Art Week Exhibition @ N’Namdi Center for Contemporary Art

I, Too, Am Detroit, Exhibition at the N’Namdi Center for Contemporary Art, Installation image, Courtesy of DAR

During these dog days of summer, and in coordination with the celebration of Detroit Art Week, the N’Namdi Center for Contemporary Art has on exhibition I, Too, Am Detroit,  in its main Gallery, featuring over twenty local Detroit Artists. Inspired by Langston Hughes poem I, Too, Am, America the exhibition seeks to spotlight the artists in Detroit and their influence building the creative community throughout the world. I, too, am, Detroit is an exhibition that focuses on diversity and inclusion within the culture of Detroit and beyond.

“We have to be very conscious and purposeful in making a holistic and diverse community. And, that’s why I think our three exhibitions are so important because it allows for our local artist and the diversity of the City to be highlighted during Detroit Art Week,” said Dr. George R. N’Namdi.

Shirley Woodson-Reid, Sisters 2, Acrylic on Canvas, 51 x 57″ 1991

Detroit artist Shirley Woodson Reid portrays one of her many acrylics on canvas to produce an expressionistic figurative landscape Sisters Two, a style she perfected over the many years making of art in Detroit.

Shirley Woodson Reid was born in 1936, from a small town in Tennessee. An Artist and educator Shirley Woodson studied painting and art education at Wayne State University, receiving a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and her graduate studies were begun at The Art Institute of Chicago with a concentration in painting and art history. As a part of her independent studies she traveled to nine countries in Europe, visiting galleries, museums and historical sites. Woodson completed her graduate work at Wayne State University and received a Masters of Arts degree in painting.

Gary Kulak, Untitled, Welded Steel, 72 x 10 x 10, 2005

Known for his ever-evolving chair work, this untitled welded steel sculpture painted with a high gloss enamel yellow reminds us of a serialist approach to an idea grounded in an ordinary object.  The variations on a chair theme has been seen in a large variety of galleries in and around Detroit dating back to early 1980’s.  Kulak earned his MFA from Hunter College, NYC and continues to work with metals and industrial materials.

Diana Alva, Super Mercado, Tempura & Encaustic on Canvas, 72 x 48″

These tempura and encaustic crowded people portraits on a flat picture plane of the artist Diana Alva, feel like abstraction with a heavy emphasis on a black outline. The artist describes her paintings, largely done in acrylics, as “toothy.” She uses a “push-pull” technique, applying paint with brushes, cardboard or sticks, to create a “structural thicket” with textured lines reminiscent of calligraphy.  A native Detroiter, Alva attended Henry Ford Community College and Wayne State University.

Charles McGee, Patches of Time V, Mixed Media Collage on Masonite, 32 x 20″, 1990

One of the most revered artists in Detroit is Charles McGee and to see a collage, Patches of Time V, Mixed media collage on Masonite from 1990 is both interesting and reflectively refreshing. The design elements imbedded are clearly indicators of work to come, from the painting in the Detroit Institute of Arts, Noah’s Ark: Genesis, to his recent sculpture at the Charles Wright Museum, United We Stand, his work has left his sense of design like a branding process.  Born in 1924, from a family of sharecroppers, McGee did not start his schooling until he moved to Detroit at the age of 10 years old.

He says in his statement, “I’m delighted that nature gave me this propensity to share the little information it has given me. And that is the motor that drives me into tomorrow, thinking about what I can do to help humanity if indeed I can contribute.”

His works are on permanent display at Museum of African American History in Washington, DC, and  has shown at the Brooklyn Museum and the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Hampton Art Lovers Presents: “Ebony Broadsides, Celebration of the Masters”, a poster art exhibition featuring original signed exhibition posters

In addition in the Black Box at NCCA, Hampton Art Lovers Presents: “Ebony Broadsides, Celebration of the Masters”, a poster art exhibition featuring original signed exhibition posters of Jean-Michel Basquiat, Jacob Lawrence, Faith Ringgold, Betye Saar, John Biggers, Lois Malou Jones, Gordon Parks, Roy DeCarava, Oliver Johnson, Bob Thompson and Ed Clark. The show also includes original signed poster art of Elizabeth Catlett, Romare Bearden, Samella Lewis, James Denmark and Basil Watson. With special artist proof and studies of poster art by Ernie Barnes and A.C. Hollingsworth.

The N’Namdi Center for Contemporary Art opened with the sole purpose of introducing the community to art and its ability to inspire, edify and delight. George R. N’Namdi, believed in Detroit long before the resurgence post-bankruptcy and the new millennial demographic that has taken to our great city. NCCA has paved the way to bring art, education and opportunity for artists to exhibit and sell their work.

 

Play Ball! Transforming the Game, 1876 – 2019 @ the Detroit Institute of Arts

The Ball Players, 1871, William Morris Hunt, American; oil on canvas. Detroit Institute of Arts.

 

The great American pass time returns to the DIA for a second season with selections from the extensive memorabilia collection of Rochester, Michigan, attorney E. Powell Miller. Last year’s exhibit featured my personal favorites, the ‘68 Tigers. This year’s star players are the 1907, ‘08, and ’09 American League champion Tigers, and the phenomenal ‘84 Tigers. Detroit fans of the game will certainly enjoy this. Not to be overlooked at the beginning of the exhibit are the National League’s 1887 champions, the Detroit Wolverines. Detroit businessman Frederick Stearns purchased the Wolverines in 1885, the same year he helped found the Detroit Institute of Arts. The cross pollination of high art and the art of the commonplace, in the same venue, infuses both with a lively acculturation.

Baseball trading cards figure prominently in the show: in particular, an extraordinary“T206 White Border Set, 1909 – 1911” from the American Tobacco Co. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York has exhibited baseball cards, but this collection is “better” according to Miller. He is justifiably proud of possessing one of the top collections of rare cards anywhere, and he revels in Motown besting NYC.

Installation image, Play Ball! T206 White Border Set, left. Ty Cobb memorabilia, right.

 

The ‘84 tigers are well represented too, with a unique ‘retro’ feature. A maple finish, Early American-style console color TV loops a reconstructed broadcast of Kirk Gibson’s 3 run homer off ace reliever “Goose” Gossage of the Padres, pretty much sealing the deal for Detroit in game five of the World Series. Flanking the TV set are autographed team jerseys worn on the field by Gossage and Gibson.

If you collected cards as a kid (or still collect them,) or remember the summertime thrill of Ernie Harwell’s “That one is loooong gone!” or experienced the Tigers’ winning it all in ‘68 or ‘84, watch out for the wistful nostalgia permeating this exhibit.
Play Ball! Transforming the Game, 1876-2019 is organized by the Detroit Institute of Arts.   June 15 – September 15, 2019; free with museum admission.

 

Humble and Human @ Detroit Institute of Arts

Humble and Human: Impressionist Era Treasures from the Albright-Knox Art Gallery and the Detroit Institute of Arts, an Exhibition in Honor of Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. @ the DIA

Farm at Montfoucault, 1874. Camille Pissarro, French. Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo.

 

Another smaller scale exhibit at the museum is also related to professional sports, albeit indirectly. Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. (1918 – 2014) was the founding owner of the Buffalo Bills AFC football team. Humble and Human is a tribute to Wilson: businessman, philanthropist, and art collector who focused on French Impressionism. Raised in Detroit, Wilson called both Detroit and Buffalo “home” – two cities noted for their large working-class populations and love of hometown professional sports teams. Wilson had an affinity for the beauty and significance to be found in the ordinary stuff of life. He saw in Impressionist subjects facets of his own appreciation of the everyday. It might be a simple path next to a canal with a factory in the distance, a woman sewing, or farmers tilling the soil, it was all worthy of a painter’s memorialization.

Café Scene in Paris, 1877. Henri Gervex, French. Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo.

 

In a video interview with Mary Wilson, Ralph Wilson’s widow and board member of the Wilson Foundation, she relates how “he fell in love” with a Monet and purchased it at auction. From there he built his collection to include Degas, Morrisot, Pissaro, Renior and others. Humble and Human reveals a thoughtful collection with varied examples of a revolutionary movement in art. Several atypical pieces are note-worthy – for example, an early Renoir landscape, or a small figure sculpture by Gauguin. Through the three galleries of the exhibit, one can trace the progression of 19th century French art from Realism (Courbet) through Impressionism (Monet) to Post-Impressionism (Van Gogh) and the cusp of Modernism (Gauguin.)

The Old Mill, 1888. Vincent van Gogh, Dutch. Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo.

 

Mention should be made of the unusually dark walls of the galleries for this show. The works are lit with intense spots, separating each with discrete auras. This not uncommon display technique facilitates concentrated viewing of the individual works. Here, the pronounced contrast between the pieces and the gallery walls might be surprising, but the effect does not overwhelm. Once attuned, the viewer appreciates a momentary isolation before each work.

Installation image, Humble and Human.

 

Humble and Human: Impressionist Era Treasures from the Albright-Knox Art Gallery and the Detroit Institute of Arts, an Exhibition in Honor of Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. is organized by the Detroit Institute of Arts and the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York. The exhibition is made possible by the generous support of the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation.  This exhibition is a part of the Bonnie Ann Larson Modern European Masters Series.

Humble and Human,   Jun 26, 2019 – Oct 13, 2019  Free with general admission

 

 

 

 

 

Dylan Spaysky “Gingo & Sticks” @ What Pipeline

There he stands, in orange hued suspenders and sunglasses, Gingo, the life size woven wicker avatar of Dylan Spaysky, welcoming one and all to “Gingo & Sticks,” the artist’s latest exhibition at What Pipeline gallery. Gingo, per Pipeline, “refers to the name of Spaysky’s childhood imaginary friend who inhabited the form of Mickey Mouse. Sticks refers to the materials used in his latest carvings.” Gingo, with an upraised arm, like a barker, or expansive host, and his trusty carved foam mascot Mickey Mouse, are surrounded by a trove of wall mounted “sticks” featuring a cohort of familiar images of childhood (Donald Duck), summer revels (sunglasses, flip flops), celebrities (Melania Trump), and fauna (dog, cat, duck, bear).

Dylan Spaysky, Installation image: “Gingo,” Wicker, foam, paint, sunglasses, 73 x 62 x 32 in., all images “Courtesy of What Pipeline” 2019

Ringing the confines of What Pipeline’s modest space (think two-car garage), Spaysky’s nine lean, hand-carved, painted reliefs, measuring 10 – 48 inches in height, elicit a range of responses, from tender and sweet to sad and humorous to cute and demented. Each “stick,” harvested by the artist from the debris of tree trimmers on Belle Isle, bears, at its apex, a mini-sculpture, as if resting on a pedestal, but is in fact integral with its supporting branch. Perhaps some might recall a summer camp memory when the arts & crafts instructor suggested scouring the woods for twisty, knobby branches that evoked a face, contorted figure, or monster. Or of sticks serving as wands or cudgels raised aloft, though the import here seems rather more benign—and sophisticated.

One stick-pedestal bears a pair of red, upright Sunglasses, and another, the curled hand of a Backscratcher, and both are glammed up, respectively, with a dusting of glittery nail polish on lenses and thumbnail.

Dylan Spaysky, “Sunglasses,” Wood, paint, 19 ½ x 3 x 3 ¾ in., 2019

Animals, both real and imaginary also materialize, including a Duck, its back turned to the spectator (as if shyly paddling or flying away?); a diminutive brown bear (Smokey?) squatting on its haunches atop a tall, thin paint roller handle (a faux “stick,” admittedly), perhaps to suggest a lofty mountain peak; and the melting visage of Donald Duck who, with a mad gleam in his eye, appears over-animated. (In Disney World patter Mickey is sweet and Donald obstreperous.) Titled Dolan Stick (Dylan?), perhaps he embodies another imaginary friend of the artist-sculptor. Spaysky’s finessing of detail is evident in the tiny Shinola leather tassel of Donald’s cap, and his carving chops obvious in the adroit accommodation of the hole in the wood that extends from mouth through eye and top of head.

Dylan Spaysky, “Bear” (detail), Wood, paint, metal, duct tape, 48 x 1 x 1 in., 2019

Dylan Spaysky, “Dolan Stick,” Wood, paint, leather, 22 x 3 x 3 in., 2019

Looming at the crest of a rough-hewn limb Melania [Trump], at 7 ½ in., is the tallest of Gingo’s stick toppers. Spaysky’s replica of the inscrutable Melania is based on a larger than life linden wood effigy unveiled only a month ago by a notable chainsaw artisan in her native Slovenia. She wears her inaugural Alice-blue dress, and raises one arm in greeting, as if echoing, or returning the gesture of Gingo’s broad, expansive wave. Spaysky acknowledges that the appearance of the “original” Melania on a hilltop in Slovenia was like a serendipitous apparition just as he was in the midst of fabricating images for his show.  And that he now had the chance to carve a wood copy of a wood original is not beside the point either.

Dylan Spaysky, “Melania,” Wood, paint, 19 x 3 ¼ x 3 in., 2019

Spaysky’s deft and meticulous wood working facility strikes a high/low point in Flip Flops, both in its heft and canny floor hugging footprint in lieu of wall mounting. It is in fact a two-by-four plank at one end of which neon green flip flops jut out, paralleling the flat footed board from which they extrude. Its placement in the gallery, slightly off to the side and arguably the last object a viewer might take note of, seems akin to drawing a line in the sand to underscore the artist’s ongoing rapport with what his eye fancies.

Dylan Spaysky, “Flip Flops” (detail), Wood, marker, wicker, nail, 49 x 3 7/8 x 2 ¾ in., 2019

Detroiter Spaysky, a graduate of College for Creative Studies, and a prolific maker, has exhibited nonstop since 2007, most recently in Detroit in “Blobject” at Center Galleries in 2018. There and elsewhere, his penchant for converting an array of common objects and cast off materials into idiosyncratic artifacts has been his forte. In “Gingo & Sticks,” however, his unorthodox ways and means center on–sticks, carving, serial format, and spare presentation–the results of which Gingo beckons visitors to review.  For indeed, within the snug gallery a roomy world opens up as Spaysky’s sculptures tack from global icons of yore (Disney et al.) to newfangled models (a contemporary diva in blue) and, in between, to the droll vernacular of dog, cat, backscratcher, and more!

So, plan to schedule a visit to “Dylan Spaysky” and Gingo at What Pipeline between now and August 24, on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from 1 – 6 p.m., or by appointment.