspiring to offer.

52 E Forest Ave, Detroit, MI 48201     (313) 831-8700

http://nnamdicenter.org

 

 

Tim van Laar @ Simone DeSousa Gallery

 

van_laar_overall

Timothy van Laar, Installation All Images Courtesy of the Simone DeSousa Gallery

Moving from one work to the next in “Reliable Data,” Timothy van Laar’s solo exhibition at Simone DeSousa Gallery, is a visual treat and an intellectual puzzle as no painting show that looks like this has the right to be. On the face of it, there’s a lot of painting out there that looks like van Laar’s- his work displays many accoutrements that flip the “contemporary painting that’s coming back and talking about itself” switch in my brain. There’s intentionally bad painting, and there’s a veneer of irony. There’s also ample reference to painting. And yet… “Reliable Data” is so much more than the sum of these parts. In fact, it’s recalibrating how I think about contemporary painting that looks like this. Everybody else is doing it crappily. Van Laar is doing it as it should be done!

9. The book of Black and White

Timothy van Laar, The Book of Black & White

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First, there’s the bad painting. Van Laar engages it as a trope (in fact he renders the clumsy movements of a novice mistreating oil paint so astonishingly well it’s kind of a painting of bad painting) but- importantly- doesn’t take it over the top. Where “the top” is with intentionally bad painting I can’t quite pinpoint, but most of it tends to feel lazy and dull, which van Laar’s work could not be further from. Perhaps it’s in his careful curation of which elements in each work are painted badly and which with razor-sharp technical precision, which becomes a part of the humorous contrast between the elements. Why, for instance, is the hummingbird in “We Hope for Better Things” executed at such huge scale, in such obscenely inappropriate slashes of poorly handled tonalities, while its companion object, an old-timey microphone, diminishes in both size and belabored treatment almost to a crisply blocked silhouette?

van_laar_We Hope for Better Things

Timothy van Laar, We Hope for Better Things

Speculations about the various groupings and treatments of the visual elements in van Laar’s paintings open a path to divining his content. The paintings have such singular, oddball logic, such crystalline method moving from one to the next, they make you want to do this. The objects that appear in van Laar’s paintings tend to the refined, the intellectual, fragile… In fact the word is dainty. A precious blue and white Chinese vase, various diminutive birds, noble stacks of books. These refined objects are usually the ones given the bad painting treatment, however, as if their value provokes too much devotion to handle with a light or a skilled touch.

8. The Book of Color

Timothy van Laar, The Book of Color

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The forms of these object’s encasement and amplification- cardboard boxes, a microphone- are presented in a linear, matter-of-fact way. The frisson between these two extremes of representation gets more and more fascinating as one begins to wonder just what is being communicated here. Alongside the visual dialog is a narrative progression- van Laar’s paintings entice like Egyptian hieroglyphs.

Finally, there are the references to art history, which reminds me of my first impression of the work’s ironic air. There’s nothing ironic about van Laar’s paintings, really- my knee-jerk response was wrong. There’s delight, and amusement, and even some reverence, in the recognizable reproductions of forms from Matisse and Calder’s toolboxes- modern art’s relationship with color is distilled by a large, linear disco ball festooned with color swatches sprung straight out of a twentieth century cardboard box. The work in “Reliable Data” makes clear the rock solid scaffolding on which it is built, and its careful curation of visual and intellectual indexes brings the true refinement so amusingly failed at in the poorly painted precious objects. While it’s said that fine art presents a set of problems to which there is no logical solution, I left Timothy van Laar’s exhibition feeling that his read was, indeed, reliable.

“Reliable Data” is on view at Simone DeSousa Gallery until February 28. https://www.simonedesousagallery.com