Pure Detroit: Nine Detroiters Exhibit at Art Channel Gallery, Beijing, China

Pure Detroit: Nine Detroiters Exhibit at Art Channel Gallery, Beijing, China

February 14th through March 15th
Selected by the Museum of New Art (MONA)

Changing Cities is a project initiated by Jef Bourgeau, director of MONA, in order to swap artists from the Detroit region with their counterparts in other cities around the world. In the latest installment of its Changing Cities artist exchange, Detroit’s Museum of New Art (MONA) will send the artwork of nine selected artists from Detroit to Art Channel Gallery in Beijing, China.

Previous exchanges have brought a show of Chicago artists to the Detroit museum in 2007. A companion exhibit was followed in February 2008 with a show of Detroiter works at ThreeWalls Gallery in Chicago. The exchange has continued throughout 2008 with Galerie Lisi Haemmerle in Bregenz (Austria), and Galerie Eva Bracke in Berlin.

Pure Detroit will be the first exhibition of Detroit artists in Beijing and will be hosted by Art Channel Gallery from February 14th to March 15th, 2009. The first exhibition of contemporary Chinese artists in Detroit will be selected by Rose Jiang of Art Channel Gallery and follow shortly at Detroit’s Museum of New Art, showing here April 25th to May 30th.

Pure Detroit artists are Kyohei Abe , Ford Wallace Ford, Mary Fortuna, Kelly Frank, Cyrus Karimipour, Marla Karimipour, Corine Vermeulen-Smith, Vagner Mendon Whitehead and Alison Wong

1. Kyohei Abe

Kyohei Abe is always attracted to the eccentric elements and unsettling juxtapositions of natural and artificial elements. He is also fascinated by the unexpected errors that exist in the structure of order. Abe continuously is looking for juxtapositions and relationships that create new perceptions, which nurtures insight into the elementary nature of things. This tends to isolate the subject matter, and looks to the complexity in the simple structure of an image. The resulting intuitive images created tell a story, and become instructive.

A Japanese national, Kyohei has lived in the States since 1993. He earned a BFA in Photography from the College for Creative Studies in 1999, and was given CCS’ Artistic Achievement Award. In 2002, Kyohei earned his MFA in Photography from Cranbrook Academy. Working in the medical field as a Retinal Angiographer by day, Kyohei is also an adjunct professor at local universities where he develops curricula and teaches all levels in photography. Kyohei has been showing his works nationally and internationally.

2. Ford Wallace Ford

Ford Wallace Ford was declared a ward of the state at the age of four. Ford’s mother, unable to financially care for the child, had the young boy interned at the Pontiac State Hospital Children’s Ward until he was legally of age, at which time he was released into a half-way house.

Ford’s application of light and color in his work is painterly and yet contemporary at the same time, hinting at dark emotions. There is a sense of forced isolation, of two people sharing space yet disconnected, of a room within rooms. His work is a quiet poetry of understatement and misdirection. As our eyes drift across the work in search of a resting point, we invest the dark spaces between with a symbolic value: the alienation of life in an increasingly alienating world.

It was only at the age of forty-one, while spending craft time at a drug rehabilitation center, that Ford taught himself to paint. Since then his art has been exhibited from Asia to Europe, and across the United States.

3. Mary Fortuna

Mary Fortuna graduated from Wayne State University with a BFA in 1992. She has exhibited her work extensively in Michigan and elsewhere. Over a period of many years, she has served on the Forum for Contemporary Art at the Detroit Institute of Arts, and on the Exhibition Committees for the Detroit Artist Market, Detroit Focus and Paint Creek Center for the Arts. She is currently employed as Exhibitions Director at Paint Creek Center for the Arts. When she is not at work she sews and knits and plays with dolls.

Fortuna has concentrated almost exclusively on suspended sculpture for several years. Her works might incorporate hand stitched leather, carved wood, cast aluminum or resins, rubber, found objects, human and horse hair, fiber, or other materials. She says will always looking for a seamless, organic logic, something to laugh at, and a covert erotic tingle. My main purpose as an artist is to scare myself.

4. Kelly Frank

Installation by Kelly Frank

Kelly Frank’s work stems from a personal quest: looking for signs in the everyday, objects that seem to hold some coded mystical knowledge. The images become meditation symbols. Her work questions the making of meaning in visual life and the constructed nature of reality. She attempts to draw attention to the significance of subjective experience. Interpretation, uncertainty, and the search for meaning come into focus.

Kelly Frank was born in Wisconsin and grew up in Traverse City, Michigan. She moved to Detroit to study art at The College For Creative Studies and pursued photography with mentor John Ganis, earning her BFA in 2007. Frank is an MFA candidate at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, and has worked in the photography department under the guidance of David Hilliard, and currently Liz Cohen. Her work has been shown at galleries throughout the Metro Detroit area including The Detroit Artists Market, The Anton Art Center, Forum Gallery, The Tiffany Room, and The Museum of New Art in Pontiac. As part of the Changing Cities collective her work has also been featured in Bregenz, Austria and Berlin, Germany.

Kelly is a recipient of a Daimler Financial Award as an artist working with The Museum of New Art. Her work also appears in collections throughout the United States including the Center Galleries of The College For Creative Studies.

5. Cyrus Karimipour

Crowd by Cyrus Karimpour

Cyrus Karimipour’s photographs illustrate the liquid nature of memory through the combination of the familiar with the unfamiliar. He breaks his negatives down into character and setting, and rearranges the fragments to create new, often discordant, narratives. He directs unknowing subjects, throwing them into situations in which he determines where they belong. The scenes that emerge from this process become invented memories that encourage the seamless and spontaneous migration between the real and the imaginary, the authentic and the artificial, the explicit and implicit.

Memories are not static, but change a small amount each time we remember them, contaminated with each and every new experience we have. Anytime a memory is recalled, it is reassembled from fragments dispersed throughout the brain, and differs slightly from every other time it was summoned. As we change, so do our memories. It is not necessary that one’s memories be based solely on actual events, but rather, Karimipour affords himself the opportunity to tailor them to meet the feeling that recreates his encounter with those whom he has photographed. He sets up scenarios of how he chose to remember, or interpret his memories. He is able to take those with whom he has come in contact, if even briefly passing on the street, and create a grieving widow, a man paralyzed with the loneliness of old age, a predator, a peddler, a pervert.

6. Marla Karimipour

by Marla Karimpour

All of the scenarios Marla Karimpour paint are real places. She begins with a photo reference and then works in oils or pastels. Since the photos are taken from a moving vehicle, she makes instant assessments of a place and a scene. She enjoys using the long process of painting with oils to thoroughly investigate the fleeting moment of the snapshot. While she paints, she loses herself in the scene, and imagines she is actually living in that house, working that farm, occupying that space. Sometimes she becomes so lost that she can actually feel the sun on her face, the wind on her neck, hear the rustling of the trees, and smell the dirt and the green of the fields.

This series is an exploration of imagination. Marla finds such comfort in these narratives, almost like a return to something she has always known. They are unspectacular, every day scenes and places that we might just pass by without a second thought. Every once in a while, she likes to take a break and leave her own head to see what life might be like from a different perspective.

Marla Karimipour was born and raised in metro Detroit. She received her BA in Psychology from the University of Michigan and has had no formal painting instruction. Since beginning to paint seriously 12 years ago, Karimipour has exhibited in Nebraska, New Jersey, Florida, Wisconsin, and throughout the state of Michigan. She has also shown abroad in Bregenz, Austria and Berlin, Germany. Her work has been published in 2004 in “How to Paint Flowers and Gardens”, a book published by International Artist Magazine, and in a feature article in the December 2004 issue of American Artist. Karimipour has placed numerous works in private collections in Michigan, Wisconsin, New York, and Berlin. She continues to live and work in metro Detroit with her husband and daughter.

7. Corine Vermeulen-Smith

Like a number of photographers before her, Corine Vermeulen-Smith is using photography to examine the city of Detroit, but in her series Your Town Tomorrow she doesn’t focus on its notorious and well documentedurban blight, or its landscape of neglected lots and shuttered factories. Instead she documents community gardens, urban prairies, the personalized spaces of the homeless, and new plantings on abandoned properties. Additionally, Vermeulen-Smith also photographs some of the people who are coordinating and participating in these efforts, in some instances including their commentary or biography as accompanying text.

Born in Gauda, the Netherlands, Smith now lives and works in Southwest Detroit. She completed an MFA in Photography at the Cranbrook Academy of Art, Cranbrook, Michigan, and a BFA at the Design Academy Eindhoven, The Netherlands. Her photographs have been exhibited at the Museum of New Art, Pontiac, Michigan; the Wainger Gallery, Cranbrook Museum of Art, and other venues. She has twice been the recipient of project grants from the Netherlands Foundation for Visual Arts, Design and Architecture.

8. Vagner Mendonça Whitehead

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This series of drawings utilizes letters and other orthographic marks to form diverse representations. The emoticon phenomenon has expanded beyond being merely facial expressions to aide interpretations in digital exchanges (email, IM, text messaging, et cetera). They now personify things and beings, by creating resemblance via symbolic sequencing, spacing and organizing.

Rendered with color pencil on seventeen by fourteen inches paper, this ongoing series aims to emulates children’s drawings commonly found in refrigerators across the nation. In times when mediated experiences may outnumber immediate ones, one supposes that what sparks one’s imagination may originate in the screen, not the in mind or from actual contact.


9. Alison Wong

by Alison Wong

Alison Wong is a first generation Chinese American, born and raised in Illinois. She received her BFA from The Maryland Institute, College of Art and MFA from Cranbrook Academy of Art. Wong has exhibited in the United States, Europe and Asia. Since completing her Masters Degree, Wong has curated a number of exhibitions in the Metro Detroit Area and is currently the Exhibitions and Education Coordinator at The Art Center in Mount Clemens, Michigan.

Wong’s work focuses on romance, relationships and love. Within each piece, the work finds balance or rather flickers between two independent ideas. The imagery has both masculine and feminine connotations. Opposing ideas are dealt with aesthetically, in the handling of medium as well as setting hard-edged objects upon soft atmospheric grounds, or representing objects with a feathery touch. Both imagery and content are light hearted and sugary sweet but are executed in a slow, painstakingly serious manner. An attempt at subverting the harsh realities of adult love, the works speak of innocence and fantasy. Each piece is a romantic love story. It’s the kind of love that sweeps you off your feet.