From the Ancient to the Future: Osborne Macharia and Blinky Bill on Afrofuturism

VISUAL ART REVIEW

Osborne Macharia and Blinky Bill

Penny Stamps of Approval: Kenyan artists Osborne Macharia (left) and Blinky Bill explored Afrofuturism at the Michigan Theater.

I love the energy of the Penny Stamps Distinguished Speaker Series, where one can go to the Michigan Theater, join a multi-aged crowd, then sit back and hear the perspective of a creator who has been selected to create a dynamic learning experience for the audience members.

But I hate that idea of Afrofuturism confounds me.

I once had a friend who was into Afrofuturism and I could never quite understand what he was talking about. I’ve been to some Afrofuturism-themed exhibits, I’ve listened to a speaker or two, and I’ve seen a movie about it. I tried to get into it but remained confounded.

Kenyan photographer Osborne Macharia stood on the stage of the Michigan Theater on September 13 and said he hoped the audience would have a better understanding of the Afrofuturism concept by the end of the evening. Mancharia’s website describes Afrofuturism as “an artistic repurpose of the post-colonial African narrative through integrating historical elements, present culture and future aspirations of people of colo[u]r by using narrative, fantasy, and fiction to highlight African identity.”

At the Michigan Theater, I felt the same as I once did as a math student before my algebra breakthrough: I’d give it a try but didn’t feel confident that I would leave the session with any grand revelations.

But I came with an open mind.

Exploring the Ritual and Routine: Ann Arbor Art Center's "Rinse/Repeat"

VISUAL ART REVIEW

Jan Bogart's Prop 8

Jan Bogart, Prop 8, bronze casts

The Ann Arbor Art Center’s most recent juried exhibition asks: “When does action transcend habit to become something more meaningful? RINSE/REPEAT explores concepts of ritual or routine in creative practice, where the experience is intentional, sacred -- not solely focused on the product or outcome, but on the set of actions.”

The Art Center frequently hosts exhibitions curated by guest jurors, and like many of its recent exhibits, the show continues to bring a variety of multi-media works by contemporary artists, both local and non-local. The exhibition as a whole has a strong emphasis on fiber arts and less traditional “fine art” media.

Juror Marlee Grace conceptualized RINSE/REPEAT, which addresses artists’ processes, and has selected a group of pieces that, in different ways, address the often intense, repeated processes behind the finalized works. Grace is most known for her Instagram account “Personal Practice,” where she posts videos of herself exploring movement, and many works in the show comment on movement and motion, approaching the subject of repetition literally.

Rocket Ride: Anne and Jerzy Drozd's "Science Comics: Rockets - Defying Gravity"

VISUAL ART WRITTEN WORD

Science Comics: Rockets - Dying Gravity front cover and page

Everything I learned about rockets as a kid came from a Kiss song. That's rather unfortunate because I found out much later that "Rocket Ride" was not, in fact, about space travel but rather very Earthy matters.

If only I had Anne and Jerzy Drozd's Science Comics: Rockets - Defying Gravity to guide me rather than a subliterate Ace Frehley jam.

Gifts of Art's summer exhibitions keep on giving

VISUAL ART REVIEW

Patty Carroll's Parrots Fancy

Patty Carroll's Fancy Parrots, photograph

With eight different exhibits in its summer presentation, Gifts of Art continues to be an important part of the University of Michigan's creative ecosystem. The exhibitions, which run through September 9, serve as an important facet of the hospital, bringing the gallery experience to patients, staff, and visitors. 

Immersive India: Rasa Festival celebrates arts and cultural from the subcontinent

Rasa Festival 2018 logo

Building a month-long festival from the ground up is challenging enough when it focuses solely on one artistic discipline, such as music.

But last year's inaugural Rasa Festival was a multidisciplinary party with performing, visual, literary, media/films, and culinary arts from India, presented in various Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti venues.

It was a big achievement and the 2018 edition (September 1-October 7) looks to build on that success with more art exhibitions, dance performances, poetry readings, music concerts, film screenings, and a foodie event.

Here's the full calendar of events, many of which are free:

Local Legends: "One-Shot Stanger: The Photos of Eck Stanger" at AADL

VISUAL ART REVIEW

Eck Stanger - YWCA Day Camp "Circus," July 23, 1937

Eck Stanger, YWCA Day Camp "Circus," July 23, 1937

Local legend says Egbert ("Eck") Stanger, a 1930s copy editor for The Ann Arbor News, was hired as the paper's first staff photographer because he was the only staffer who knew how to read the German instruction manual for the newspaper's only camera. 

As recounted by Arthur P. Gallagher, News editor 1954-1976, in a 1976 article, Stanger supposedly said, "They gave me a second-hand Speed Graphic Camera and a booklet on how to use it."

But why would the Rochester, N.Y.-made Speed Graphic Camera have a German instruction manual?

We're clearly in the realm of John Ford's famed journalistic observation in his 1962 cowboy movie, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence: "When the legend becomes fact, print the legend."

But Stanger doesn't need any shaky legend to legitimize his incredible body of work, and AADL's One-Shot Stanger exhibition gives us a look at 21 of his finest photos, taken from AADL's Old News collection.

Book Covers: Live Painting with Marlo Broughton at AADL

VISUAL ART PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Marlo Broughton

Photo by Jay Adams.

Marlo Broughton, aka MarloBro, is an artist and designer whose work ranges from pop culture to social issues like police brutality to love and friendship. He's been involved with Detroit's creative scene since 2007 and steadily built his portfolio in the city’s streets and galleries. His work has been featured in numerous exhibitions in the area and he works with agencies including 1XRun, Playground Detroit, and the Detroit Institute of Arts.

He’s also been a part of the creative group Finally Famous with Tommey Walker, his cousin and founder of the Detroit Vs. Everybody clothing line. This group helped drive rapper Big Sean’s artistic projects into motion and allowed Broughton to have a hand in mixtapes and branding during Big Sean’s indie career.

Refuge and Isolation: Ypsi Alloy Studios' "Sanctuary" at Ann Arbor Art Center

VISUAL ART REVIEW

Ann Arbor Art Center's app for Sanctuary

ICON Interactive's virtual reality app for Ann Arbor Art Center's Sanctuary exhibit.

Ann Arbor Art Center’s Sanctuary exhibition features some pieces that focus on the meditative aspect of the titular concept, but other works confront the “double-edged sword” of what "sanctuary" means, lending to the gallery’s successful interpretation of a broad theme. 

Featuring work from 15 artists from Ypsi Alloy Studios, the show is described by the gallery as:

The Photography of Art: Donita Simpson’s "Context Is Everything" documents Detroit artists

VISUAL ART REVIEW INTERVIEW

Nancy Mitchnick by Donita Simpson

Picturing Art: Detroit painter Nancy Mitchnick, shown here next to her work in progress. Photo by Donita Simpson.

Donita Simpson is racing to record and archive images of the Detroit art scene’s most important and enduring artists as she writes the first draft of the city’s contemporary art history. A generous selection from the award-winning portrait photographer’s years-long project is on view in Context Is Everything at Connections gallery in the University of Michigan's North Campus Research Complex.

Found-Object Art, Found: "Materials on Hand: The Art of Ellen Wilt" at Stamps Gallery

VISUAL ART REVIEW

Ellen Witt's Urban Bridge, 1991

Ellen Witt and Ted Reyda's Urban Bridge, mixed media, 1991

The U-M Stamps Gallery’s exhibition Materials on Hand: The Art of Ellen Wilt brings together a remarkable variety of works executed over the Ann Arbor artist's long career.

Wilt originates from Pittsburgh, PA, but moved to Ann Arbor in 1949, where she has been active in the arts community since. She attended the University of Michigan, where she obtained both her BFA and MA from the Stamps School of Art & Design.

The Stamps gallery has gathered an impressive collection of Wilt’s work, highlighting her importance in the community. Collectors have loaned the gallery many of the works, allowing a rare glimpse into works that have been in private collections for decades. The gallery space itself is opened up, allowing for the inclusion of “over 50 carefully selected works from personal and private collections that highlight Wilt’s artistic contributions to Southeast Michigan.”