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July 31, 2013

Six Paintings, Six Stalls: A Hamtramck Pop-Up

by Jim Welke

Pop-Up Art Show In Hamtramck

Pop-Up Art Show In Hamtramck by Dylan Spaysky

Artist Dylan Spaysky staged a pop-up art show in Hamtramck on Saturday, 27-July-2013. The pop-up appeared in a defunct car wash near his home. Titled “Six Paintings, Six Stalls,” it featured these artists: Curtis Glenn, Ashley Cook, Robert Sestok, Tiny Little, Josh Smith, Nolan Simon. One of those self-service places, the car wash edifice consists of six drive-through stalls where customers pulled in, dropped their quarters in the machine, selected soap, rinse, or wax, and the hose suspended from overhead supports ejected the desired high-pressure stream to blast the grime and over-applied salt from the vehicle. This establishment fell into disrepair and the owner sold it to an adjacent business owner whose intentions for the site remain unclear. Regularly passing by, Mr. Spaysky concluded that the building, with its six isolated bays would be an ideal forum to show six paintings by six artists, each in a two-walled room devoted to the designated artist.

a stall at the Pop-Up Art Show In Hamtramck by Dylan Spaysky

a stall at the Pop-Up Art Show In Hamtramck by Dylan Spaysky

Above the former washing bays, birds found favorable conditions for nesting in the corrugated steel roofing hardware. Consequently, bird shit rains down and forms a guano laminate on the floor. The hoses and trigger actuated nozzles from the wash mechanisms no longer reside within, either removed for safekeeping by the building owner, or ripped out by metal scrappers who descend like locusts on any undefended ferrous fixtures. In the center of the floor of each stall, steel grids collected run-off from the washers. Now they collect guano, rainwater, and blown in detritus. Broken glass and other urban flotsam litter the floors. In one stall, a hefty wooden beam like you might find as the spine of an ancient trawler resting on the bottom of the Mediterranean (or Lake Huron) sprawls incongruously in this concrete block and steel structure, its provenance a mystery. Outside, the canisters of quarter-fed vacuums stand like sentinels around the perimeter of the building, impotent centurions against the vandals at the gate.

impotent centurion, aka vacuum cleaner

impotent centurion, aka vacuum cleaner

Approaching the structure, down near the eastern end of Holbrook where it turns into Buffalo Street, at the intersection of Norwalk Street, you encounter the building positioned amidst various industrial operations, backed up by residential neighborhoods of modest frame houses, the kind developers threw up eighty years ago all over Detroit metro to house assembly line workers employed at the auto plants and their squadrons of suppliers.

Today, recent immigrants occupy many of those homes, and in choosing paint schemes that reflect those found in their home countries, bring a new palette to the town. That’s the upside. But the residents engage in exactly the same struggle that their predecessors did to carve out a niche in this unsympathetic ecosystem. That struggle comes harder now that crass, uninspired management teams shipped the majority of the once well-paid union jobs overseas, choosing the simplest, most obvious path to short-term profit and positive quarterly earning reports. If you work in the car industry and you’re not in the middle to upper echelons of management you’re a nobody, and management continues to erode hard won protections for labor garnered by once influential unions who now, like puppet states in a declining empire, mostly manage appearances as bystanders to an accelerating demise.

But let’s get back to the art:

Curtis Glenn presented a mixed media work that includes paint and collage. At the bottom, the word “ONE” appears with multiple overwritten characters in front of it, so depending on which your eye picks out, reads: BONE, GONE, or DONE (there seems to be an “A” in there, too). Stapled to the top, the artist added printed photos of this work in what appears to be the artist’s studio. The piece, awash in white space that may suggest uncertainty of intention, bursts with kinetic energy, like it will fling itself off the wall at any moment.

Josh Smith

Josh Smith

Josh Smith

Josh Smith

Josh Smith

Josh Smith

Josh Smith

Josh Smith

Ashley Cook (of North End Studios, Detroit) created a large still life painting that shows fruit and what might be seashells on a black background. An attractive piece on its own, it literally leaps out at you, as she sewed the canvas to a canvas backing and filled the ensuing pillow shape with eighty-nine helium balloons — a not trivial investment in lighter-than-air gas. She said she hoped the work would become airborne, but alas it remained grounded yet still very buoyant, lofting with every breeze that funneled through the car wash stall.

 

Ashley Cook

Ashley Cook

Ashley Cook

Ashley Cook

Robert Sestok contributed two nearly identical paintings, hung one atop the other so they appeared like frames in a strip of film. Each as close to identical to the other as might be achieved with brush and paint, in this case black and gray, with easy brush strokes seemingly tossed off rapidly. But done twice with pretty good accuracy, tossed off probably doesn’t describe the effort. These paintings show beard-adorned mouths that grin at you with abandon; inducing corresponding grins in all but the most morose viewers.

Robert Sestok

Robert Sestok

Robert Sestok

Robert Sestok

Robert Sestok

Robert Sestok

Tiny Little hung a large canvas depicting what appears to be layers of Jello or candy — at least to this writer — stacked nearly by spectral wavelength (yellow appears out of order). As such, it comes of as a cheerful, playful piece, fitting for a summer day in a carwash — even a broken down one.

Tiny Little

Tiny Little

Tiny Little

Tiny Little

Josh Smith brought what appears to be a woodcut print (there are no nice little title cards in pop-up shows in car washes to describe media, etc). In the work, Mr. Smith’s name appears with the letters askew, and spelled out beneath appears “Susanne Hilberry / Ferndale MI” — an art gallery in that town where, it turns out, Dylan Spaysky did at least one exhibition (In Bloom, 2011) as well as Mr. Smith who did a solo show there back in 2006. The date of that show appears at the top of the print. A bit of self-promotion perhaps — with irony, this being a defunct car wash and all. Reminds one of a print Claes Oldenburg did for a show at the Reuben Gallery.

Josh Smith

Josh Smith

Josh Smith

Josh Smith

Nolan Simon put up a small (8” x 10” -ish) painting of what appears to be a park scene where a horse, fitted out for work and harnessed to a cart bearing an overflowing pile of straw or hay, accepts an offering of a snack, or submits to a touch, from a girl in shorts, tee-shirt, and sneakers. The combination of modern attire on the girl and antiquated harness on the horse creates counterpoint that forces the viewer who might breeze by this dappled and blurred study of daylight and shadow to come back for a second look.

Nolan Simon

Nolan Simon

Nolan Simon

Nolan Simon

Please have a look at our site, artifizz.org, and check out some other reviews.

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rain brought the show to a close at around 7PM... but provided payback with an enduring rainbow

rain brought the show to a close at around 7PM… but provided payback with an enduring rainbow

 

wash?

wash?

June 11, 2013

Christopher Samuels :: New Works and Short Films

Christopher Samuels: New Works & Short Films opened on Saturday, 8-June 2013 at Popps Packing in Hamtramck.

For the show, Mr. Samuels divided the gallery into three rooms, one for film screening, one for dance, and one for installation work. For the latter, Mr. Samuels transformed the gallery itself into an installation. When you enter, your first thought might be, “What the hell?” The works make use of artifacts of the room to cloud the distinction between artwork and gallery. The gallery is the artwork. You will not see a white cube with objects and title cards beside them. In fact, the work here verges on participatory in the sense that the visitor feels disoriented, uncomfortable, unsure how to react — at least this one did, as did others asked for their reaction — visitors mill about, searching for landmarks in a strange dance of their own.

The room feels spare and industrial, unfinished. A sense of the place, Mr. Samuels said, dictated what happened in the room. He looked around at the odd shaped walls, with alcoves and doorways, and tweaked them with objects he placed thereabout. He hoped the objects would feel organic, he said. They do, but at the same time they are jarring — like a tumor, organic but indicative of illness. An LED light down under a sewer grate, glows upward like a compound-eyed alien trapped beneath the iron bars.

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A set of clinical white curtains across a wide doorway to an alcove, backlit with harsh florescent light, forms another work. That streaming glare from between those curtains, like an operating room dropped into this high-ceilinged former industrial space feels spooky; it almost makes you shudder, and it might if you were alone in that room.

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A semi-circular florescent tube set on top of a pipe outlet inset into the battered concrete floor, the electrical parts of the lamp concealed by a rag, glowed like a strange interface to some unseen, menacing machine.

Nearby, prints of three prismatic color smears in various orientations and resolutions hang beside a simple gray scale transition; all unlabeled, as though readily interpretable or usable to those in the know. But you are not in the know. At least not when you enter this room.

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A projector down near the floor shines the image of a hand, index finger extended, pointing to something unseen on the floor. A piece of glass, propped between the projector and the wall at a forty-five degree angle redirects a washed out facsimile of the moving, gesturing, imploring hand onto the adjacent wall.

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Shreds of foliage adorn an apparently functional gas meter, pipes projecting from a wall and disappearing through the concrete floor. The foliage might be reclaiming this room for Mother Nature, except the foliage is dead and desiccated. Reclamation aborted.

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A black and orange plastic spool rests inexplicably in the center of the room, in peril of stray kicks by passersby. No matter, its relevance, or irrelevance persists.

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Black plastic netting drapes the corner of one wall. Remnants of a former purpose that now only form patterns.

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Up high, concealing a row of windows, Mr. Samuels installed a semi-transparent mural comprised of multiple sheets turned out to the street. During the day, you see the mural in the room, but reversed, like a window sign. At night, the image fades and the sheets take on a pale blue due to insufficient light penetrating from outside.

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In the next room, Mr. Samuels ran his short films in a continuous loop. They are: Indian Shield (4:56), Loosie (4:00), Indian Jim (5:24). All of them projected a haunting sense that disaster lurked around the corner, but all imply disaster might yet be averted. The saturated color hints they were shot on 16mm film, but this effect could be digital magic. The sound comes a bit muffled at times, especially in a crowded room; words get lost.

Indian Shield and Indian Jim featured the same actor, telling a self-revealing story, but from slightly different perspectives. In Hollywood’s reductive shorthand, think Midnight Cowboy meets Blue Velvet: the images seem straightforward, but the soundtrack and the editing create a nasty sense of foreboding. Both feature a man recovering from a shoulder injury and subsequent surgery, but both were about more than that. Indian Shield included additional actors, scenes of the roiling surface of the sun (Indian shield?) and a narrator telling of times when it is safe to stare into its glare. A party, after much tossing back of shots, ends with a peculiar toast to art. The film ends with the lead actor and another man doing Tai Chi beside a porta-john, aching it seems to keep their shit together, even if they are the only ones who believe they actually might.

Indian Jim features the same actor and the same shoulder injury, but he does pushups here, insists on recovery, and ends with the man, shot face on, riding a bike through downtown Detroit at night. With both of these films, one gets the sense of watching a stranger kicked to the curb by a capricious labor market in a post-industrial town where a man without formal education credentials, or adequate drive to re-create himself, ends up disenchanted, deluded, and desperate for a leg up from a society that mostly doesn’t give a damn about him and wishes he would disappear. But he won’t — Mr. Samuels proves that.

Loosie, opens with a woman walking on the sidewalk in a rundown neighborhood. Soon she arrives at a dingy home. She rattles off numerous banal hardships in her life with a cigarette scratched voice, until she finally describes her home as a jail where no one visits. There are lots of close in shots, and her suffering infects the viewer with a desperate sense of malaise. The film ends with Loosie walking down the same sidewalk towards an unknown destination. Things may turn out all right, but one senses that for an impoverished and disenfranchised woman, life is nasty, brutish, and (mercilessly) short.

Towards the end of the evening as scheduled for the opening, Paul Bancell, Megan Major and Sam Horning performed a dance piece that both complemented and extended Mr. Samuels’ transformation of the gallery. They all moved with grace and emanated emotion that suddenly made the small space allotted to their performance seem large. Their use of the “found” stage — not a formal stage with formal lighting and formal wings — mirrored Mr. Samuels’ adaptation of the gallery space. The movement flowed effortlessly and gorgeously from the dancers, and this old meatpacking plant became somewhere else; took on a new set of dimensions.

Mr. Samuels’ show takes the typical polished, tightly curated gallery show and smacks it in the head. This is not the sort of show where “the women come and go / talking of Michelangelo.” You should feel out of your element here, whomever you are. The artwork of Mr. Samuels breaks standard assumptions about the presentation and constitution of art and erases standard descriptive vocabulary for such events. The art here might be described as dadaist (anti-art, embraces chaos, opposes conventional standards); postminimalist (uses existing objects, esthetic depends on form); fluxus (mixes media: sculptural objects, prints, painting, mural, film, music, dance, the gallery space, the audience, the happening, all of it!).

Or maybe its none of that, and just happens to be what Christopher Samuels gives us. No matter how you describe it, Mr. Samuels took a risk conceiving and presenting this show. It’s an all or nothing, what have you done for me lately world for artists, and one misstep can send their career off the rails. So I do define what the artist did here as real risk, requiring real premeditation, and that, aside from subjective artistic merit, is what separates this from what any six year old can do (to refute a remark in a review by a British newspaper of a Henry Moore show). We all need to be smacked in the head once in a while. The show runs through 29-June.

Here’s a poem to ponder:

Apology

Why do I write today?

The beauty of
the terrible faces
of our nonentities
stirs me to it:

colored women
day workers—
old and experienced—
returning home at dusk
in cast off clothing
faces like
old Florentine oak.

Also

the set pieces
of your faces stir me—
leading citizens—
but not
in the same way.

William Carlos Williams

 

June 10, 2013

SAY YES! :: David Edward Parker

Opening, "Say Yes!" at Hatch in Hamtramck 8-June-2013

Opening, “Say Yes!” at Hatch in Hamtramck 8-June-2013

by Jim Welke

“Say Yes!” — an exhibition of works by David Edward Parker opened Saturday, June 8 2013, at Hatch in Hamtramck. A crowd turned out — to get through the door of the gallery one needed to share several pardon me’s, excuse me’s, step aside pal’s to find their way into the exhibition space of what was once the police station for Hamtramck. The intrepid members of the Hatch artist collective purchased the building for a dollar and then invested countless units of blood, sweat, and tears to convert a former bureaucratic nerve center for agents of public order into a nerve center for agents of sometimes cerebral disorder: the wide-open expression of artistic observation and thought.

The two, of course, do not exist in diametric conflict. Art flourishes in nurturing communities, absent the ravages of crime, and right across the street, within the walls of City Hall, the new police station resides. The City of Hamtramck, however, recently fell under the rule of an Emergency Financial Manager, appointed by Governor Snyder as a result (the Governor asserts) of the grave financial situation burdening the city.

Yet, the arts flourish, and in turn nurture their community despite looming economic perils. One hopes the leaders of the city and the governor notice. A good turnout at Mr. Parker’s show means a good turn out for Hamtramck — positive press and all.

Once in, first thing to catch your eye will be three large works, untitled, constructed of wood frames, foam board, and hockey tape. Black hockey tape, crossing over itself in random directions like a maze of two dimensional tree branches. The tape (used to wrap the business end of hockey sticks) covers the entire surface. The artist formed the frames into irregular polygons; polygons that represent recurring shapes residing in the artist’s subconscious and resurfacing from time to time, as Mr. Parker related it. The odd shaped planes echo the random rectilinear patterns of the tape and together they form a cohesive slice of captured chaos, if that makes sense. The unrelenting blackness draws your eyes ever closer, as you unconsciously search for recurring patterns that do not exist. These works seem to toy with our fear of the empty void, the nothingness but not truly nothingness from which everything seems to spring, and to which ultimately everything returns.

Untitled (detail) / hockey tape on foam / 2013 / David Edward Parker

Untitled (detail) / hockey tape on foam / 2013 / David Edward Parker

Adjacent to the large black expanses are four smaller works, entitled “Nervous Geometry,” ingeniously made of graphite on folded paper where the graphite adheres most densely on the previously folded now pressed flat paper. The folds form intersecting straight lines, similar in pattern to those on the hockey tape pieces, but much narrower and much sparser on the sheet. Beside the large black polygons they seem to represent an evolution, passage of time, an expansion of space where the lines become farther apart as their universe expands… and worlds form. Or so this observer sees it.

Nervous Geometry / 2013 / David Edward Parker

Nervous Geometry / 2013 / David Edward Parker

Untitled / 2013 & "Nervous Geometry" / 2013 / David Edward Parker

Untitled / 2013 & Nervous Geometry (1 of 4) / 2013 / David Edward Parker

Another work, Y.E.$ – NFS (graphite on paper, 2011), a triptych consisting of sheets devoted to the characters “Y,” “E,” and “$.” With the pictures aligned side-by-side (and rounding a corner at the far end of the gallery) one immediately reads the word “YES.” But as you approach them, the characters resolve into individual lotto cards dropped like overlapping leaves, as one so often encounters these cards outside the ubiquitous “LIQUOR, LOTTO, CHECKS-CASHED” shops that seem to be the sole source of sustenance in Detroit neighborhoods. The discarded losing tickets on wet pavement stick to the soles of your shoes and insistently remind you of the eternal hopefulness, or in some cases desperation, of the purchasers of these long odd opportunities of chance. Comprised of hundreds of these tickets drawn with incomprehensible precision by Mr. Parker, this triptych seems to mock that syrupy mantra of lotto vendors and users, “You gotta be in it to win it.” The cheerful “YES” feels betrayed by its formation from hundreds of discarded losing tickets that represent many hundreds of precious dollars expended by hopeful or desperate purchasers, dollars that might be more profitably spent on food, clothing, transportation, or rent. The dollar sign at the end enforces this notion of state-sanctioned monitizing of hope.

"Y.E.$" / 2011 / David Edward Parker

“Y.E.$” / 2011 / David Edward Parker

"Y.E.$" (detail) / 2011 / David Edward Parker

“Y.E.$” (detail) / 2011 / David Edward Parker

Surrounding the uniform detritus of Y.E.$, you will see numerous images of crushed pop cans (All The Coolest Kids At 7-11[Coke], [Red Bull], [Four Loco] — colored pencil on paper, 2013) and cigarette packs (Flavor Country, colored pencil on paper, 2013). Like a post-post-modern take on Andy Warhol’s pristine soup cans and soap boxes, Mr. Parker shows these objects as we most often see them: crumpled litter soiling the sidewalks and gutters of our streets. In fact, we see them so often we almost do not perceive them, except convulsively when we cry out, “Shit! Who’s dropping all this crap?” and then comfort ourselves with righteous indignation and resume ignoring them. Here, Mr. Parker carefully renders the crap in both color and form, lifted from the gutter and dropped on a pure snowy white surface. Look at them! Perceive them, Mr. Parker seems to say, they are us, the perpetual output of our civilization, output that seems to have supplanted our prouder output of the past: solid, lasting, manufactured widgets that added convenience, productivity, and prosperity to our lives instead of dangerous crap.

All The Coolest Kids At 7-11[Coke], [Red Bull], [Four Loco] / colored pencil on paper / 2013 / David Edward Parker

All The Coolest Kids At 7-11[Coke], [Red Bull], [Four Loco] / colored pencil on paper / 2013 / David Edward Parker

 

Flavor Country / colored pencil on paper / 2013 / David Edward Parker

Flavor Country / colored pencil on paper / 2013 / David Edward Parker

Flavor Country / colored pencil on paper / 2013 / David Edward Parker

Flavor Country / colored pencil on paper / 2013 / David Edward Parker

Flavor Country / colored pencil on paper / 2013 / David Edward Parker

Flavor Country / colored pencil on paper / 2013 / David Edward Parker

Other work exhibited includes, Quite Revealing, a pink neon sign glowing low on the wall as though a strange interloper commenting on the show… or the visitors. A video, Pleasure Seekers, that captures a relentless stream of strollers at an auto show (Detroit?) gazing happily, wistfully, covetously at the landscape of the latest automobile models, but mostly it seems, just streaming dutifully through the show like pilgrims in Mecca. An untitled (though subtitled “pink sewing”, 2007) oil paint on canvas work hangs by itself in one corner, built from an accretion of nine smaller canvases sewn together, all painted in salmon-colored transitions from darker to light. To this viewer, the work suggested internal organs, squared off like a weird mystery meat patty, but with an eerie, austere elegance. But that might be the unique filter of this viewer’s eyes.

Untitled (Pink Sewing) / oil on canvas / 2007 / David Edward Parker

Untitled (Pink Sewing) / oil on canvas / 2007 / David Edward Parker

Go see the show for yourself. The works of David Edward Parker’s “SAY YES!” remain in the lockup at the Hatch precinct through 6-July. The show will startle and captivate you. Quite revealing, indeed.

June 3, 2013

U-Build It! Public Pool Artspace Invites Visitors to Create

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By Jim Welke

Public Pool Artspace held a well-attended opening 1-June for their exhibition U-Build It!, which “…takes the idea that art is pristine and untouchable and flips it on its head, and then gives it a little kick.”

Four Detroit metro artists, Mary Fortuna, Michael McGillis, Andrew Thompson, and Shoshanna Utchenik presented the foundations for artworks, which they invited gallery visitors to complete. At the opening, kids and adults collaborated to embellish the nascent installations, and as the evening progressed, so did the art.

Ms. Fortuna offered the skeleton of a multi-tiered mobile, and beside it a table full of hand-painted, hand-sewn, and otherwise hand-made pendants. Visitors selected objects from the table and suspended them from the mobile to create a groupthink kinetic sculpture.

by Mary Fortuna

by Mary Fortuna and visitors

by Mary Fortuna

by Mary Fortuna and visitors

Ms. Utchenik, an accomplished puppeteer, offered six miniature, open-sided buildings along with a low table and boxes filled with miscellaneous decorative paraphernalia. Children seemed enchanted by the opportunity to rummage through the assortment of pipe-cleaners, thread-spools, markers and pencils, plastic widgets, and what not and then translate these objects into inhabitants and furnishings for the buildings. For inspiration, Ms. Utchenik provided the following:

MAKE A LOVE MACHINE

HOLD A HOLD A MAKER MAMA

SHAKE A SHAKE A DAD-E-DO

CHICKADEE CHILLIN KICKADOWN TEAM

SET TO WRECK OUT THIS AMERICAN DREAM

REVVED TO JUICE UP THIS LOVE MACHINE

ASHES ASHES SPIT AND STRING

WE GOT EVERYTHING WE NEED

(YOU & ME & YOU & ME)

RULES:

1.     SAY YES (ADD, CHANGE, DON’T TAKE AWAY)

2.     BE KIND

by Shoshanna Utchenik and visitors

by Shoshanna Utchenik and visitors

by Shoshanna Utchenik and visitors

by Shoshanna Utchenik and visitors

 

by Shoshanna Utchenik and visitors

by Shoshanna Utchenik and visitors

Mr. McGillis installed SuperCellularEscent in the windows of the gallery. Comprised of open inter-locking hexagons, he encouraged visitors to pick from an assortment of cut tree branches, corrugated cardboard strips, and strips of foam-board insulation, and miscellaneous other flotsam and jetsam — a “curated surplus” as he refers to it — and add selected items to the cells, creating a “personal cell” and to “experiment with the material’s potential.” Contributors inserted objects and viewed their additions from both sides of the window, which created a steady flow of traffic in and out of the gallery and halted passers by on the street who took a moment to wonder at the work in progress and chat with gallery visitors.

by Michael McGillis and visitors

by Michael McGillis and visitors

by Michael McGillis and visitors

by Michael McGillis and visitors

by Michael McGillis and visitors

by Michael McGillis and visitors

Mr. Thompson appropriated one wall of the gallery for The Longest Line, “a simple game structure that asks for participation and gives a reward by letting the gallery goer sign their name to the gallery wall.” He specifies that the piece will be complete when the show closes, and the lines erased. “Participation is needed from the audience not only for this piece, but over and over again for every art show from this moment forward.” Visitors got busy and transformed the vacant white space, invigorated by the opportunity to do something they might always have felt tempted to do, but restrained by cultural taboo, previously resisted the temptation — until now.

by Andrew Thompson and visitors

by Andrew Thompson and visitors

by Andrew Thompson and visitors

by Andrew Thompson and visitors

George Rahme manned the turntables, providing a back beat for the creation in progress.

George Rahme (left)

George Rahme (left)

U-Build It! brings participatory art (a happening?) to Hamtramck in a fun, dynamic, accessible format that surely will turn a few heads and inspire those who happen upon these works to think about art a little differently, and maybe feel inspired to see what else the numerous galleries scattered around Hamtramck and Detroit offer. For that we should thank the artists who contributed a lot of time, effort, and material to works that will not likely bring them personal acclaim for artistic merit, but should bring them acclaim for a degree of selflessness not often ascribed to artists. This show offers another example of how the entire community benefits from the art: socially, economically, and intellectually (foot traffic, positive press, civic enthusiasm, unconventional education, and neighborly engagement). Right on.

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Also, for sale (but not an element of U-Build It!), were the works of Steve Hughes, who according to the back cover of one edition of his “zine” Stupor, “for the last 16 years… has been listening to people he meets in bars, diners, hardware stores, and job sites talk about their lives.” Steve, who attended the opening, said he commits these stories to memory as they are told to him, and recreates them in his small format books filtered through his recollection, taking creative license as necessary to fill gaps in his recall of the narratives.

U-Build It! runs through 29-June. Public Pool Artspace will be open for further public collaboration on these works every Saturday, 1PM – 6PM.

Visit artifizz.org for art news and events

 

May 29, 2013

1° of Separation: A One Day Pop Up Show in Hamtramck

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Public Pool Art Space
3309 Caniff, Hamtramck

by Jim Welke

Walking into the 1° of Separation show, curated by Andy Thompson at Public Pool Artspace in Hamtramck, the sound of voices in the room was the first thing that struck me. Many voices, the voices of visitors clustered around pictures on the wall and a single sculpture that stood like a totem to ward off bad spirits. The show transpired as sort of an annex to the HPOP Pop Up Art Fest, which ran through Memorial Day weekend along Joseph Campau, south of Caniff in Hamtramck. The Puplic Pool Artspace graciously offered their gallery, as Mr. Thompson explained, as a substitute for a vacant shop that HPOP organizers had hoped would be made available by a property owner on Campau.

The one-day, pop up show came together with a mysterious harmony and grace you would think took months to coalesce. In fact, it took a day or two. When I met Mr. Thompson, he projected that sort of energy that makes me think if I called him tonight and said I needed to paint a fifty foot mural tomorrow or forfeit my rent money and end up on the street, he would show up at five in the morning with a brush in one hand and a can of paint in the other, with six more artists behind him, and by sunset the mural would not only be complete, but would be sumptuous and gorgeous and prized by the community that hosted it. It took that sort of prodigious energy to pull off this show, and if there are more out there like Mr. Thompson, 21st century art will rival that of any previous century (once all the haters get through pissing on it, of course). The life of an adjunct art professor, as described to me by Mr. Thompson, sounded a lot like the sort of peripatetic existence led by med school interns: long days, no sleep, not enough pay, with the constant demand for perfection. Good training, I guess for curating and putting up one-day art shows.

Several of the works in 1° of Separation came from artists who never did a show before. Not all were in their twenties either. A commercial photographer who never showed her work in a gallery presented one set of photographs. Together, they presented a study of texture, mostly fabric, one of pristine white tennis shows that took on an ethereal quality when shot close, another captured the shadow of a tree on fresh fallen snow, spattered with constellations of sparkling snowflakes through what appears to be a window screen. All were masterful compositions that spoke of long familiarity with the camera as portal to the unfamiliar details of everyday things.

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by Karen McLaren

Two photos by Michelle Lapanowski capture freeze time for a fraction of a second to show a view of the world that we never witness except maybe subliminally. No doubt technically challenging to create, one shows a die (as in singular of dice) dropping into what appears to be a drinking glass. It traces a graceful arc of air bubbles as it sinks, and make you wonder what event followed its descent. The second photo repeats sort of a classic image of high-speed photography, which for some reason they usually do with milk, perhaps because of its viscosity. But Ms. Lapanowski presented this image, of a droplet hitting a surface and splashing upwards, in an ethereal blue hue, and the splash forms kind of a distorted crown shape. Interestingly, taken together, the photo of the die, with its dark red hue feels sort of ominous, while the lighter splash conveys what feels like a cheerful moment. Weird, but interesting to contemplate.

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by Michelle Lapanowski

Another set of photos adjacent to these, shot in austere black and white captured moments: a man engrossed in a manuscript, disposable coffee cup and plastic water bottle near at hand; a woman unselfconsciously sucking the straw of a frozen drink as she gazes at a laptop screen; an ice-encrusted conservatory at Belle Isle; a park scene populated by long shadows. Two other shots are studies of form: female form in a cropped view, a seashell that provokes a cascade of mental associations. All carry you someplace new, yet familiar.

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by Anita Kakos

Justin Hein, a graduate of the University of Michigan, presented a series of drawings in ink that on the macro scale showed a human profile and two three-quarter views (I think they are called). The profile though, presents an x-ray or MRI view into the body of the subject. Inside the brain, numerous demonic visages peer out. In the straight on views, which I suspect are self-portraits, Mr. Hein drew the face with the architectural precision of ink laid down with a fine-tipped drafting pen. They demonstrate deep drawing craft. Surrounding the image of the man are more demonic creatures, as though clamoring for his attention; voices calling out to be presented to the world — the bane of an artist with so many ideas and so little time. The works are busy, but engaging, not overwhelming.

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ink drawing by Justin Hein

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ink drawing by Justin Hein

On another wall, placed between the photos, are two paintings by Angela Sanders. One, an abstract, reminds this viewer of either a scene of the macro universe or the micro universe. With organic greens and orange, it suggests the cellular structure of a being, or the glow of gassy interstellar space — both places of normally unseen wonder that govern and inform our existence. The other picture shows a pear, yellow on a green field depicted minimally, almost abstract, but mostly just simple, warm, inviting — maybe a bit enigmatic.

paintings by Angela Sanders

paintings by Angela Sanders

Another picture, shows an earth-toned pop art-ish, oversized D filled with cropped, overlaid city imagery with a contrast-y schematic appearance. Across the bottom in various cheerful fonts, an inscription reads: DETROIT FOREVER / AN UNCOMPROMISING VISION OF THE FUTURE / enjoy detroit. The image feels promotional at first, then you wonder about the irony, then you think, “Yeah. Edgy, like Detroit.” It makes you feel good about this place in the same strange way this place makes you feel good about this place.

painting by Rebecca Goldberg

painting by Rebecca Goldberg

Moving along the same wall, was a picture by Jackie Brown, a graduate of Oakland University, who Mr. Thompson told me moved away from the art world for a while but came back. He creates pictures with a pop art feel, a bit rough-hewn, but done with careful choice of color and layering of paint and twisting of perspective that turns a simple view of a turntable into an icon for an era (which seemed appropriate to show the same weekend that the Movement electronic music festival ran). Another picture by Mr. Brown shows what appears at first glance to be one of those cute presentations of neighborhood children caught off guard in a moment of rare repose. Then you appreciate that two of the children are colored in camouflage pattern and detonating bombs tumble past in the background. The narrow color spectrum, and the stenciled quality of the images suggests a fleeting impression, like those atomic bomb flash silhouettes found around Nagasaki and Hiroshima that froze that last instant before annihilation. These images will haunt you, and perhaps they should given the complicity all Americans share in the accidental but undeniable annihilation of children around the world.

painting by Jackie Brown

painting by Jackie Brown

paintings by Jackie Brown (top) & Rebecca Goldberg (bottom)

paintings by Jackie Brown (top) & Rebecca Goldberg (bottom)

On another wall are three landscape views (one close enough, blurred enough, to be an abstraction). All feature water, all capture that mysterious hypnotic effect water imposes on us. (Did you ever stare over the side of a boat and watch as the bow cuts and dips through the surface of the water; or stare close at a roiling stream for long time so your eyes drift out of focus?) These pictures remind us, as we drift further and further from our natural foundation, of the strange force that foundation still exerts on us. Or, maybe these are nice pictures, and should be valued simply for making us happy?

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by Crystal Baskin

Another series of images, digital prints by Anna Stasek, seem cut from a graphic novel. The first in the series shows mostly text, dated “10/23/2468,” which describes in first person the labors of a toxic waste hauler headed to the treatment plant, “the dirtiest, dangeriest route.” The final passage cries out for CHANGE, a change “other than the genocide of innocent creatures.” Well, amen. I hope we don’t wait until 2468 to heed these words.

digital prints by Anna Stasek

digital prints by Anna Stasek

These pictures depict a liquid-ey, tendril-ey, blue world infected with a creeping malaise. They evoke a science fiction feel that I think first evolved in the 1950’s when absolutely anything was possible. You travel through this series and it touches you with an ineffable melancholy.

A black and white lino cut print by Anna Stasek shows trees, clouds, rain, and water in that tendril-ey abstract way she uses in the previous series, but this is more austere, more simply evocative of a mournful, weeping place.

lino cut print by Anna Stasek

lino cut print by Anna Stasek

Two more pictures, small ones, by Rebecca Goldberg, hang capriciously beneath Mr. Brown’s picture of the apocalyptic children. These two images, one of a kitty with a pink ribbon on its ear, the other of a broken egg spilled into a primary red space. The egg hangs there, two-dimensional, but does it lie flat or float in ether? Your mind plays tricks on itself with images like this, trying to fit it into your recollections of your world. Either way, the bright yellow yolk looms there like a nucleus, pulling you in. The kitty just stares at you, kitty-like, contemplative, a bit provocative. These two pictures, light and un-fraught, leap out like the happy grin of a child as they hang there beneath Mr. Brown’s heavier work. They administer a shot of optimism, like a shot of vitamin B-12.

paintings by Rebecca Goldberg

paintings by Rebecca Goldberg

Out on the floor, in front of the gallery window, stood a sculpture by Anna Stasek (prolific, isn’t she?) composed of disparate found objects. As said earlier, it stood there like a totem. Its form suggested that of American Indian totems to me, but it could be from any culture really; any culture that wards off evil with scary objects — the kind of scary objects that children love, strangely. While I was there, I noticed several children sort of dance around this one. The sculpture presents a figure with wild, unkempt hair made of shredded trash bags punctuated by a deer antler, and a face made of what might be a rusted paint can lid, eerily devoid of features. The body, dressed in ragged mismatched clothes poses as though springing into motion. Furry paws torn from a stuffed animal project from the sleeves and pants. At the base, a crumpled license plate suggests a point of origin (Florida! Land of Mickey), while a twisted old-style metallic chrome auto bumper suggests a prior encounter with sinister and powerful forces. Encompassing the entire base, a torn off truck tire re-tread further suggests violent struggle. An odd creature, but despite its fantastic form, it projects an unmistakable sense of warmth or protectiveness, as perhaps a totem should.

sculpture by Anna Stasek

sculpture by Anna Stasek

All of the artists in this show are former students of Mr. Thompson, hence the name 1° of Separation.

 

Andy Thompson (center)

Andy Thompson (center)

May 27, 2013

HPOP Pops In Hamtramck

by Jim Welke

activities in the green space getting underway...

activities in the green space getting underway…

HPOP, a pop up art fest in downtown Hamtramck (south of Caniff on Joseph Campau) burst into existence Memorial Day weekend starting on Saturday afternoon and running through Monday evening. As described by the main sponsor, Interstate Arts:

HPOP activates Hamtramck’s main business corridor along Joseph Campau street with pop-up art galleries, events, activities and spectacle, drawing guests to explore all Hamtramck has to offer while inspiring locals to re-envision what is possible in our underutilized spaces.

Industrial Post and the City of Hamtramck also sponsored HPOP.

HPOP organizers include: Jason Friedmann, Christina Galasso, Sara Lapinski, George Rahme and Shoshanna Utchenik. But longtime resident, musician, and composer James Cornish, along with many others, contributed immeasurable time and energy.

Shoshanna Utchenik said the initial plan was to create gallery spaces inside vacant shops along Joseph Campau. She and others repeatedly met with property owners, but ultimately the owners resisted opening vacant spaces to streams of visitors due to liability and other concerns. In the end, HPOP organizers secured permission from property owners to install artworks in shop windows where passersby could view them. While this reduced the number of works to show, it did not dilute the goal of offering an expanded vision for underutilized space, and bringing art to Hamtramck residents and visitors in a venue more accessible than a traditional gallery or museum setting.

In addition to the visual art in shop windows, HPOP also offered live music and dance performances in the green space and the square across the street. One performance that I witnessed was danced by Kristi Faulkner and Oihana Elizalde of Kristi Faulkner Dance. Lamarre and Dancers also  performed earlier in the day.

I attended HPOP on Saturday, and I think the organizers exceeded their own expectations, whether they realize it or not. While it is easy to dismiss such efforts as quixotic, what I saw on Saturday countered any such notion. The streets of Hamtramck, a pedestrian friendly town with lots of small shops frequented by residents, bustled with parents leading kids by the hand, teenagers roaming around, and elderly men and women who move slowly, but show keen interest in goings on. All slowed and many stopped to ponder the paintings, photographs, fashion, sculpture, and crafts offered in the windows by HPOP. The hungry found great offerings from Native Kitchen’s health-conscious, “eclectic and alternative cuisine.”

I could be wrong but my guess is most of these pedestrians did not set out with the intention of seeing art. Surely they did not expect to witness it in vacant shop windows, and if they walked past a gallery on the way to the grocery store, most kept walking.

But on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday pedestrians brushed up against art they otherwise would never have seen. And the thing about art, especially art encountered unexpectedly and without preconceptions, is that you can not encounter it without incurring an impression. It’s sort of like two atoms ripping through the vacuum of space. They pass one another, they remain intact, but each is minutely altered by the exchange of energy that occurs. In the case of HPOP, the residents saw new art; their train of thought diverged from whatever they happened to be preoccupied with prior, and they saw new possibilities — for themselves and their families, for their town, for the whole planet.

That might sound like hyperbole, but consider the insidious effects of the perpetual media onslaught these pedestrians are subjected to daily. Often we absorb such background noise almost unconsciously, but I think no one would dispute how persuasive that noise can be: it alters buying habits, bends political views, and affects self-esteem by binding one’s position in the social fabric. Hence we have advertising and biased political coverage (propaganda to some) with proven and measurable efficacy.

In the case of art encountered on the street, the viewer does not raise the same defenses as they do to familiar and suspect media sources. Most approach art during these encounters with an open mind. If you think that might not be true, stand next to a public artwork and ask people what they think. Most will openly share their impression, perhaps a bit tentatively, even self-consciously, but they will give fair consideration to the object before them. And I think residents and visitors to the stretch of Joseph Campau brightened by HPOP over Memorial Day weekend did exactly that. Many times during my visit, I watched passersby slow, point to the pictures in the windows, musicians in the green space next to Lo and Behold Records, or dancers in the park, and then turn to their companions with a smile and a few words. Some lingered for a while, some moved on, but all took notice.

To me, to the organizers of HPOP, and especially to the artists — the other atom brushed by that collision — these moments mean that perceptions were altered and lives were changed. Cynics might dispute this, but I think if you ask people who actually saw the art and gave it at least a few seconds of open-minded, un-jaded consideration you will see that HPOP favorably modified the impromptu attendee’s perception of art, and most importantly, favorably modified their perception of the city where they encountered it.

With Detroit facing the possibility of artworks from its prize museum and cultural mainstay, the Detroit Institute of Arts, put up for auction, events such as HPOP generate optimism for a town’s future, which means residents will be less willing to part with key cultural assets to meet short term financial shortfalls. Public events like HPOP dampen despair along with willingness to countenance desperate and craven measures by politicians ready to throw residents’ interests under the bus (which will probably come late) in favor of influential creditors. At the same time as they boost optimism and civic self-esteem, events such as HPOP instill residents with the sense that artists create art for them, and that residents share with everyone the capacity to appreciate and benefit from art through an incrementally expanded view of the world and its inhabitants.

So, bravo for the organizers and artists (visual and performance) who made HPOP happen, and others who make events like HPOP happen elsewhere. And cheers for the folks passing by who take the time to appreciate the gifts laid before them.

The artists included:

James Cornish

Stephen Garrett Dewyer

Holliday Martindale

Rebekka Parker

Christopher Schneider

Andy Thompson

In parallel with HPOP, Andy Thompson, a local artist and art instructor at several universities and colleges (including College for Creative Studies, Oakland University, University of Michigan), curated 1° of Separation at Public Pool Artspace (3309 Caniff). The show featured work by numerous artists taught over the years by Mr. Thompson — hence the name. The show was engaging and diverse. See photos of that show on the artifizz facebook page here: http://www.facebook.com/artifizz

(Sorry for the un-attributed artworks in the photos — my bad — any help with the names will be much appreciated.)

inflatable sculpture in shop window (artist unknown)

inflatable sculpture in shop window Sean Hages and Chelsea Depner

fashion designs (artist unknown)

fashion design, LaTsyrc by CrystalNicole Purifoy

painting in shop window (artist unknown)

painting in shop window (artist unknown)

photo in a shop window by Chris Schneider

photo in a shop window by Chris Schneider

July 13, 2012

Alternativity :: Hatch Art Collective :: Café Show

 

The Hatch Art Collective of Hamtramck offers a Café Show, Alternativity, at Café 1923, 2287 Holbrook Street in Hamtramck, thru 28-July-2012. The show consists of about a dozen works by Julia Dammons, Anthony Chirco, and Tori Sanders, all 2012 graduates of Art Academy in the Woods. It is a small show, with mostly smaller pieces, not over-finished, not tweaked to impenetrable perfection. By which I mean, the works do not seem unfinished, but they suggest the artists took risks in their creation.

When you look at Vermeer’s “The Girl With the Pearl Earring,” you get the sense that the artist possesses deep familiarity with the medium, and knew precisely how he would execute the painting at the outset. There’s nothing tentative, or imprecise about it. But, neither do you get the sense the painter challenged himself with new techniques, or pushed the boundaries of his skills. The artist produced a wonderful and masterly painting that required deep insight and knowledge of his process, but the painter himself changed very little during the process. Vermeer established a style long before he created this painting and creating this one required that he maintain speed and direction, not veer off course into unknown territory.

The artists in this show are less established, and less committed to a style, and less burdened by patrons demanding recreations of the past. For show visitors that’s a good thing. The work feels new and refreshing. The artists might differ, and choose fame over courage, but I sort of doubt it. In this show, there are photos, drawings, and paintings. Some offered for sale, some not. The prices range from $20 for a drawing by Ms. Dammons, sized at about 8½  by 11, to $500 for one of the larger paintings (18? x 24?) by Mr. Chirco. They are all well worth the price.

I wandered into the café gallery after a visit to the expansive exhibition, “Post-Industrial Complex / Vertical Urban Factory,” at MOCAD, and found the close-in view of the works in the café a welcome contrast to the big picture at MOCAD. Such geographic shifts serve a purpose, I think. They clarify your perspective.

The Sickness -- Julia Dammons

The Sickness -- Julia Dammons

The first work I noticed, mostly because I sat across from it while I drank a double espresso (perfectly rendered) was Ms. Dammons’ “The Sickness.” The drawing, in pencil I believe — the name cards do not note the media — shows a woman in torn jeans, no top, arms crossed in self-embrace, her expression doleful. The figure appears in black and white, except for a blue pattern of curlicues traced down her left side: on her arm, her shoulder, chest, and abdomen, and peaking through a tear in her jeans above her knee (a hole over her knee on the right leg exposes un-infected skin). The picture ably suggests despair and confusion, someone at a loss, lonely, suffering from a singular affliction; possibly an affliction more of mind than body.

Big Bang Theory -- Julia Dammons

Big Bang Theory -- Julia Dammons

“Big Bang Theory,” also by Ms. Dammons, represents the face of a conventional Caucasian man, shown in profile on the right — conventional except for green hair and a blast of interstellar space pocked with stars and planets exhaled upward from his mouth. Three earrings decorate his right ear: on top, a simple bar, in the middle a proportional square black cross on a red field — perhaps a flag — and on the bottom the head of pussycat. Their symbolism is lost on me, but they are nice touches, and get you wondering. The man appears to me as a mystical vision of a mythical being, conjured to explain the unexplainable: infinity.

Green Thoughts -- Anthony Chirco

Green Thoughts -- Anthony Chirco

“Green Thoughts,” by Mr. Chirco, presents one of the larger works, perhaps 18 x 24, done in oil I’m guessing, and depicts the skeletomuscular structure of a man’s head, face on. Painted in rough, sweeping strokes, mostly black and white with purplish paint under-laying. A misty green halo with an air brushed finish surrounds the head. A third eye appears in the center of the man’s forehead. The figure seems caught in the act of formation, or transmutation — a spectral being, probably bearing ill will; or, at least bearing cold and acute powers of observation.

The Doctor -- Anthony Chirco

The Doctor -- Anthony Chirco

“The Doctor,” also by Mr. Chirco, skillfully rendered in charcoal or ink represents another man’s bust, again transforming, to me it seems like de-composing, but could be the opposite. I should probably say man-like, or anthropomorphic, but not exactly human. The figure is fluid, composed of dark rivulets and streaks, amorphous and dynamic. To me, sort of like a mirage. A fantastic, science-fiction quality infuses the image. I find it captivating, like watching flowing water.

 

“Epiphany,” a carefully composed and focused photograph by Tori Sanders, depicts a close-up of a brown eye, the iris circled by a black boundary. The pupil appears contracted, focused; a few red veins streak the inside corner of the otherwise bright white. The eye bulges outward, as though shot close in with a wide-angle lens. Is the view of the eye the epiphany? Or, does the wide-open, focused eye witness the epiphany? Mystery and wonder infuse this picture, too.

“Gifts of A Wounded Lover,” another photograph by Ms. Sanders, shows a tightly shot still life of a blazing fireplace, no screen in front to protect the room. A few envelopes and miscellaneous artifacts litter the floor in front of the fire. In the fire, more envelopes curl and combust: a kiln to harden a wounded heart? A well-crafted image, for sure.

Deep Doodie -- Julia Dammons

Deep Doodie -- Julia Dammons

“Deep Doodie,” a drawing by Ms. Dammons, shows a toilet, lidless, with a face in the bottom staring back. The floor around the toilet finished in an antique, Victorian-looking pattern gives the image a gothic feel. Adding to that sense, black sludge drips downward from the top of the painting, as though emerging from the base of the wall, about to wash over the entire scene. At first, you want to laugh, but you soon realize things have definitely taken a turn for the worse here, and they are not about to improve very soon — the well-placed undercurrent of darkness subtly infuses the humor of this image.

“КрИЧИz,” a drawing by Julia Dammons, a woman, eyes closed, hands up, palms inward, moving away from her face. Blood appears to run from her right nostril, and more blood covers her chin. Her mouth hangs open as if she screams, or rapidly inhales, like a reflex to a stunning impact. Her shirt is a blue crisscross pattern on white; her hair blond. A field of pinkish and blue streaks like a stationary pattern blurred by camera motion forms the background. I cannot read the title, I think it is Greek (that’s what I used to type it), but the image is expressive and unsettling.

“Urban Elephant,” a large painting by Mr. Chirco, shows an impressionistic elephant painted in geometric, stained glass like strokes, on a background of colored squares. A well-executed, lively painting with vibrant color, suggestive of an animal done up in ceremonial or circus garb, it warms up the room. I found this quote on the web about the symbolism of elephants in dreams: “An elephant in one’s dreams can signify the emergence of one’s Highest True Self.” I wonder if Mr. Chirco dreamt this elephant? I know elephants can symbolize lots of things …or nothing at all.

Moth & Flame -- Tori Sanders

Moth & Flame -- Tori Sanders

“Moth & Flame,” a still life photograph by Ms. Sanders, shows via careful camera work a moth, dead in what appears to be a lamp fixture. An almost impressionistic image, close-in, grainy, and perhaps blurred a little, qualities which give it a more crafted feel. The moth suggests the myth of Icarus, who flew too close to the sun in an arrogant attempt to escape his island home and fell from the sky. Perhaps an observation similar to Ms. Sanders’ led to that story; substitute a candle for the electric lamp. A mournful tone imbues this image, while a strange sense of motion animates it.

Unfortunately, I could not get close to several other works by Ms. Sanders and Mr. Chirco without bugging people seated at tables engaged in their own work …or at least intently surfing the web. That’s the hazard of a café show, I reckon; that, and having coffee and food flung at your work. But these are pictures worth seeing — all of them, actually. I enjoyed the show: nice job, crew.

Editors note: sorry for the blurry and incomplete set of pics — the camera let me down that day… if anyone has better images, or the ones I missed, send them along.

June 18, 2012

Michael McGillis: Reckoning a Peripheral Wilderness

A Public Pool: Reckoning a Peripheral Wilderness

A Public Pool: Reckoning a Peripheral WildernessMichael McGillis creates installations. Mostly outdoors. At A Public Pool, the cooperative gallery in Hamtramck, MI he brings the outside in with “Reckoning a Peripheral Wilderness” (19-May – 30-June, 2012). Found cardboard and phragmites comprise much of the work, which conveys the notion that despite all the apparent permanence and impenetrability of modern civilization with its concrete, steel, glass, and perpetual plastic, numerous species lurk in the background, ready to invade when cracks appear. They wait to fill in the neglected voids in our constructed landscapes, and they evolve to coexist in our midst — in spite of our fearful efforts to repel them. Mr. McGillis delivers both an anthropological study and a trenchant reflection on our consumerist, throw-away culture. The pizza boxes that litter our urban alleys and decorate our suburban curbside recycling heaps fascinate him as a distillation of the disposable society we occupy. Mass-market, take-out pizza represents the worst sort of identity-less food, which we consume simply to eat, to fuel ourselves, not as a culinary experience to delight in, Mr. McGillis asserts.

A Public Pool: Reckoning a Peripheral Wilderness

And that is our mistake, I would to say. When we fail to pay close attention to how we live, how we subsist, then we allow our standards to erode, our cultural signposts and boundaries to crumble. And then lurking peripheral inhumanity encroaches further into our lives. Wilderness is a good thing. Wilderness in myriad forms sustains our planet, and stands in opposition to our callous neglect of our surrounding environment. We need wilderness, but wilderness does not need us — we no longer fit into a symbiotic ecological framework the way all other animals do. Instead we exploit and defy wilderness at our peril.

A Public Pool: Reckoning a Peripheral WildernessAmidst the found cardboard and phragmites stalks, Mr. McGillis inserts translucent, vacuum-formed sculptures of coyotes. The ultimate peripheral creature, by his reckoning. Coyotes are alternately aloof and aggressive. They move in when your back is turned, and scavenge what they can get. Revered for their resilience and resourcefulness by American aboriginal cultures, we collectively regard them as pests — another indication of our degeneration toward profligacy and arrogance as a species.

Blood red painted frames, meticulously crafted by Mr. McGillis from oriented-strand-board (OSB), follow the form of an inter-modal shipping container and envelop and contain Mr. McGillis’ interior landscape. Sort of an inside out representation of humanity’s relationship with nature: normally, it contains us. Corrugated cardboard, arranged in interleaving, parallel stacks that evoke sandstone or shale, pack the bottom of each of five or six frames, each about eight feet tall. Sheets of plastic are suspended above the cardboard in two or three frames, like pools of water or morning fog, and projecting from every A Public Pool: Reckoning a Peripheral Wildernessstack of cardboard are phragmites stalks with their feather duster heads swaying in the gusts of street wind that penetrate an open gallery door. Phragmites, like coyotes (and possibly, artists?), are a marginal species, growing readily in disturbed fragments of wilderness. Beyond the five or so frames that occupy most of A Public Pool gallery, the gallery window, a large storefront space where you expect to see manikins milling about or sun-bleached product displays, Mr. McGillis placed a carefully lighted diorama that includes two female coyotes who gaze warily, in their characteristic surveying way, at passersby on the street. A Public Pool opens its doors only once a week, Saturdays, 10AM – 6PM, but the rest of the time, the coyotes, perched in a thicket of phragmites, stand in observance of us, illuminated by our clever electric lights. Waiting.

A Public Pool: Reckoning a Peripheral Wilderness
by Jim Welke

A Public Pool: Reckoning a Peripheral Wilderness

A Public Pool: Reckoning a Peripheral Wilderness

A Public Pool: Reckoning a Peripheral Wilderness

A Public Pool: Reckoning a Peripheral Wilderness

A Public Pool: Reckoning a Peripheral Wilderness

A Public Pool: Reckoning a Peripheral Wilderness