I Want to Believe: "Proof: The Ryoichi Excavations" at UMMA asks us to suspend belief

VISUAL ART REVIEW

Patrick Nagatani, Bentley, Stonehenge photo

Patrick Nagatani, Bentley, Stonehenge, Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire, England R5, 1987, gelatin silver print. University of Michigan Museum of Art, Gift of Thomas Wilson '79 and Jill Garling '80, 2012/2.135. © Patrick Nagatani Estate.

Proof: The Ryoichi Excavations presents artist Patrick Nagatani’s series of staged, minutely detailed photographs of fictional archeological excavations. The University of Michigan University of Art's exhibition announcement summarizes the content of the exhibit, in which Nagatani uses photographs to present “artifacts” from the life of Nagatani’s alter ego, an explorer named Ryoichi:

Nagatani presents a narrative of Ryoichi’s archeological work, supported by images of excavation sites, unearthed artifacts, and Ryoichi’s own journal pages. According to the photographs, Ryoichi discovered evidence of an automobile culture buried at sites across several continents: Stonehenge, the Grand Canyon, and a necropolis in China.

The photographs represent the various facets of the Ryoichi Excavations project, with photographs of journal pages in Japanese, video stills, photographic representations of the excavations, and curatorial wall text explaining the contents of the images. Some of these are displayed in standing glass cases in addition to the gallery walls. Nagatani’s dedication to creating a playful illusion of an archaeological project questions the assumption that photography is a means to convey unaltered, factual images. 

Acts of Amore: "Love Has a Thousand Shapes" at A2 Art Center

VISUAL ART REVIEW

Paintings by Patrick Burton and Judy Bowman

Left: J'aime Qui M'aime (I Love Who Loves Me) by Patrick Burton
Right: American Gothic: On the Black Hand Side by Judy Bowman

Love Has a Thousand Shapes is an intimate look at the works of five artists, curated by Andrew Thompson. In the exhibition announcement, the exhibition’s inspiration is cited as having come from Virginia Woolf’s character Lily Briscoe in To the Lighthouse. The name of the exhibition draws from the text itself, in which the phrase described her art-making was an act of love itself. The exhibition, a partnership between Literati Bookstore and the Ann Arbor Art Center, draws inspiration from literary allegories, the announcement also referencing Kurt Vonnegut’s Bluebeard in which a character creates “his final painting, a masterwork of love.” The work in the exhibit explores love “between lovers, friends, family, and with pets, places, and the past. The act of making artwork can be considered an act of love in and of itself.”

With the selection of only five artists, viewers are allowed a more in-depth look at a single artists’ work. 

UMMA's "Beyond Borders: Global Africa" asks what it means to be an artist from the continent

VISUAL ART REVIEW

Diop's Belley and Wiley's World

Left: Omar Victor Diop, Jean-Baptiste Belley (1746-1805), 2014, pigment inkjet print on Harman by Hahnemühle paper. Courtesy of Mott-Warsh collection, Flint, Michigan and MAGNIN-A Gallery, Paris, © Omar Victor Diop.
Right: Kehinde Wiley, On Top of the World, 2008, oil on canvas. Courtesy of Aishti Foundation, Beirut © Kehinde Wiley.

UMMA’s exhibition Beyond Borders: Global Africa extends a conversation recently addressed in Unrecorded: Reimagining Artist Identities in Africa. The newer exhibit asks the audience to consider the roles of contemporary artists, as the subtitle Global Africa suggests, along with a reconceptualization of previously narrow definitions of “African art” or “African artists.” UMMA director Christina Olsen states that the pieces on display, many of which belong to UMMA, “ask questions about what it means to be an ‘African’ artist and make ‘African’ art.” Included in the show are photographs, paintings, installations, and sculptures. This exhibition includes “approximately 40 works of art drawn from UMMA's African art collection and from private and public holdings around the world, including the eminent Contemporary African Art Collection assembled by Jean Pigozzi of Geneva, Switzerland.” 

Stamps Gallery's "Have We Met?" explores how institutions can create inclusive, creative spaces

VISUAL ART REVIEW

Stamps Gallery’s Have We Met? Dialogues on Memory and Desire explores the artworks of political and social groups that have helped shape Ann Arbor. Curated by Srimoyee Mitra, the large gallery is packed with posters, paintings, digital art, sculptures, installations, video, and spaces for visitors to sit and research social movements and histories represented by the artists. The exhibit takes the gallery space into question, with installations that invite viewers to physically engage with their surroundings throughout the gallery. 

The exhibition specifically draws from social movements in Ann Arbor, such as the anti-war and civil rights movements, and the experimental art collective The Once Group. Have We Met? features materials from University of Michigan’s Labadie Collection and the Bentley Library, in addition to “radical artworks by diverse, multigenerational artists and designers whose works are deeply influenced by the ideas of freedom and self-determination; rewriting canonical accounts of history.”

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.

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. 

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:

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.”

Art & Artifacts: "Unrecorded: Reimagining Artist Identities in Africa" at UMMA

VISUAL ART REVIEW

Yinka Shonibare's dollhouse & Osei Bonsu's parlor piece

Left: Yinka Shonibare MBE, Untitled (Dollhouse), 2002, wood, fabric, paper, plastic, metal, resin, offset lithograph. University of Michigan Museum of Art, Gift of Peter Norton Family Foundation, 2002/1.236 © Yinka Shonibare MBE. All Rights Reserved, Peter Norton Family Foundation, 2018. Photography: Charlie Edwards.

Right: Osei Bonsu, Parlor piece, ca. 1950, wood. University of Michigan Museum of Art, Gift of Margaret H. and Albert J. Coudron, 2001/2.33. Photography: Charlie Edwards.

The red walls grabbed my attention as soon as I entered the exhibition and the large text on one begins: “For most historical African objects in museum collections, the artist’s name is unrecorded.”

The artists’ names were rarely recorded, because, as the curators of UMMA's Unrecorded: Reimagining Artist Identities in Africa point out, the objects were considered "artifacts" rather than "artworks."

Organized by Allison Martino, the Andrew W. Mellon Curatorial Fellow from 2016-2017 and Laura De Becker, Helmut and Candis Stern Associate Curator of African Art, the exhibition asks the viewer to question why these omissions are a common occurrence in museums. The 19th-century practice of “collecting significant objects to bring home” informed the Euro-American imagination through “the kinds of objects they acquired, as well as the information they chose to record.” 

Altering the Landscape: "Written Into Rock" at Ann Arbor Art Center

VISUAL ART REVIEW

Impossible Geometries Grand Canyon by Millee Tibb

Impossible Geometries (Grand Canyon) by Millee Tibb.

Ann Arbor Art Center’s current exhibition, Written Into Rock, explores imagery associated with the Earth, geology, and human impact on the environment. Curated by Gina Iacobelli, the exhibition features the works of seven artists dispersed throughout the gallery instead of placing works by each artist together.

The exhibition announcement states that the show “is an exploration of the ways in which humans have altered the natural landscape,” and was in part initially inspired by writings of Donna Haraway and Heather Davis, who explore ideas relating to the Anthropocene era, a “new geologic area defined by human’s mark on the geologic record.”