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

 

 

 

 

 

Mirror, Mirror @ College for Creative Studies Center Galleries

The Dresner Foundation Soul Studio artists occupy the College for Creative Studies Center Galleries in the Manoogian Visual Resource Center until March 30.

Installation View, Mirror, Mirror

The works fill the space but are not cramped. Sufficient wall space between the pieces allows individual focus. However, upon entering the gallery one is struck by how the pieces speak to each other across the large room. The artists of Soul Studio collaborate, consciously and/or unconsciously, and their works seem to be enriched for it.

A primary example of this collaboration, “Celebration of Chaos” is credited to all the Soul Studio Artists. It is one of 3 pieces which hang from the ceiling trusses, casting shadows of additional dimensions to the subject piece. On the wall, the “Celebration of Chaos” shadow looks like a crown of thorns – perhaps representing the sometimes buffeting trials of life? On the floor, the shadow is interspersed with bright highlights – are they lumens of joy and hope in the middle of chaos?

Soul Studio Artists, Celebration of Chaos, yarn, wire, bamboo

These are expressive works, make no mistake. They hang together as a cohesive unit, yet each piece calls for attention and inspection on its own terms. The eponymous “Mirror, Mirror” by Aislinn Wendrow, is an actual antique dresser-case mirror with carefully crafted, curved wood sides. It has all been painted over in bold strokes, obliterating the reflective and frame surfaces with colors juxtaposed and contrasted. It is as though the time for reflection has gone – this is the time for expression. “I recognize myself. Take me for who I am!”

Aislinn Wendrow, Mirror, Mirror, acrylic on mirror

Pretense is shunned here, as evidenced even in the titles. The first piece in the show is: “Untitled (9 Squares with Spaghetti) by Jonathan Barrett, with painted yarn arranged in knots like spaghetti, or “This is Sew Abstract” also by Wendrow, which features handstitched details. The work is sometimes playful, sometimes mischievous, such as the handmade book “Prankbook” by Andy Feinberg. They are large format canvases, hanging pieces, or entire series. The viewer should expect edgy and challenging work that is ultimately a delight to see.

The show is held together by the vision of Anthony Marcellini. He is the director of Soul Studio in West Bloomfield, a project of the Dresner Foundation through the Friendship Circle, providing studio space and artistic direction to artists with special needs. Creative opportunities are offered in a wide variety of media, from fine art to design of all types, both 2D and 3D: http://www.friendshipcircle.org/soul/

Sacred Art @ Marygrove College Art Gallery

Installation, Events in the Life of Jesus Christ, 2018

The contemporary chasm of indifference on the part of the haute art scene to Western religious art of a devotional nature (Christian art), is absolutely uncrossable to anyone in the world of art patronage and criticism. In rare instances, however, artists themselves have attempted tenuous bridges over that chasm. Georges Rouault managed to achieve recognition as an artist through his powerful images of Christian religious figures. Christian imagery, so long a significant theme of art in our culture has evaporated. The triumph of avant-gardism in a post-Christian secular age is dogma held with neo-religious fervor. In recent decades very few artists of renown have let it be known they might actually be devoutly Catholic. Andy Warhol was quiet about his Catholic faith but daily visited St. Vincent Ferrer Church in Manhattan for Mass or to pray. The cult of celebrity and splintering into theoretical camps keep artists of faith isolated from each other, but hopeful signs appear. There are some artists today who are actively working toward a re-emergence of a serious voice for Christianity in the arts, specifically, the visual arts. Catholic art societies have been established in New York, Chicago, and elsewhere. Artists who are Catholic are answering the call and challenge of St. Pope John Paul II in his “Letter to Artists,” to “enrich the cultural heritage of each nation and of all humanity.”

Ron Scott Teachworth is one such artist.

Mr. Teachworth has an MA from Wayne State University and has for years been an abstract and landscape artist, working primarily in acrylics on canvas and watercolors on paper. It was his encounter with Fra Angelico’s frescos at the San Marco Convent in Florence, Italy, particularly The Annunciation, which compelled Mr. Teachworth to express his own conversion experience through visual art. Beginning with an Annunciation of his own, he painted scenes from the life of Christ, not consciously working toward a series, but desiring to express his own deep allegiance to the Gospel. When his Annunciation was accepted into the juried biennial St. Vincent College Catholic Arts Competition in 2014, Teachworth was greatly encouraged to study the masters’ interpretations of the life of Christ. This effort would culminate in the current series of twenty paintings done over the course of a decade.

The exhibit is in the beautiful Marygrove College Liberal Arts building and is entitled Events in the Life of Jesus Christ. The watercolor paintings chronicling the life of Jesus are commensurate with Teachworth’s spiritual development as a Catholic. The works are an openly sincere expression of the faith that can transform a life by changing the heart. They contain nothing of the modernist’s obligatory irony, or the cynicism brought to bear when dealing with the main theme that formed and informed Western culture for two millennia. They are true, in the sense that they are an honest telling of the Gospel story by someone who believes in that story even now, in the face of brash materialism and hostile disbelief.

Ron Teachworth, Jesus Christ, 22 x 30″, Watercolor on paper, 2018

Upon entering the gallery space, one is met with an image entitled simply Jesus Christ, a recent painting (2018) of the mature Man Who’s story we are about to see unfold. Its composition is a fitting introduction to the manner of composition Teachworth employs in all of the paintings. Though the central figure or figures dominate, the backgrounds are always worthy of close scrutiny. They will contain other figures, symbols, buildings and landscapes whose meanings are sometimes obvious, other times open to interpretation. Always they are carefully patterned and painted, conveying a sense of thoughtful devotion to both the craft of the artist and the subject of the work.

Teachworth’s palette is richly chromatic but not overly so. His colors are lively without jarring, and though somber when appropriate, are never dreary. Forms are defined with subtle tones layered or placed next to each other to blend softly, while in other places, edges and values are sharply distinct to define contours; all done with an assurance of purpose. Watercolor can be an extremely difficult medium to control, but Teachworth seems to have accomplished it. The exhibit overall is consistently visually engaging and pleasing to look around at. Each piece shines on its own, and builds on what has come before; it then leads one to go on to the next painting and event in the story. Though done over a period of ten years, the paintings hold together well as a continuous narrative, making for a cohesive series and exhibit.

The majority of the pieces in the exhibit are based on incidents recorded in the Gospels. However, in Mary Visits Jesus, an incident is depicted which is not in the Holy Scriptures. Perhaps because the story is unfamiliar, the painting is all the more intriguing. The figures are shown outdoors. Jesus is shown as a young man at a workbench while His Mother is to the side as if having just entered the scene. Her right hand is on Jesus’ forearm; Her left hand and face seem to express an entreating manner. Jesus’ head is down, bent to His work, though He seems to be aware of His Mother’s presence. There is a river (the Jordan?) behind the figures, and on the other side, a continuous line of buildings indicating a city.

Ron Teachworth, Mary Visits Jesus, 22 x 30″, Watercolor on paper, 2012

Curiously, it is only Mary who has a halo of golden light around her head. Jesus does not have a halo, only a yarmulke. Does this indicate that she is, for this moment, the one inspired by the Holy Spirit? Is she entreating Her Son to look up from His work to the wider world beyond – across the river to the people who need Him? This is all reminiscent of a scene which is recorded in the Gospel of John, the wedding feast in Cana, when Mary simply informed her Son of a particular need, trusting the outcome completely to Him.

Ron Teachworth, Ascension of Jesus Christ, 22 x 30″, Watercolor on paper, 2017

In the Ascension of Jesus Christ, Teachworth demonstrates his graphic design sense to meaningful effect. The figure of Christ and three of His disciples (Peter, James, And John?) are shown enclosed in a column of light. Also in the light is the figure of a donkey, the animal Jesus rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, when the common people hailed Him as their King. Jesus is shown in the air above the three looking up at Him. Is the light surrounding them meant to show the close friendship these three shared with Jesus? The entire group of the disciples and Mary are shown in a peaceful and expansive countryside as they look up to Jesus’ accent. The setting seems to speak of the calm reassurance the followers of Jesus must have felt seeing Him alive again and hearing His promise to “be with them always.” The sky, however, is filled with large cumulous clouds. Could they indicate the storm of persecutions that will break out when this little band upsets the whole world with their preaching of the Gospel of Jesus?

Though it has been denigrated for many years, figurative painting is currently undergoing a strong and widespread resurgence of practice and interest (it has always been an essential component to the expression of the Christian faith.) It is to be hoped this renewal of interest in depicting, and honoring, the highest good of the created order, the image of God in humanity, continues with a vital urgency. Visual art has endured the greatest degradations in the post-modern art world, as compared to other art forms. For most people, contemporary art no longer amuses or befuddles. They simply ignore it. The current art scene serves no purpose in their lives; its products and its heroes appear openly hostile, when not merely aloof. Most people return the favor in kind, and are uninterested in art, or are baldly contemptuous of art world pretentiousness. A new type of artist is needed. One who, while conversant with developments in visual culture, is not enslaved by fashionable trends or blinded by the pursuit of infamy and mammon, but who is a practitioner of lucid visual languages. People have need of a space for contemplation, a window to transcendence, an idea that can uplift, ennoble, and provide relief from the burden of banality. Artists can give that to people.
With this exhibit, Ron Scott Teachworth has taken his place among such artists.

The Event in the Life of Jesus Christ at Marygrove College art gallery, 8425, McNichols, Detroit, Liberal Arts Bldg. 4th fl.- runs through December 30, 2018.

Open to the public 9-5 pm daily or by appointment. 248-321-2979