Visual Arts Roundup: Catching up with UMMA, Stamps Gallery, Michigan Art Gallery, WSG Gallery, Ann Arbor Art Center, Gutman Gallery, Eat More Tea, Ann Arbor Women Artists, and Riverside Arts Center

VISUAL ART

Shang deinstall at UMMA

Images courtesy of UMMA.

For 12 years, going through UMMA's front entrance was the second thing you did when you arrived at the museum. The first thing was to swing on Shang, the giant metal sculpture by Mark di Suvero.  But a private collector bought the piece and it was deinstalled in early October. UMMA is encouraging folks to share photos of themselves on the swing with the hashtag #GoodbyeShang. Click here to read a great letter from an anonymous visitor who left a laminated letter attached to Shang with magnets; let's hope your experience on the swing has half as revelatory as it was for this fan.

WSG Gallery offers virtual exhibitions and one in-person show at Ann Arbor Art Center

VISUAL ART

WSG exhibit at Ann Arbor Art Center

Ann Arbor Art Center is hosting an exhibition of WSG Gallery artists through Dec. 31. Photo courtesy A2AC.

WSG Gallery's transformation from a Main Street attraction to an online art house continues apace—with some timely dips into physical spaces, too.

The collective created a small pop-up gallery at 401 N. Ann Arbor St. in Saline (Sept. 25- Oct. 2), which was a warm-up to taking over the second floor of the Ann Arbor Art Center from Oct. 6- Dec. 31. This a multi-artist show and the featured works will rotate at Thanksgiving.

But WSG's two most recent virtual exhibitions focus on single artists.

Painter Sara Adlerstein's Not for Sale: My Private Collection exhibition officially ran Aug. 18 to Sept. 28, but WSG is doing the smart thing and keeping all its virtual exhibitions online permanently. The current exhibition is sculptor Francesc Burgos' Recent Work (Sept. 29 to Nov. 7).

UMMA opens three new exhibitions online featuring works from its collection

VISUAL ART

Titus Kaphar's painting Flay (James Madison)

Titus Kaphar, Flay (James Madison), 2019, oil on canvas with nails. Museum purchase made possible by Joseph and Annette Allen. 2019/2.184. From the UMMA exhibition Unsettling Histories: Legacies of Slavery and Colonialism.

Like a lot of museums, the University of Michigan Museum of Art shifted exhibitions online as it became evident the pandemic would be dragging on for the foreseeable future. But versions of both exhibits UMMA posted had already been produced for its galleries: Take Your Pick: Collecting Found Photographs, which ran in Fall 2019 (Pulp review), and Cullen Washington Jr.'s The Public Square, which ran from January 25, 2020, to March 13 when all of Michigan shut down.

And because the coronavirus crisis looks to drag on ad infinitum thanks to the federal government's gross abdication of responsibility, UMMA just moved ahead and produced its fall exhibitions with both online and in-person versions in mind. While there are no in-person opening dates for the three exhibits -- UMMA is working on some kind of staggered, socially distanced protocol that it will announce later -- you can check out all of them right now at umma.umich.edu.

The three exhibits:

Please Don't Yell at David Zinn

VISUAL ART

Sidewalk chalk drawing of Sluggo the frog with Nadine the mouse sitting on his head.

Photo by Rich Retyi.

Interesting things learned during two hours of socially-distanced outdoor conversation with acclaimed illustrator and street artist David Zinn while he created Nadine Hypnotizes a Frog on a commercial property in an undisclosed location within the city limits of Ann Arbor.

PEOPLE YELL AT DAVID ZINN
In our pre-interview text exchange, Zinn revealed that people yell at him sometimes when he’s doing his thing. I think yell might be a strong word for the reaction a security guard or stickler-for-the-rules public servant or art-loathing property owner might throw his way. What’s the word for when someone locks eyes with you after staring curiously at you doing strange stuff on a sidewalk accompanied by a mysterious wooden case full of colorful things and a long pole next to you?

“Having a name on the internet doesn’t mean anything when I’m crouching on the ground,” says Zinn, whose work has been shared throughout social media and covered by Huffington Post, Graffiti Art Magazine, Bored Panda, and more. “I’m lucky a lot of people have a blind spot for weird things happening.”

What Zinn does is technically graffiti. But when it’s done on Ann Arbor city sidewalks, it’s completely legal.

Chapter 106 of Ann Arbor’s city ordinances titled NUISANCES mentions graffiti, along with outdoor storage, trash, dangerous structures, abandoned refrigerators, and parking in a drive-thru lane without making a purchase.

But there’s a sweet, sweet caveat:

“Any mark or marks on any surface or structure made without the prior permission of the property owner and made in any manner, including but not limited to, writing, inscribing, drawing, tagging, sketching, spray-painting, painting, etching, scratching, carving, engraving, scraping, or attaching. Chalk marks on sidewalks are NOT graffiti.” (ALL CAPS mine)

Zinn says Ann Arbor’s specific absolution for chalk is pretty unique. Still, technically, graffiti—and I feel like we’re damn near outlaws.

Michigan Art Gallery's virtual exhibit "Leon Makielski: Intimate Views" shows the portrait giant exploring Midwest landscapes

VISUAL ART

Leon Makielski's Broadway painting, featuring Broadway Street in Ann Arbor, looking south.

Leon Makielski, Broadway, depicts Broadway Street in Ann Arbor, looking south toward downtown.

Leon Makielski is perhaps best known for his 1923 portrait of poet and fellow University of Michigan colleague Robert Frost. An Ann Arbor resident since 1913, Makielski was also known for the hundreds of other portraits -- from paintings to charcoals -- he did of other university bigwigs, from Michigan to Pennsylvania, as well as politicians, architects, engineers, conductors, and other members of the creative and ruling classes.

But the Michigan Art Gallery's virtual exhibition Intimate Views primarily features the kind of impressionistic landscape paintings that brought a young Makielski to study in Paris at the Academie Julian and Academie Grande Chaumiere in 1909. When Makielski died in 1974 at the age of 89, his family found 400 works in his studio, and 22 of those paintings are in Intimate Views.

While all the pieces in Intimate Views are viewable online as of 6:30 pm on August 14, you can also make appointments to see the paintings in person through September 26. While these visits might be more enticing to potential buyers of the paintings more than casual viewers, the appointments are available to all -- and it's an easy way to fill that gallery-sized whole in your art-loving heart.

Below are some of the images from Intimate Views, along with some articles from The Ann Arbor News archive on Midwest master Makielski.

Dale Fisher's "Washtenaw County: Visions of the Eagle" offers a look at our lives before Covid

VISUAL ART WRITTEN WORD

A photo of photographer Dale Fisher and his book Washtenaw County

It's just a fish-lens photo inside Yost Ice Arena. There's nothing special about it per se. The Michigan Wolverines are playing what looks to be the Wisconsin Badgers; it's 50 seconds into the game, a zero-zero tie, the stands are mostly full.

But during a time when all norms have been flipped because of Covid-19, seeing this simple scene of a hockey game being played 2 miles from my locked-down house hit an emotional hotspot that I've been pretty good about suppressing: dreaming about life in the Before Times.

The photo is in Dale Fisher's new book, Washtenaw: Visions of the Eagle, which is filled with pictures that will make you wistful for a full Big House, a packed Crisler, community fairs, and other events that brought people together for shared experiences.

Like the other six books by the Ann Arbor native, Fisher's latest focuses primarily on aerial photography, capturing the natural beauty and historic small cities of our county -- as well as that giant football stadium -- from the open door of a helicopter. But there are numerous ground-level photos among Washtenaw County's 288 pages, too -- many not even taken by Fisher or his co-photographer and partner Joanne Ackerman, who shot the book's cover image. The Yost photo is by Jonathon Knight. Other photos are provided by the businesses that helped sponsor the book and as well as nonprofits whose work Fisher supports. Those images are interspersed with Fisher and Ackerman's photos, blending editorial and business shots. It's a quirky approach, but not all that different from the way Fisher funded his other collections.

Elementalism: Lynda Cole's "Earth and Polar Work" exhibit at WSG Gallery

VISUAL ART

Lynda Cole, Space

Lynda Cole, Space, oil paint, cold wax, 41”h x 29”w, framed, no glass.

On Monday, I made my first extended stroll down Main Street since the pandemic shut down Ann Arbor and the world. While taking in the sites, I was noticing which businesses were open (a lot), which ones were closed for good (RIP Prickly Pear Southwest Cafe), which ones were new (Of Rice and Men, an Asian-fusion restaurant in the former Dessous space owned by the Blue LLama Jazz Club folks), and which ones were planned to open (InfusIV Hydration, which offers vitamin-infused IV drip therapy -- which feels aligned both with Ann Arbor's woo-woo hippy past and the city's tech-money-infused present).

But it was seeing WSG Gallery's empty space and partially covered windows that reminded me that I hadn't been keeping up with the art collective's move to online exhibitions. (Here's a June 18 Pulp article about why WSG had to pull up stakes from its prime location for the past 20 years and move entirely online, at least for now.)

WSG's current exhibit is Lynda Cole's Earth and Polar Work, which runs July 7 - August 17.

John Carlos Cantú reviewed Cole's November 2015 exhibit, North, which has a similar feel to the work in Earth and Polar Work:

Ordinary People: UMMA's "Take Your Pick: Collecting Found Photographs" asks us to help curate the everyday

VISUAL ART REVIEW

Photos from UMMA's Take Your Pick exhibit

This review was originally published October 8, 2019. We're rerunning it because UMMA just launched a virtual version of this exhibit featuring 250 photographs that visitors selected to enter the museum's permanent collection. View the online exhibit and learn about the history of snap photography here.

In the University of Michigan Museum of Art’s latest photographic exhibit, Take Your Pick, viewers are asked to participate in the selection of images to be added to the permanent collection. UMMA asks us to head to the gallery and look at the 1,000 amateur photographs collected by Peter J. Cohen and decide on our 20 personal favorites. Ballots are available at the entrance of the gallery, with 20 slots to vote for your favorite photographs. On the exhibit's webpage, potential visitors are asked to “Come help build [UMMA's] collection of ‘ordinary’ American 20th-century photographs.” With an emphasis on the word ordinary, the curatorial team is asking viewers to consider how “ordinary” photographs of the 20th century may be reconsidered as objects worthy of preservation and study. 

The photographs on display are part of a larger collection of 60,000 snapshots collected by Peter J. Cohen. Cohen acquired his collection by searching through flea markets and buying online. The majority of the images portray candid American life, distilled imagery of private family life: birthday parties, family vacations, school portraits. 

Gutman Gallery reopens, features artists who were supposed to be in the Ann Arbor Summer Art Fair

VISUAL ART

Gutman Gallery exterior

Photo courtesy of the Gutman Gallery.

The Gutman Gallery opened just in time to close.

The Guild of Artists & Artisans’ showcase spot at 118 N. 4th Avenue in Ann Arbor debuted in mid-February with the Amor: Looking Through the Eyes of Love exhibition, highlighting its creative members' takes on all things lovey-dovey.

A month later, the Gutman Gallery closed like everything else due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

The Guild that runs Gutman Gallery also produces the Ann Arbor Summer Art Fair, which is canceled this summer. So the group is opening its doors three days a week with limited hours to display works from 38 of the jury-selected 2020 Art Fair artists.

The Gutman Gallery has an online shop and offers virtual art classes, but the Art Fair show is its first physical exhibition since the shutdown.

Below are the participating artists and some examples of their creations.

Open Your Eyes: SculptureWalk Chelsea trusts viewers to cut through the clutter and take in the art

VISUAL ART REVIEW

sankofa-m-saffell-gardner

M. Saffell Gardner, Sankofa, steel, 12’ x 8’ x 4. Photo by Christopher Porter.

The 12th annual SculptureWalk Chelsea launched recently, and I spent a steamy Friday afternoon strolling through the downtown in search of not just art but a sense of calm and normalcy in a year that’s been anything but.

I’ve been in Michigan for almost four years, and I’ve been to Chelsea before, but I never made it to SculptureWalk. Or more accurately, since the sculpture is on display for a year, I never noticed there was sculpture on my walks.

This is a common thing with public art installations: they blend into the areas in which they’re placed, becoming part of the background with the trees and buildings. This doesn’t devalue these creations, or the communities who put in the work, time, and money to commission and display these pieces of art; it’s just a fact and one that must be overcome with purposeful viewings.

As I walked around Chelsea, I spent several minutes with the 14 creations featured in the 2020-2021 SculptureWalk, first considering them against their backgrounds -- whether a building, telephone, or the Jiffy plant -- and then narrowed my vision to the pieces themselves, ultimately finishing by focusing on the smaller details in each work.

But my mind kept returning to considering how the sculptures related to their backdrops and their placements along the walk, which stretches from M. Saffell Gardner’s Sankofa next to the Mobile Station at the corner of Main Street and Van Buren to Jeff Bohl’s Early Bird near the parking lot at Main and Buchanan Street, with several side-road stops along the way.

I guess I was less concerned about evaluating all of the sculptures -- which, reductively speaking, range from pleasant to excellent -- but rather my reactions to purposefully looking at the works after the three previous years of not even noticing them. These are some of the sculptures and scenes that stood out to me the most.