The Detroit Artists Market
4719 Woodward Avenue
Detroit, MI 48201
May 2 through May 25.
There is a lot of good art going on in Detroit. With “Selecti” DAM showcases a great deal of it, actually so much that it proves difficult to engage in a meaningful dialogue with all of the work present. This was obviously the case in the Members’ Invitational Show in which the artist’s for this current show were selected from. In the case of that marathon art event its peculiar nature justified the overflowing amount of art on display. Juror Lawrence Rinder, Curator of the Whitney Museum of American Art, has chosen twelve artists out of the original body of 91 which represents a diverse slice of what Detroit has to offer. There is a lot of strong work to see, though some works seem overwhelmed by the others and hence don’t receive the attention they are due.
Kate Silvio’s sculptures sit prominently inviting one to take them in from all angles in order to discover new aspects of the pieces not visible from other viewpoints. Their size and presence are reminiscent of children’s playground equipment – and the recurring saddle shapes seem ready for a child to clamber up and sit upon or perhaps the artist herself balances upon them so, in order to wrestle the forms into shape. One particular piece, untitled, rises off the floor like a bent shark fin, solid with the exception of a funneling, teardrop shaped hole. This piece is both gravity defying, as it leans precariously to one side, and perhaps gravity defining – as some cosmologists speculate that the shape of the universe resembles that of a saddle. Comparing Silvio’s sculptures to hypothetical models of the universe may seem a bit of a stretch but the hole that weaves through them does connect one surface to an otherwise distant other side – a wormhole (a shortcut through space) if you will. The hole functions as both a portal to look through and a means of increasing the surface of the sculpture. Though abstract, lifeless metal, Silvio has infused these pieces with a seemingly good-natured personality that makes them a joy to encounter.
Jason Brougham continues his search for ways to accomplish representation through abstraction. Brougham makes energetic, yet spare marks in ways (as mentioned previously in this space) reminiscent of Bacon and Mitchell, and also of Eastern brush work. Strokes of rust, white and burnt colors weave in and out, and on top of one another over the aluminum surface – a new aspect of his paintings, which changes how the marks interact with the surface. Brougham’s work is constantly evolving in materials and technique, as does the imagery itself – marks appear, get erased, painted over and reshaped. In our culture, we immediately recognize a certain configuration of lines represents an idea of a face. (It should be pointed out that in some cultures this recognition is not so forthcoming and the connection between picture and reality must be learned.) However what system of marks represents the changing nature of a face itself? This is not so easily answered, but it is a challenge Brougham has opted to pursue. Perhaps active marks depict a face more accurately than “” What is most exciting about Brougham’s work is his constant reinvention or evolution. Evolution is often mistaken for growing toward a best form, when in fact it is a process of continual change allowing forms best suited for a particular environment to survive to the next generation. The paintings in Selecti are not the end all of Brougham’s work but a step in a lineage that looks to take on many new and fascinating forms as he continues this exploration.
Andrew Malone brings a delightful new presence to the art scene. He has constructed wooden toys (with metal fastenings) that are a fantastic blending of inventiveness, playfulness, and social commentary. This body of work, entitled “1967 Detroit Riots Chess Set” is just what it says – a full chess set, complete with playing board, where each piece takes on imagery from the riots and its equivalent chess piece. In dark and light wood, the two sides are representative of chess and the race issues that divide this city. Each piece has moveable parts and perhaps the best thing about them – you are allowed and expected to make them move! While pieces like the pawns all share similar attributes to make them recognizably pawns, they are also completely unique. The pawns all have a person trying to elude the sniper scope they are caught in. One carries a stolen TV while another is simple running. The rook is a house which opens to reveal a man inside threatening the lady of the house. The craftsmanship, care and thought into each of these is amazing, and Malone has really not missed a trick here. He’s thought about all the aspects of this undertaking and executed them creating something that is enjoyable on many levels and takes a certainly unique look at a difficult and influential time in Detroit’s history. It’s a terrific combination of wonder and thoughtfulness that one immediately wants to take home.
Nine more artists make up the Selecti show, as disparate in art making as the three profiled above. A little about the rest here:
Sacha Eckes brings her cartoon character to a series of collaged images linked by yarn. “Understanding Comics” author Scott McCloud writes that “When you look at a photo of realistic drawing of a face you see it as the face of another. But when you enter the world of the cartoon you see yourself.” By creating this recurring character, Eckes allows her viewers not to be detached and see this character and its troubles as something that they themselves experience.
Allison Warren creates pleasing compositions with colored inks. Cursive writing blends into amorphous ink cloud forms floating off center on the otherwise white page. They are undeniably attractive images, in that way that a cloud in the sky makes one want to keep looking at it float by.
Some of Mary Fortuna’s biologically and totemic inspired creations hang from the ceiling. These soft sculptures have a whimsical quality about them and a disturbing one in the same breath. By mixing biology and mythology, Fortuna has created a body of work that touches something primal and essential about where life comes from.
Robert Quentin Hyde’s paintings are a patchwork quilt of energetic and vibrant color. Female figures and other symbols fit together to make the figure and the ground of these works. The surfaces are thick and sculptural, and Hyde also leaves the plane entirely to make objects thematically tied to the paintings.
Sandra Cardew’s sculptures are at once hauntingly beautiful, and yet rather disturbing. Perhaps the feeling is like viewing a dressed up corpse – you want to look away but it draws you in. With delicate craftsmanship she has stitched together cloth, leather and other found and created elements to make these entities and draw viewers into the world these creatures inhabit.
Stephen Magsig’s paintings are excellent compositions crafted from building architecture to make portraits of these edifices. This time out we get to look at some striking monochromatic images of building cornices executed in a way to be mistaken for photographs by Magsig. He makes great use of cropping and shadows to present a unique, personal view of his subject matter.
Paul Snyder is an accomplished figure painter. He brings a surreal twist to this body of work by cutting out the figures and placing them on solid colored backgrounds. By removing the figures from any reference point, viewers can look at them purely as subjects, entirely devoid of context.
Maurice Greenia, Jr. gives us a little taste of the raw, expressive imagery that make up his painting world. Primitive figures inhabit his paintings – whimsical and troubled – they ask deeper questions about society.
Eric Meier creates a world of mysticism and psychology, and transforms it into art with his lively, emotive pencil work. One can imagine him scribbling furiously – channeling other worlds onto the paper.
Selecti would make three or four pretty nice group shows. So come by check out a few, then come back again a time or two to take in a different body. Each artist offers a different take on art that deserves its own look. – nick Sousanis
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