Different is not better — Review of DAM Biannual [sic] All Media Exhibition
This past weekend I was at a party with some friends from college. As the conversations ebbed and flowed, one observation struck me. A life-long Michigander found it refreshing when I told him living in Boston was okay – it had its positives and negatives. I did not think anything about that statement. Yet he noticed that whenever he asks someone about their new life in a new city far from home, that person overflows with platitudes about how great their new location is. My wife and I also observed the strange credence people give to individuals that come from another area, and the farther from home the more sophisticated people assume they are: “You’re from London, wow!” In a similar stereotype about an area rather than a thoughtful assessment of a person, a political pundit on NPR the other day said something along the lines of, “Romney needs to be able to talk to sophisticated people and people from Idaho.”
A lot of people like simple narratives: “The people over there are really smart, and the people over here are really dumb.” At least, a lot of people I come across and a lot of people that post comments on opinion pieces seem to like simple narratives. Especially in this 24 hour news cycle and the instant opinions on Facebook, Twitter, and countless “comments” entries, people make broad generalizations based on nothing more than assumptions about a place or a background or popular opinion. I know I have fallen victim to this easy out.
The different is good logical fallacy creeps into the art world a lot. Because something strikes you as different, it can be an introduction to a new and substantive expression of an artist. Yet sometimes different is just different, and should not be valued as a compelling expression of an artist’s truthful response to the world.
The Detroit Artists Market’s current show is its Biannual All Media Exhibition 2012. This show features pieces that are different just to be different, and it features pieces that show an artist’s truthful response to the world. Leon Johnson juried this show, which showcases a hodgepodge of different objects. Knowing the talented artists that are active at DAM, I was disappointed by several of the pieces selected for this show. I was particularly disappointed by this mishmash of artists in light of DAM’s historical marker this year: DAM is celebrating its 80th year.
The piece that I found the most disappointing was actually picked as the Best of Show, untitled by Daniel Steadman. It is merely rubber bundled and hung on the wall. I could read a lot into the piece about it reflecting an individual’s tension, but I think that would be reading too much into the piece (and likely giving to0 much value to the artist’s sensitivity without proper execution). I also thought that A Night at the Movies by Lorraine Trovato-Cantori did not meet the usual quality standard of DAM. The piece has strong color and line use, but the lack of technical skill to render the car properly is distracting.
I thought the strongest pieces of the show were also the pieces that were designated as Exhibition Committee Selects. Military Wedding by Jim Hittinger is a black and white oil painting that captures a wedding scene in a mysterious and intriguing way. This artists uses a unique composition and technique that resonates as a fleeting memory and a fascinating open narrative. The other piece that grabbed me was a display rack of salt and pepper shakers. The colorful shakers each have a small leopard print thong painted on them. The organization and display of this piece, along with the humorus details, shows an artist that builds on the strengths of ready-mades, kitsch, and pop to create a captivating art object.
The Biannual All Media Exhibition 2012 runs through Thursday, May 24.
Exhibiting Artists: Douglas Bedard, Jennifer Belair, Jef Bourgeau, Alan Casadei, James Collins, Charles Dean, Barbara Dorchen, Jan Filarski, Mary Ann Grauf, Jim Grogan, Jim Hittinger, Tony Hope, Rosemarie Hughes, Ralph Jones, Steven Kuypers, Marco Mancinelli, David Mikesell, Michael Reid, Jackie Rines, Yvette R. Rock, Michael Sklenka, Daniel Steadman, Jeremy D. Thacker-Mann, Lorraine Trovator-Cantori, Ryan Weiss.
Detroit Artists Market
4719 Woodward Avenue
Detroit, MI 48201
Tuesday – Saturday
11:00 A.M. – 6:00 P.M.
DAM is free to the public.