Arrested Motion: “Helen Gotlib: Secret Beaches” at WSG Gallery

VISUAL ART REVIEW

Helen Gotlib, Sea Ranch Flower IV painting detail

Helen Gotlib, Sea Ranch Flower IV (detail), woodblock print, intaglio print, acrylic paint, palladium leaf.

Ann Arbor printmaker Helen Gotlib is a master of the art of slow motion. It’s there in plain sight in her Secret Beaches exhibit at the WSG Gallery.

Gotlib’s vision of such arrested motion is an integral aspect of her mixed-media printmaking. It’s an intricate element of her work that follows apace in her handful of prints from composition to completion.

In large part, this suspended movement is due to the sheer complexity of Gotlib’s art. In any single artwork, there are combinations of woodblock printing, intaglio printing, acrylic paint, India ink and gold or palladium leaf on her carved birch panels.

As Gotlib says in her artist’s statement:

Pulp Bits: A Roundup of Washtenaw County Arts & Culture Stories, Songs & Videos

Pulp Bits

Photo collage used Eck Stanger's photo "McOmber/Ullman Wedding - June 30, 1945" from The Ann Arbor News and Pulp's album cover for Different Class.

A round-up of arts and culture stories featuring people, places, and things in Washtenaw County, whether they're just passing through or Townies for life. Coverage includes music, visual art, film & video, theater & dance, written word, and Pulp life (food, fairs, and more). 

Featuring new music by The Kelseys and Stef Chura, plus a short film about sleeping in various public spots in Ann Arbor at 5 am, and much more.

Paul Vachon's "Detroit: An Illustrated Timeline" explores three centuries of history

WRITTEN WORD PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Detroit: An Illustrated Timeline

Detroit has lived under the flags of three countries, watched its fortunes soar with stove and automotive manufacturing and then crash back to earth with bankruptcy, and the city continues to evolve and change in myriad ways today.

Three centuries of this fascinating city’s history are explored in the new book by Paul Vachon, Detroit: An Illustrated Timeline

“I always wanted to write,” the author says. “The Great Recession led to a job loss, which led to writing for trade publications and to my first book for Arcadia Publishing, called Forgotten Detroit.” 

Since then, Vachon has published South Oakland County: Then & Now, Legendary Locals of Detroit, and Lost Restaurants of Detroit, as well as two guidebooks, MOON Michigan and MOON Michigan's Upper Peninsula. “History has been my passion in many ways,” he says. “And about two years ago Reedy Press approached me to do a timeline book about Detroit.”

The book is a chronological telling of events in Detroit, broken up into chapters that correspond to periods within the city’s history. “The subject matter ranges from military conquests to industry to individual people who shaped Detroit in some way," Vachon says. "The book examines political developments, business trends … all the way up to the bankruptcy.”

Rapid, Radical Change: "The World to Come: Art in the Age of the Anthropocene" at UMMA

VISUAL ART REVIEW

Hiding in the City, No. 95 by Liu-Bolin

Hiding in the City, No. 95, Coal Pile by Liu Bolin, 2010 chromogenic print on plex.

The day after I saw the University of Michigan Museum of Art’s current exhibit The World to Come: Art in the Age of the Anthropocene, I saw this headline on the front page of The New York Times: "Report Details Global Shrink in Biodiversity."  It was accompanied by images of bleached coral and strangled sea turtles. On the same page, I saw a picture of Lady Gaga in black lingerie on the steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, vamping for the cameras on the occasion of the annual Met Gala. 

I like to think I would have been shocked by this juxtaposition of the catastrophic and the trivial before I saw the exhibit, but I’m not sure. We live in an age of distraction and it’s easy for us humans -- famous for our short attention spans -- to lose sight of the enormous challenge posed by global warming. The World to Come makes the point, devastatingly, incontrovertibly, unforgettably, that we live in an era of rapid, radical, and irrevocable ecological change. 

The show, curated by Kerry Oliver-Smith of the Harn Museum of Art at the University of Florida, hits you right between the eyes with images of humanity’s effect on the natural environment -- and it keeps on hitting.  Sections of the show are broken down into categories such as "Deluge," "Consumption," "Extinction," "Imaginary Futures," and the like, categorizing the environmental outrages to make the enormity of the subject (and the size of the show) comprehensible.  

It’s ironic that an exhibit devoted to destruction and climate disaster should be so very beautiful but ... well, there it is.

Connor Coyne's novel "Urbantasm: The Dying City" deals in nuances not dichotomies about his Flint hometown

WRITTEN WORD PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Urbanism by Connor Coyne

There’s usually more than meets the eye in both fiction and nonfiction. There’s more to Jean Valjean than just taking that loaf of bread. Moby Dick was more than a whale. And Flint isn’t just a town with a water crisis -- it is a city full of artists, activists, and everyday people trying to live their best lives. 

And that’s the picture author Connor Coyne aims to paints in his new serial novel set in a city based on Flint, Urbantasm: The Dying City. Coyne lived in the city until he was 12 and returned after the birth of his daughter. “I loved Flint and wanted to be part of the community again,” he says. “I’ve always had this sense of the vitality and creative energy in this area ... that doesn’t always get talked about.” Coyne hopes that readers recognize his passion for the city in the book. 

Urbantasm tells the story of 13-year-old John Bridge, whose big plan to become the most popular kid at his new junior high school is put on hold by a series of strange events. After taking an enigmatic pair of blue sunglasses from a person who is homeless, Bridge soon finds himself mysteriously dropped into the middle of a gang war in his hometown of Akawe. This formerly great Rust Belt city is home to a gang of white supremacists, a homegrown drug called O-Sugar that was responsible for the deaths of a group of local kids, and suspicious deaths that may have been murders. Bridge must navigate these mysteries while adjusting to a new school and dealing with problems at home and in his city.

FRANNY CHOI’S POETRY COLLECTION “SOFT SCIENCE” STUDIES FOREIGNNESS AND NATURALNESS IN IDENTITY AND WITH TECHNOLOGY

WRITTEN WORD PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Franny Choi and her book Soft Science

Author photo by Graham Cotten.

Soft Science, the title of Franny Choi’s second book of poetry, is meant as a pun. In one sense, it is a term sometimes used in academics to refer to the social sciences. Alternatively, this title describes the collection’s study of softness and vulnerability, Choi told Pulp. Both of those meanings convey the book’s examination of what it means to be alive and live with technology, a matter that Choi does not see as only binary. 

“There is an alternative to simply being afraid of the ways that technology steals from our humanity,” she said. “I think that the primary way that we’re allowed to think -- not to think, but to feel -- about technology is either like [it’s] this unfeeling, perversely optimistic god that will save us, or the enemy that’s here to replace us. I think that there are more options for feeling.” 

You can hear poems that explore those options when Choi, who lives in Hamtramck and recently earned an MFA at the University of Michigan, reads at Literati Bookstore in Ann Arbor on Tuesday, May 14, at 7 pm. 

Neighborhood Theatre Group Brings the Laughs with Original Sketch Comedy Show "Trending Now"

THEATER & DANCE REVIEW

Neighborhood Theatre Group, Trending Now cast

Ypsilanti's Neighborhood Theatre Group closes their 2018-2019 season with original sketch comedy show Trending Now, highlighting the humor found in "fads, fashion, and fandom." 

NTG has always had its hand on the pulse of popular culture. In previous seasons, their annual sketch show has asked, "What is love?" (Sketchual Healing, 2017) and "Can I Help You?" (focused on customer service, 2018). There is catharsis in poking fun at ourselves (and each other) and having a good laugh. 

Topics this time around include a Klingon wedding, Grandma's misuse of internet initialisms, Lite-Brites, spoiler alerts, who is the best Doctor Who, dance-offs, how Facebook knows our every desire, #RaisingAwareness, and a rousing game of Craft Beer or Race Horse? with audience participation (it's harder than you might think). 

Jazz Is: Guitarist Elden Kelly and The Outrospectives play “Dancing Light: Music of Gregg Hill” at Blue LLama

MUSIC REVIEW

Elden Kelly & Gregg Hill

In college, I had a professor who used to enjoy asking the students in jazz history class to define jazz. He would say, “What is jazz?” and then sit back and listen to us try to answer this seemingly basic question. We know it when we hear it, but since we can’t quite put our fingers on what makes something “jazz,” we use other words like bebop, post-bop, modern, avant-garde, free, and fusion to help us out. Usually, I deplore circular reasoning, but when it comes to impossible questions, sometimes the answer is in the question itself. Jazz is what jazz musicians do. What’s a jazz musician? A person who plays jazz is a jazz musician. What’s jazz again?

On May 9 I attended the CD release show for The Outrospectives' new record, Dancing Light: Music of Gregg Hillat Ann Arbor’s Blue LLama Jazz Club. Guitarist Elden Kelly assembled this band to play compositions by Gregg Hill. Elden arranged the music for a specific quintet of gifted musicians, and he worked with Hill to transcribe the music over the course of the past six years. What made this concert exciting were the ways in which this group and the music it played were both firmly rooted in jazz traditions, while simultaneously breaking new ground and bringing in non-jazz elements (or at least elements that are not traditionally associated with jazz). 

The group itself is almost a traditional quintet, but with some caveats.

Pop-Up Exhibition Melts Notions: "Butter" dishes up 80+ options to serve the food

VISUAL ART REVIEW INTERVIEW

Butter exhibit

Some things are designed for specific uses only, while other items could serve a variety of functions. Examples might be socks versus a blanket, or a planner versus blank paper. In the realm of food, a butter dish serves a singular purpose among other tableware. This quality makes butter dishes less common, said Margaret Carney, director of the International Museum of Dinnerware Design in Ann Arbor. 

The question then becomes, “What would you want to have your butter in?” according to Carney. 

The exhibit Butter provides more than 80 answers to this question in the form of invited, juried, and museum pieces all designed to hold butter or related to butter in some way. The show is a pop-up exhibition curated by the International Museum of Dinnerware Design and on view at the Museum on Main Street, which is owned by the Washtenaw County Historical Society, through a partnership between the museums. Butter is available to visit from April 6 to August 25, 2019, on Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. and weekdays by appointment. Admission is free. 

Carney will give a presentation related to the exhibit, called “Butter Extravaganza,” Sunday, May 12, from 3-5 pm at the Traverwood Branch of the Ann Arbor District Library. 

Despite butter’s ubiquity as a condiment, ingredient, flavoring, and cooking medium, the way in which it is dished up might not always have much ceremony around it. Plastic tubs of butter from the grocery store can be easily shuttled between the refrigerator and table without needing a dish. Restaurants often supply little wax-wrapped or tiny plastic containers alongside bread. Yet, butter dishes, often lidded, can be part of a set of dishes or standalone pieces. 

Where Many Rivers Meet: Debashish Bhattacharya explored Indian classical music on Hawaiian lap-steel guitar at the jazz club Blue LLama

MUSIC REVIEW

Debashish Bhattacharya

Indian classical music is not jazz, but both traditions have some commonalities, particularly improvisation, which is a critical and highly developed skill in both genres. Those commonalities -- and tons of skill -- were on display May 2 during Debashish Bhattacharya's performance at the new Blue LLama jazz club in Ann Arbor.

Indian classical music and jazz traditions are often transmitted orally. Musicians are held to a high standard of excellence. There is a tension between tradition and innovation that helps to ground the music without causing it to sound stale and boring. And in the case of Bhattacharya, who has brought the Hawaiian lap steel into the world of Indian classical music, there is a willingness to explore music beyond the traditional boundaries of style or genre.

I took my seat at the back of the club about 20 minutes before show time. My server brought me a small, single-bite portion of palak chaat, a salad of crispy spinach, yogurt, and curry created by Chef Louis that had been inspired by the evening's music. Blue LLama is very serious about its mission of combining “the love of food with the love of music” (and why there are two capital LLs in the club's name). The food is delicious and the venue has been designed from the ground up for incredible sound and vibe. It's definitely the classiest place in town to see live music.