It's Showtime: Japanese Prints of Kabuki Theater from the Collection of the University of Michigan Museum of Art



Detail from Toyohara Kunichika's Rough Wooden Statue of Minister Kiyomasa: Nakamura Shikan IV as Warrior Satō Kiyomasa, Meiji era (1868-1912), 1873, color woodblock print on paper.

There are only a handful of art exhibits of such sophisticated complexity that they can absorb the viewer’s attention for an indefinite amount of time. Japanese Prints of Kabuki Theater from the Collection of the University of Michigan Museum of Art is one of those treasures.

This display, mounted in the UMMA’s spacious second-story A. Alfred Taubman Gallery, represents a level of sophistication that could only truly be appreciated by two audiences: Those for whom these colorful prints were originally intended and subsequent experts who can identify the identity of the portraiture as well as the work’s iconography. The rest of us will have to take what we can get.

It doesn’t mean that one has to be an expert in Japanese theater or have an advanced degree in the history of that country’s culture to appreciate Japanese Prints of Kabuki Theater -- although it sure doesn't hurt. Rather, appreciating this imaginative display requires a unique kind of patience that will allow the show to open up to the viewer at its own pace and in its own way. But that seems to be the intent of kabuki all along.

Roundup: Collage Concert, Emergent Effect, and Mozart Mania


ALL MIXED UP: The annual Collage Concert is the starting line for U-M’s bicentennial year celebrations. The wide range of School of Music, Theater, and Dance (SMTD) ensembles coming together on January 14 at 8 p.m. in Hill Auditorium will provide a continuous sonic collage of styles to represent the many diverse elements that have combined to shape U-M for the past 200 years. (➤ SMTD)

RESIDENTIAL EFFECT: Ypsi Alloy Studios is teaming up with the Ann Arbor Art Center for an exhibit they’re calling Emergent Effect. Sixteen resident Ypsi Alloy artists are represented, with the exhibit focusing on their “intersecting work and common voice,” according to curators Ilana Houten, Elize Jekabson, and Jessica Tenbusch. The opening reception is free and goes down January 13 from 6-9 p.m., and Emergent Effect runs through January 28. (➤ Ann Arbor Art Center)

MOZART MONTH: There are more Mozart-related concerts in January every year for one reason: The powdered-wig wonder was born on this month’s 27th day in 1756. One such event in Ann Arbor is the A2SO’s 21st annual birthday bash (which we profiled here) on Saturday, January 14. But if you can’t make it to that performance, drop by the library on Sunday, January 15 at 2 p.m. for a screening of an all-Mozart concert performed in New York City's Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center in May 2013. The music includes Piano Trio in B-flat major, K. 502; Horn Quintet in E-flat major, K. 407; and Viola Quintet in C major. (➤ AADL)

Christopher Porter is a Library Technician and editor of Pulp.

From Rubik's Cube to Roller Coaster: Penny Stamps Speaker Series, Winter 2017

For the last 12 years, Chrisstina Hamilton has been working out a puzzle of sorts for thousands of people to enjoy. As director of visitors' programs for the University of Michigan's STAMPS School of Art & Design, Hamilton organizes the school's popular Penny Stamps Speaker Series.

"It's sort of like this 3-D Rubik's Cube kind of thing when you're trying to put it together, and it's incredibly difficult because you lose pieces here and there," Hamilton said. "People want to line up, and you think, 'We can't have this come after that.' But somehow, miraculously, it ends up all coming together."

The free guest speaker series takes place Thursdays at Ann Arbor's Michigan Theatre (with a few exceptions) and features artists that represent a spectrum of media, backgrounds, and viewpoints.

The winter 2017 season gets underway this week and follows on a successful fall 2016 run, which included a surprisingly chatty Mark Mothersbaugh (Hamilton had been told the artist, composer, and Devo frontman could be shy in front of crowds, but not so here: "He just told story after story," she said. "We could barely get him off the stage") and the series' first foray into hosting satellite events in neighboring Ypsilanti.

Hamilton said the big challenge every season is making it "incredibly diverse" in terms of mediums people work with and perspectives they offer, as well as gender, and race.

Ann Arbor District Library 2016 Staff Picks: Books, Movies, Music & More

Ann Arbor District Library 2016 Staff Picks

We don't just lend media; we indulge in it, too!

The Gregorian calendar rules most of the world, but time is a continuum. That's why our 2016 Ann Arbor District Library staff picks for books, music, film, and more include items that go back as far as 1865. Our list is comprised of media (and a few other things) that made an impact on us in 2016, no matter when the material came out.

Libraries have always acted as curation stations, helping sort through the vast amount of media released every year. On our website, we have more than 50 staff-curated lists of recommendations, but we don't just advocate for things digitally. We share our "picks" in person every time you step into the library. Books with prominent positions in our spaces, whether facing forward or on shelf tops, are chosen by staff members because they want you to pick up those pages.

Consider the massive post below featuring 55 books, 25 films and TV shows, and 20 albums -- plus a few odds and ends -- as a continuation of those curated lists, those forward-facing books, and the Ann Arbor District Library’s ongoing mission to bring high-quality art, entertainment, and information into your lives.

So, ready your library cards: Most of the recommendations below are in our collection; just click on the {[AADL]} link at the end of each pick to be taken to the item's page on our website.

A Deep Welles of Ideas: “It’s Still Terrific: Citizen Kane at 75”



A stand-up Citizen

Get over it: Citizen Kane is smarter than you. It’s smarter than any and all of us—or even its own creator, for that matter.

It’s smarter, because—if as has sometimes been said—the making of any movie is a miracle, then Citizen Kane is more than a miracle. It’s the Mona Lisa of film-making: inscrutable, ineffable, and unfathomable to whomever views it.

It’s also not a bad effort for a 25-year-old first time-out-of-the-chute theatrical amateur who by his own admission in the University of Michigan Harlan Hatcher Graduate Library’s It’s Still Terrific: Citizen Kane at 75 tells us that he had no real idea of what he was doing.

Indeed, as this exhibit at the U-M Hatcher Graduate Library Audubon Room illustrates through both sight and sound, it’s very likely the film is superior because enfant terrible Orson Welles didn’t know what he was doing. Which, of course, only makes the film that much more impressive.

Prêt-à-Potter: Avant Garden — Matthaei Botanical Gardens 2016


Get ready to shop deep local at craft fairs the weekend of December 9–11.

“Succulent Dress” (different species of Echeveria, Sedum, Sempervivens, and Senico) and “Moss Suit” (Green Mountain Moss, Ginkgo Leaves, Birch Bark, Spanish Moss, Air Plant).

With the coldest temperatures of the year forecast for this week, you’ve surely noticed that winter has finally arrived in Ann Arbor.

If you’re not quite ready to accept the frigid temps or crunchy snow underfoot and are still in the denial about the transition to winter (which, by the way, officially arrives on Wednesday at 5:44 am EST), treat yourself to a visit to Matthaei Botanical Gardens for a respite in the lovely Conservatory, which is currently hosting the Avant Garden: Weaving Fashion and Nature Together exhibition. (Fun fact! Alden Dow designed the Conservatory in 1964, and he also designed the original part of the Downtown Library building at 343 S. Fifth Avenue.)

Avant Garden is a whimsical convergence of planting design and fashion design in the form of seven “fantasy outfits.” I asked Bob Grese, Professor of Landscape Architecture and Director of the Matthaei Botanical Gardens & Nichols Arboretum, about the exhibit and the use of plants in unexpected ways. He said, “The exhibit is a playful look at plants as a direct material for the fashion industry, with fantasy use of plants for dresses, vests, and suitcoats. Beyond the artistic use of plants in the exhibit, the real message is that we rely on plants for a variety of things in clothing—fibers, dyes, and representation on fabric patterns.” (Full disclosure: Grese was one of my professors in the Landscape Architecture program at U-M’s School of Natural Resources and Environment)

Part of the joy in this exhibit is wandering through the Conservatory to find each of the creations. The Conservatory is separated into three “Houses,” each replicating a different climate: Tropical, Temperate, and Desert. The dresses are thoughtfully placed within each of their respective garden spaces and the feeling of discovery and exploration is part of the exhibit experience. The shades of green and variety of textures in each of the plant selections bring richness to each design. Each dress has a different style, and all are charming and elegant. I particularly enjoyed the bromeliad dress, which comes complete with a fascinator hat.

Animal Magic: Donald Hall's "Eating the Pig"

Donald Hall

Donald Hall's poetry is the apple of our eye.

If you’re a vegetarian, Donald Hall’s poem “Eating the Pig” might make your stomach churn.

But if you’re a meat eater and are disgusted by Hall’s imagery -- or the pictures in the Eating the Pig: A Dinner Party in Poetry, Photography & Painting exhibit, on display at the Ann Arbor District Library, that document the evening described in the poem -- you need to get in touch with where your animal-based protein comes from and the often brutal ways it gets to your plate.

(Read the "Eating the Pig" poem here or listen to Hall read it here.)

In 1975, Hall left his teaching job at University of Michigan and bought his maternal great-grandfather's farm in New Hampshire, where he spent many summers as a child. With so much of his life spent in a rural area, the 2006 Poet Laureate is deeply in tune with nature and the creatures that populate it. His poems show a clear-eyed vision of how real life is always an ongoing mix of beauty and struggle, inextricably linked and forever a source of consternation and inspiration. Hall recognizes that a gorgeous horse can become a broken down beast of burden; that a majestic but aging rooster’s final morning crow is lost to the wind before his head is chopped off; and that a cute little suckling pig can also be a source of human sustenance.

Hall has written many poems that feature animals -- and no, they aren’t all about eating them. Below is a selection of those poems, which display Hall’s reverence for animals and the many things they provide for humanity. These poems also give additional context to “Eating the Pig,” which ties a single October 1974 Ann Arbor evening spent carving and devouring an animal to a historic ritual of life and death that stretches back to the Stone Age when flint cutting tools first appeared.

Interview: Photographer Michelle Massey/Omeeomi, UMMA/Tiny Expo Award Winner


Michelle Massey/Omeeomi

Omeeomi, we have a winner!

Tiny Expo has become an annual tradition for the Washtenaw-area arts and crafts community, and the juried artists who exhibit their works often leave the downtown Ann Arbor District Library brimming with dinero from all the sales.

But this year there was a chance to take home some bonus bucks.

For this year’s event, which was held December 10, the Tiny Expo/UMMA Store Vendor Contest allowed patrons to cast votes for their favorite artists, with the prizes being:
-- 3rd place: $20 gift card to the UMMA store
-- 2nd place: $30 gift card to the UMMA store
-- 1st place: Select products by the winning artist will be featured and available for sale at the UMMA museum store for 6 months.

The top 3 vote-getters were then vetted by Nettie Tiso, manager of the UMMA store, who chose which artist would get to sell his or her works at the museum.

And this year’s winner is ... [drumroll] ... [really long drumroll] ... [now the drummer is doing a jazz solo, so this may take a while] ... [security breaks the drumsticks and escorts percussionist out of the building] ...

Michelle Massey, a Ypsilanti-based photographer who calls her company Omeeomi.

We talked to Massey about her art and photography in the interview below:

Preview: Winter Art Tour


Get ready to shop deep local at craft fairs the weekend of December 9–11.

Get ready to shop deep local at craft fairs the weekend of December 9–11.

Those looking for wonderful handmade gifts in Washtenaw County are in luck this December! Last year Pulp focused on four events in the county, but in 2016 there's a lot more going on. In fact, a local group has created an official Winter Art Tour that takes you to nine stops at craft fairs and art studios across Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti the weekend of December 9-11. There's even a passport you can get stamped when you visit one of the tour's locations, and if you hit up at least four spots, you have a chance to win cool handcrafted prizes. See the WAT website for all the details on the Winter Art Tour’s passport and prizes.

The biggest events of the weekend-long handmade shopping extravaganza are the two indie craft fairs: Tiny Expo in Ann Arbor and DIYpsi in Ypsilanti.

Tiny Expo takes place at the downtown Ann Arbor District Library and is an annual holiday fair that features 45 artists and crafters selling their wares in a festive library space. This one-day celebration (December 10, 11 am-5:30 pm) will also have several make-n-takes, including screen printing, button making, and tiny polymer clay snow globes.

The Riverside Arts Center in Ypsilanti is home to DIYpsi, which will host 90 vendors of the best in handmade from the Midwest. It’s a chance to enjoy handcrafted food and drinks while you get your shop on at this super-fun two-day show. (December 10, 11 am-6 pm; December 11, 12-6 pm)

Plan your weekend accordingly and hit up both events!

In contrast, if you’re looking for cozy spaces with unique art by local artisans, the rest of the stops on the Winter Art Tour have you covered.

Review: UMMA's "Europe on Paper: The Ernst Pulgram and Frances McSparran Collection"



Emil Nolde, Actress, 1912, watercolor on brown wove medium-weight paper. University of Michigan Museum of Art, Gift of the Ernst Pulgram and Frances McSparran Collection, 2007/2.102 / Egon Schiele, Standing Female Nude–Back, first quarter of 20th century, charcoal and pen on paper. University of Michigan Museum of Art, Gift of the Ernst Pulgram and Frances McSparran Collection, 2007/2.99

Europe on Paper at the University of Michigan Museum of Art certainly delivers everything it says in its title. But as is often the case at the UMMA, there’s a lot more to this exhibit than meets the eye.

For the display is a handful of seriously handsome artworks on paper. And as Lehti Mairike Keelmann, UMMA Assistant Curator of Western Art says in her introduction to the exhibit:

[T]he 47 prints, drawings, and watercolors comprising the Ernst Pulgram and Francis McSparran Collection provide a unique perspective on a momentous change in European history.

The works were made between the 18th and mid-20th century,” says Keelmann, “as the continent industrialized and new modes of transportation began to crisscross the countryside, connecting growing cities. Geopolitical tensions arose as nations attempted to bolster their identities on the world stage, culminating in the violence and turmoil of the two world wars.

And as if these geopolitical upheavals weren’t dramatic enough, there was pretty good art being made all over the place, too. That’s where Pulgram and McSparran come into play. A young and adventurous couple as they had to be, they consistently evaluated and scooped up some of the finest personalized art of this explosive period through their lifetimes.