Johua White and Gary Panter’s Light Show and Let’s Talk about Love, Baby at the MOCAD, Once Upon A Time at the DIA

Johua White and Gary Panter’s Light Show and Let’s Talk about Love, Baby at the MOCAD, Once Upon A Time at the DIA

by Clara Griffin

Two fun shows just opened at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit. Joshua White and Gary Panter’s Light Show displays the work alongside the tools of Joshua White, designer of graphics and visual effects for musical acts from the Sixties onward; colored oil light shows, trippy posters, lots of brain-bending color juxtapositions, and Gary Panter, stage set designer of Pee-Wee’s Playhouse fame, collaborated on a beautiful light installation at the entrance to the galleries. Amorphous, rainbow colored light forms float across a long, murky screen. Around the other side of the screen, a hanging cluster of mirrors cut up into rounded shapes rotates slowly, throwing rays of light from various surfaces. It’s a cool moment when you realize that beautiful projection is made by an actual, corporeal device; I’d assumed without thinking that the image had to be digital. That’s the most interesting thing about this show- the tactility of it! The fact that light projections, posters, fliers, films used to require all this big clunky equipment to become reality, just thirty years ago. The psychedelic aesthetic is intense and cool to see in a museum setting. Large cases house chaotic piles of artifacts like old postcards and goofy little upright flashlights I remember from my early childhood, garnished with crumpled up bits of gold foil. Everything’s been through the ringer enough times to have a stickily authentic feel. The decorative feel, elaborate, labored drawing, and amorphous fields of color in psychedelic art seem timely now, as well. Much popular drawing has that same aura of a winking, slightly deranged, free-associative imagination running free.

Let’s Talk about Love, Baby, the other show on view at the MOCAD, is an interesting companion to the Light Show, the prominence of love in the countercultural discourse of the Sixties bridging the two. One part consists of a dim, library-like space with shelves displaying a collection of “romance novels” made by artists. The variation in design, materials and concepts was pretty dazzling; latex, concrete and feathers appear in book form. My favorite title was “Fist of Fatima.”

Rembrandt hasn’t been the only great offering at the DIA of late. On the last day of that storied exhibition I went to try and see it but, finding it beyond sold-out, instead wandered into the “Once Upon a Time” show in the Schwartz Galleries. A collection of illustrations by venerable artists, “Once Upon a Time” is delightful, and features lots of David Hockney, whose works on paper are getting some new and richly deserved attention. Check out his illustrations for “The Rake’s Progress” displayed along with Hogarth’s illustrations for same. The two images for the part when the rake marries an old maid are hilarious together.