"Reach: A Stamps Faculty Exhibition" is a rich and diverse collection of art



Metal. Anne Mondro constructs intricatley crafted human hearts and anterior organs out of copper, silver, and bronze wires. Photo by Elizabeth Smith.

In March of this year, University of Michigan’s Stamps School of Art and Design opened the Stamps Gallery on the first floor of the McKinley Towne Centre, 201 S. Division. The new space offers an accessible art-viewing experience in downtown Ann Arbor and features large glass windows, which particularly impacted my viewing of the sculptural works on display by Anne Mondro as part of Reach: A Stamps Faculty Exhibition.

Her hanging sculptures, intricately constructed from tiny copper, silver, and bronze wires, represent various human hearts and anterior organs. Three hearts hang austerely in a row in the front of the gallery, which immediately drew my interest. I visited in the evening, on a sunny day, a perfect time to catch these sculptures illuminated by the setting sun.

These works illustrate Mondro’s interest in traditional craft and the human body. Applying the technique of crochet to thin wire, Mondro creates complex, sophisticated designs. The wire organs float just feet above the floor and appear ghostly in the large space. Though these were the first objects to catch my attention, there are 18 artists’ works on display, ranging from traditional drawing, found objects, textiles, a giant camera obscura that resembles a deer hunting blind, a mechanized brick grinder, and much more.

The exhibition features works by University of Michigan’s Stamps School of Art & Design faculty, illustrating a diverse range of artistic practice. The exhibition “brings together a cross-section of rigorous and research-based work” by faculty, who “wear multiple hats as educators, storytellers, artists, and designers.” These works engage with themes of contemporary art practice, the large show including pieces ranging from traditional media to interactive works.

One such interactive work is the installation by artists Stephanie Rowden and Jennifer Metsker. The Bird in the Breath and Other Hopeful Cargo features a two-wall “room” with egg-shell blue walls, a dark, wood chair and a hanging set of headphones. The chair is positioned beneath the headphones, inviting the viewer to sit in the space and listen to the recording playing through the speakers. If you choose to engage with the piece and listen to the headphones, a poem adapted from the works of Emily Dickinson plays on a loop. The wall text states, “This list-like poem reflects on the rich ephemera found in her poems -- the feathers, the shadows, the gown -- and imagines them being packed up shipped across time and space.” The listener can wear the headphones and sit peacefully against the blue-toned walls inscribed with white paint; words such as pearl, cloud, button, and bird reiterate the quotidian aesthetic in both the poetry and the installation space. This audio poem was commissioned by BBC Radio 4 and is the second in a series of adaptations by the artists.

Three video works are also on display in the gallery, at times competing for air space. In a small, semi-secluded theater-style space in the back of the gallery, two short films by Nick Tobier explore street life. The films explore two different public locations and the interactions that take place there. The first video, Detroit Local, follows a group of marchers wielding various tools, which they use as instruments, through the streets of Detroit. The group, headed by a conductor, gathers members as they walk along sidewalks and down the centers of roads. The second video, set in Bangaluru, India, depicts a man playing trombone on a busy street. Passersby often neglect to acknowledge the man playing, or large vehicles drown out the sound. Tobier’s first video explores the result of the artist’s intervention in creating a public occurrence, while the second appears less staged, instead focusing on the bizarre everyday life of a musician in a loud, busy city.

The third video in the exhibition, Swallowed Whole, plays as a single-channel video on a mounted screen across the gallery. This film is abstract and fragmented, consisting of repeating scenes that suggest hospitals, ice, and claustrophobia. The experimental film was the recipient of 10 awards between 2014 and 2016, and Kumao’s website states it's about “surviving extreme isolation and physical limitations as the result of traumatic injury.” Intermittent crashing sounds and images of a broken spine emphasize the disorder and unrest portrayed in the film. Kumao explains that the technique is used “to both tell and disrupt the story

Each work in the gallery merited interest, with a very diverse collection of media, themes, and aesthetic. Michael Rodemer’s Rapprochement is a mechanized work that slowly rotates two red bricks. The bricks meet, grinding together, and shaving red dust onto a pedestal below. Rodemer describes his work as a “kinetic sculpture

Holly Hughes work, Bad Hombres and Nasty Women present Not My President’s Day, consisted of a computer monitor displaying three open tabs in the internet browser. Two tabs contained webpage articles, “Bad and Nasty” and “Holly Hughes strikes back at Trump’s defunding of the arts.” The third tab contained a Facebook image of hanging underwear, each with a pair of hands. These documents are part of Hughes’ Bad and Nasty project that sponsored Not My President’s Day in February 2017. The events took place in 64 cities, including Ann Arbor.

The gallery also features works by James Cogswell, Roland Graf, Osman Khan, Louis Marinaro, Rebekah Modrak, Robert Platt, Marianetta Porter, Sherri Smith, Bruce Tharp and Stephanie Tharp, and Joseph Trumpey and his students.

According to the gallery, we can look forward to future exhibitions highlighting the work of Stamps faculty, stating: “Reach is the first of a series of projects that will examine and highlight art, design and creative work produced by Stamps faculty in the years to come.”

Elizabeth Smith is an AADL staff member and is interested in art history and visual culture.

Reach: A Stamps Faculty Exhibition is on display in the new Stamps Gallery, 201 S. Division, Ann Arbor, through July 8. The gallery is open Tuesdays through Saturdays, 12-7 pm. A "Reach" reception will be held Friday, June 16, from 6-8 pm, and is free and open to the public.