Detroit: Breeding Ground Exhibit Lives On In Print and Video

Detroit: Breeding Ground Exhibit Lives On In Print and Video

alt textMichael McGillis, “Grommet”

Politely curious about why I have been redefining my base in Detroit, my son asked, “what are things like in Detroit?” After he has been living and working for ten years on a bucolic campus in Alexandria Virginia and now living on a boat in Seattle for three years I knew his question really meant, “why the hell are you still there dad?” “It’s an interesting experiment”, I said simply and proceeded to describe my attempts to comprehend and report on the myriad and disparate creative changes occurring in the midst of uncertainty and desperation.

For two years I have been describing our city as a blank canvass. It’s more like a continuously morphing pile of parts, objects, structures and spaces that any Cass Corridor artist would love to get their hands on. Many of them have along with curious transplants from other cities and countries. There are galleries, studios and performance spaces squirming out of crannies everywhere and striving for recognition. From store fronts, to warehouses and factories to bars and coffee shops to banks and bakeries. Any thing or space can look like, sound like or become something else.

Many people tend small farms and gardens, ride bicycles and recycle everything from junk to clothing to benefit the ecology or just as a means of survival. They make things to eat, wear, sell, trade, look at, listen to and talk about while pondering it’s existence.

In this environment a house that’s falling down, a pile of old tires or reclaimed lumber can become sculpture. Abandoned railroad tracks can become a greenway and path to the river front or an outdoor museum. A demolished building reveals a view with new potential. Each problem or obstruction becomes and opportunity. Each ever changing avenue and undefined neighborhood, the very atmosphere itself is a breeding ground.

alt textScott Hocking, “Tire Pyramid with Man and Dog”, 2006

The companion publication for Detroit: Breeding Ground Exhibition states: “The open-ended nature of sculpture dovetails perfectly with the free energy of artists working in Detroit and their relentless exploration of identity, location, and metamorphosis. Artists in the Detroit area have an unusual latitude of freedom to make art when, where, and with whatever materials or means the artist wishes, without censorship, guardianship or market-driven trends.”

alt textAbigail Newbold, “Making Home”, 2007 linen quilt, reclaimed cedar,
electricity, 14’ x 12 ‘ x 3’

“Detroit is at a turning point where the arts community is growing despite all other economic and environmental conditions forecasting that there is more to come for Detroit.”

The sixty four page illustrated booklet “Detroit: Breeding Ground” serves as a primer for outdoor art in Detroit, a discussion of its directions and merits and as art itself. It is a companion resource to the exhibition, consisting of multiple texts and images from various writers, critics, artists, and patrons of the Detroit arts community. It exemplifies the
diverse viewpoints on the state of sculpture and art-making within the Detroit social landscape. Many of the issues discussed in the panel are included in addition to others. Contributing writers include Vince Carducci, Patrick Gantert, Michael E. Smith, Dennis Nawrocki and Michael Stone-Richards. This is a book that every Detroiter and art lover should have. It can be found online here.

Curated by Kevin Beasley and Christopher Samuels the Breeding Ground exhibit compelled Detroiters and visitors alike to reconsider and appreciate space, structure, materials and beauty. It reminds us that “Sculpture is a limitless mode of art-making that assumes neither a specific material nor medium, rather it remains in perpetual dialogue with form be it a physical or conceptual representation.” The Exhibition was hosted by the Museum of New Art and Gallery Director Jef Bourgeau. Exhibiting artists include Kevin Beasley, Steve Coy, Nathan Morgan, Abigail Newbold, Christopher Samuels, Andrew Thompson and Brandon Walley.

If you missed the exhibit you can still benefit from its presence in Detroit by viewing the discussions it evoked. The panel discussed the impact of the artists and their artwork while asking the critical questions of how is it effective? Why sculpture in Detroit and what does that mean? What exactly is public art to this community? And, most importantly, what does sculpture as the medium do for socialization, and cultural awareness? Panel participants include Vince Carducci, Chido Johnson, Rebecca Mazzei, Michael E. Smithan and Benjamin Teague Moderated by Dick Goody. The discussion was video recorded and presented in sixteen parts on YouTube.

More information about Detroit: Breeding Ground and its participants can be found here and here.