Influence & Appropriation: Carrie Mae Weems at the Michigan Theater

VISUAL ART REVIEW

Carrie Mae Weems photo from her Kitchen Table Series

Carrie Mae Weems in a photo from her Kitchen Table Series. Photo courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago.

“Sometimes we remodel because we’ve been left out.” --Carrie Mae Weems

I guess I would call myself superstitious. At least that’s how I think about it in those moments when I feel like the universe is pushing me in one direction or another.

I went to see Carrie Mae Weems speak on February 14 as a part of the Penny W. Stamps Distinguished Speaker Series. This was my second time in the Michigan Theater in the space of one week and for someone who sees herself as a person of somewhat nerdily pedestrian interests, I find myself off-kilter when I frequent what I think of as a higher-brow spot. I’m more Netflix than Michigan Theater.

Weems, though, is a name that I have come to know through encountering her work here and there -- and then having an I-have-to-know-more-about-this-artist moment, finding again, I am looking at Weems’ work.

Recombinant Tales: Ruth Crowe’s “Storytelling with Photo Infusion and Encaustic” at Gifts of Art

VISUAL ART REVIEW

Ruth Crowe, Storytelling images

Ruth Crowe, clockwise from upper left: Notorious RBG, photo encaustic/image fusion; A Different Kind of Cowboy, encaustic/image fusion; Let's Ride Sister - Put the Fun Between Your Legs, encaustic/image transfer/plaster.

Taken separately, photo fusion and encaustic are interestingly differing forms of art. Taken together, they reflect local artist Ruth Crowe’s wry multimedia Storytelling with Photo Fusion and Encaustic exhibit at the Gifts of Art Gallery in the University of Michigan Hospital main corridor.

Crowe definitely has views she wants to communicate in her art, yet she’s not a polemicist. Rather, she allows for her work to speak for itself. It’s a brave strategy -- and it’s this subliminal perspective that speaks volumes of her views.

With Full CareForce: Marisa Morán Jahn's "The Mighty and the Mythic" at Stamps Gallery explores interactive, social-activist art

VISUAL ART REVIEW

The Driver by Marisa Moran

The Driver from MIRROR | MASK series, 2017. Photo by Marisa Morán Jahn featuring Darlyne Komukama, Uganda.

The Stamps Gallery's The Mighty and the Mythic is an interactive exhibit featuring the multi-faceted work of social activist and artist Marisa Morán Jahn. Curated by Srimoyee Mitra, this exhibition is an expansive collection with examples from three of Jahn’s ongoing projects. If you visit, make sure to give yourself plenty of time to view the many videos playing on TV screens around the gallery.

The three projects on display are CareForce (2012 to present), Biblobandido (2010 to present), and MIRROR | MASK (2017 to present). Though these are the artist’s solo projects, Jahn relies on the participation of her collaborators, who are often immigrants, domestic workers, and youths. Stamps Gallery notes that the work is infused with play and humor in order to portray her subjects’ lives with dignity, the ability to critique power, and to “build momentum within their communit[ies].” Jahn bases her practice on her own experiences as the child of first-generation Chinese and Ecuadorian immigrants.

It's a Family Affair: A mother-and-son creative partnership on exhibit at NCRC

VISUAL ART REVIEW INTERVIEW

Karen Anne Klein's Installation and Barrett Klein's Velvet Ant

Karen Anne Klein, Ecological Fiction installation, 2018; Barrett Klein, Velvet Ant, colored pencil on paper 2002

The spirit of the Renaissance's Cabinets of Curiosity is alive and well and on display in the University of Michigan’s NCRC galleries through May, courtesy of a mother-and-son artist duo. Two separate exhibits, Ecological Fiction by Karen Anne Klein and Hidden Ubiquity: Celebrating the Tiny Majority by Barrett Klein, delineate and illustrate nature’s inhabitants and habitats, from the cosmic to the minute.  

David Opdyke's "Paved With Good Intentions" uses nostalgic imagery to critique modern politics

VISUAL ART REVIEW

David Opdyke's Paved With Good Intentions

The Institute for Humanities at the University of Michigan launched its Year of Humanities and Environments with the exhibition Paved With Good Intentions by David Opdyke. The show consists of a full wall-sized installation of altered vintage postcards, two animated short videos, and two video channels rotating quotes by politicians. The three media serve to address similar subject matter: the current political climate in America. Climate is an operative word, as Opdyke’s work focuses in on the environment and climate change. His pieces criticize not only American culture but also inaction and stagnancy due to an unwillingness to find common ground. Using iconic, even nostalgic imagery on old postcards as a backdrop, our ideal of “America the Great” is challenged in numerous ways with Opdyke’s artistic interventions.

The gallery wall text, written by Institute for Humanities curator Amanda Krugliak, states, "David Opdyke’s installation Paved With Good Intentions up-ends any snapshots of family vacations, destination spots, and America the Beautiful still in our pockets.” Opdyke’s statement is printed below Krugliak’s and expands on the project. The massive work, titled This Land , was created with 528 postcards from “all across the United States" -- views of local and national parks, cities, rivers, bridges, lakes, landmarks, farms and wilderness -- assembled into a vast gridded landscape beset by environmental chaos.

The postcard collage creates an overall landscape, but upon close examination, there are many smaller dramas (or in this case, disasters) at play. As the grid reaches the bottom of the wall, postcards are falling in disarray, some having landed on the floor. Those that are on the floor reveal handwritten notes by their original owners, creating an eerie connection to people of the past, even as Opdyke’s overall project suggests a future plagued by increased disaster and chaos. 

Elizabeth Youngblood's "The Smell of Lint and Frost" evokes Midwestern winters

VISUAL ART REVIEW

Elizabeth Youngblood's The Smell of Lint and Frost

I was left in the cold the first time I viewed Elizabeth Youngblood's exhibition The Smell of Lint and Frost.

(I'll give you a second to recover from that high-end wordplay.) 

And it's not just because I trudged across the University of Michigan's campus through piles of snow in sub-20-degree weather to view the Detroit-based U-M grad's mixed-media sculptures and drawings at the East Quadrangle's RC Art Gallery.

(I'm really going in on the cold/frost thing here. Take a deep breath.)

Like having no ice cubes in the freezer, it felt like something was missing in this small gallery's exhibition. 

(Sorry, like you, I've been cooped up for days. I'm *this close* to reenacting Jack's death scene in The Shining. But I'll let it go, let it go, turn away and slam the door on all these chilly puns. The cold never bothered me anyway. .)

I'm not sure if it was the lack of an artist statement to contextualize the works or that there were no title cards giving some sense of the materials used and whether the pieces had names, but something about The Smell of Lint and Frost wasn't landing in my frozen brain.

Youngblood's work is minimalist and austere, and in this exhibition, the pieces range from monochromatic gestural paintings and fine-line drawings of spirals with accompanying complementary sculptures that appear to consist of wire and plaster.

It wasn't until I left the gallery and read a bit more about Youngblood's working methods and then went to see the exhibition again that The Smell of Lint and Frost made some sense to me.

Kerrytown Concert House’s “Winter Meditation” offers austere ambiance from Kirsten Lund, Ann and Fred Ringia

VISUAL ART REVIEW

Kirsten Lund's Untitled Silver Sequins

Kirsten Lund, Untitled (Silver Sequins)

It may initially seem surprising that winter can inspire artists. One would think the nippy climate would discourage creativity.

Yet it’s also fair to say that an austere contemplation can foster art during this most challenging time of the year. Given the ambiance, temperature, and the chilly weather conditions, it’s little wonder that mediation would be a key factor for many artists so inclined.

As the Kerrytown Concert House’s Winter Meditation exhibition shows us, three local artists -- textile artist Kirsten Lund and husband-wife photographers Ann and Fred Ringia -- have in particular found inspiration in this most meditative of seasons.

Plugged In: UMMA's "Art in the Age of the Internet, 1989 to Today" examines creativity in the Digital Age

VISUAL ART REVIEW

Francis Stark, My Best Thing, 2011

Frances Stark, My Best Thing, 2011. Video (color, sound; 100 minutes). Courtesy the artist and Gavin Brown’s enterprise, New York/Rome. © Frances Stark

The traveling exhibition Art in the Age of the Internet, 1989 to Today is on loan to UMMA from the Institute of Contemporary Art of Boston, curated by Eva Respini and Barbara Lee (chief curators) with Jeffrey De Blois (assistant curator). The exhibition premiered in Boston on February 7, 2018, and will next travel to New Orleans Museum of Art in mid-April 2019.

The significance of technology’s impact on lived experience is noted the exhibition announcement on UMMA’s website, stating: “The internet has changed every aspect of contemporary life -- from how we interact with each other to how we work and play. Art in the Age of the Internet, 1989 to Today examines the radical impact of internet culture on visual art since the invention of the web in 1989. This exhibition presents more than forty works across a variety of media -- painting, performance, photography, sculpture, video, and web-based projects.” 

Some of the influential artists featured in the gallery are Cory Arcangel, Judith Barry, Juliana Huxtable, Pierre Huyghe, Josh Kline, Laura Owens, Trevor Paglen, Seth Price, Cindy Sherman, Frances Stark, and Martine Syms. Many of the artists have worked with ever-changing technology for decades, but curators cite the year 1989 as a marker for the current global interconnectedness we experience as a result of new technologies. In addition, 1989 was the year of the first satellite that allows us to have the now-ubiquitous GPS, the year the World Wide Web was invented, the year the Berlin Wall came down, and protests in Tiananmen Square. Since social movements and identity politics have become more visible and accessible than ever before.

"Works in Progress" is a celebration of beauty and chaos at Ann Arbor Art Center

VISUAL ART REVIEW

Sarrazin & Sobremesa

One of Natalia Sarrazin's works at the Ann Arbor Art Center's Works in Progress exhibition.

We live in a world of things. Each chair, cup, table, door, and car in our built environment is the product of human ingenuity, from concept to execution. Works in Progress, an exhibit on view now at the Ann Arbor Art Center, celebrates the creativity of 24 international and domestic designers, at varying stages in their careers, who bring functional works to life through fashion, graphic design, furniture, architecture, and industrial design.

Many of the products and designs on display feature high tech materials and methods not usually associated with what we normally think of as “craft.” The centerpiece for this non-analog approach is You Are the Ocean, a video installation by Ozge Smanci and Gabriel Caniglia, which takes up about a third of the entry room in Gallery 117. It’s not an object at all, but documentation of a computer-assisted visualization of how the mind can alter an image via computer, unmediated by the human hand or real-world material. Using the Unity Game Engine, the designers wrote code that creates a synthesized, uninhabited, and turbulent seascape. Clouds roll and waves crest in response to the subject’s brain waves in various states of concentration or relaxation. The resulting scene is both bleak and beautiful, exhilarating and disturbing. I can imagine that this is the kind of art our cyborg descendants will find beautiful, and it gave me a profound sense of my own obsolescence. 

Be Here "YpsiNow": Riverside Arts Center's "Intersections" exhibit presents a slice of the city

VISUAL ART REVIEW

RckBny's photograph Yellow Balloon Image

RckBnye, Yellow Balloon Image, photograph

Riverside Arts Center's YpsiNow: Intersections asks this question in its announcement: “What is Ypsi, right now? Its paths, connections, struggles, and joy all interweaving to create the tapestry of Ypsilanti.”

For this second annual iteration of the exhibit -- juried by RckBny, Gary Horton, and Rey Jeong -- the question is answered by Ypsilanti High School students and adult residents working in a variety of media.

The high school students’ photography, collage, paint, ink, and written-word works are clustered on one wall, illustrating the diversity of approach among the teenagers, which is reflective of the overall approach to the exhibition. The adult Ypsilanti artists fill the rest of the gallery with sculptures, installations, and 2D works.