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Out of the Ashes

Mitch Cope: The Tangent Gallery



Mitch Cope is director of The Tangent Gallery. A large open space devoted to exhibiting experimental contemporary art that is experimental . The gallery promotes one-person exhibits, collaborative projects and an annual emerging artists group show. By showing work on a grand scale, as it was intended, The Tangent Gallery hopes to educate and instigate a better dialogue among artists, art connoisseurs, and the community.

WHY DETROIT?

My family is here, which is the simplest, obvious answer. My work was inspired by Detroit when I started school here at CCS. When I moved to go to grad school (Washington State University), I couldn't shake that idea of Detroit, the images of Detroit and … the … emptiness of it. It's funny - when I went out there I tried doing the same things I did here ... I ended up doing very small, detailed, textured kinds of paintings, intimate, almost like little pieces of Detroit. I ended up moving really far away to get really close …

But then I felt like coming back, because Detroit was a blank slate basically - it was burnt out, and I could do what I wanted. I felt like I wanted to do something for Detroit, just because I was born here, and it needed people because everybody left. I felt I had some responsibility. I don't think one person could ever save it, I am not that ambitious. I just wanted to try to make a mark, to improve something. I had no idea what that meant. All I wanted to do was make my own work. I had no idea that (my work) would become a little bit more public with the gallery.

WHY AN ART GALLERY?

(When I moved back to Detroit) there was no art community at that time, or at least not a a very big one. And that was frustrating for me. I felt that wherever I looked the interesting artists were elsewhere. … That led to coming into seeing this space … and hearing [building owners Robin Buckson and Joe VanBael] whole vision of trying to start an art community. I thought it would make a great gallery, but [then partner Helen Bevan] was the one who took the torch and decided she wanted to do it. Then I started realizing that without even thinking about it, I was starting another important chapter of the Detroit art community.

The Tangent Gallery was actually a response to other galleries in general. I wanted Detroit art to be held at a higher level, I wanted the artists to be held at a higher level. I didn't like giant group shows. I wanted to be able to create a dialogue by showing artists on a large scale and all their work - so that everyone can get an idea of how thorough artists are, how hard they work and how much work they produce.

I also wanted to introduce people who don't show in Detroit, or don't show on this scale. Now I am to some extent doing that - by bringing in artists like Cai Guo-Qiang, who I really admire. (Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang comed to the DIA March 5th through the Forum for Contemporary Art www.dia.org/information/modern.html)

WHAT ARE YOUR HOPES FOR THE FUTURE OF THE TANGENT?

To not only show local artists, but to use the gallery as a tool to show artists from all over the place. Basically staying on the same path that I am and hopefully make more money -make money [laughs]. The things that I see in the immediate future are just cleaning up the place, getting some windows, making it more visible. I want to be able to communicate with the art community on a national level and maybe international level. Which is something that also frustrated me about Detroit's art community - we didn't export, we didn't import very much.

One thing that's great about this (large of a space) is that we can do crazy stuff … things that are abnormally large or abnormally experimental. Ed's Sykes' show that is coming up after the house show, he is building a machine that makes sculpture …. Stuff that can be site-specifically made for the gallery.

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT THE FUTURE OF DETROIT?

I am kind of worried about it …. the seeming lack of support for the arts. Detroit has so many problems it is hard to tell how to tackle any of them. From simple things like trying to buy a building - I don't understand why the city can't control that and say hey, we have to get rid of these abandoned buildings - we have to get people in there using them.

I think Detroit will become more known for its arts. I think that's the first thing that comes out of the ashes - creativity, growth, life. It hasn't been until the last five, ten years that we have been coming out of the ashes. I think it will become a real city again. … it is already started to go in that direction. There are people who are establishing themselves here, who are not temporary. Just the fact that Joe and Robin the owners, have bought this building and doing what they're doing and allowing me to do what I do….

There are lofts going up and down the street. I think it will become more of an artistic kind of community. It is a very creative, workman based, hands on, community and I have a feeling that it will become more known for that - crafts, arts and design.

The Tangent Gallery: 715 E. Milwaukee, Detroit. 313-873-2955
Gallery Hours: 12 -6 Wed - Friday & 12-5 Sat.

 

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