Review: "Story Word Sound Sway" exhibit at Stamps Gallery

VISUAL ART REVIEW

Wes Taylor, Ann Arbor Undercommons

Wes Taylor (BFA ’04), Ann Arbor Undercommons, 2020, Installation detail. Lead Archivist Jamall Bufford with assistance from Athletic Mic League. Photo by Nick Beardslee.

The MFAs and BFAs produced each year by the nation’s academic art programs far exceed the ability of the art establishment—fine art galleries, museums, collectors, and the like—to absorb them.

What happens to all those aspiring and hopeful young creatives upon graduation?

How do contemporary artists pay rent and continue to work in a world that doesn’t reliably support them financially?

The Story Word Sound Sway exhibit at Stamps Gallery from now until February 28 provides a provocative answer of sorts. 

Michigan Art Gallery's "Her Joyful Eye" is a calming exhibition of paintings by late U-M prof Mignonette Yin Cheng

VISUAL ART REVIEW

Mignonette Yin Cheng, #106 Landscape

Mignonette Yin Cheng, #106 Landscape, 40 1/4 x 30 1/4” acrylic and gouache on paper, undated.

If there's ever been a season that’s needed contemplative art, this is it.

Ypsilanti's Michigan Art Gallery has mounted an exhibit that's meant to give us this reflective opportunity.

Mignonette Yin Cheng: Her Joyful Eye, currently on display in-house at the Michigan Gallery—and accessible online—illustrates the fact that contemplation doesn't come by easily. It has to be earned.

As seen in this late University of Michigan art professor emerita's comprehensive retrospective, contemplation took Cheng a lifetime of effort. Based on the evidence at hand, not only was it a matter of artistic discipline but also an iron-clad disposition. There's a cool detachment to Chen's art that focuses her viewer’s eye on the minute observations she makes in her composition.

As the Michigan Gallery's gallery statement tells us, “Born in 1933 near Amoy, China, Cheng received her first training at the Russian Academy of Arts in Shanghai learning traditional Chinese drawing and painting techniques. Arriving in the United States in 1955, her style of painting evolved into a vibrant, gestural expression of her unique background and cultural influence.”

A guide to the Ann Arbor Art Center's Art in Public Places murals project

VISUAL ART REVIEW

A2AC Murals Map

Ann Arbor has innumerable large- and small-scale murals already, but they have new company as the result of a crowdfunded project to bring art to walls and alleys around town.

In July, the Ann Arbor Art Center (A2AC) raised more than $50,000 to commission 10 murals around the city. The fundraiser was through Patronicity, and once the goal was met, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) matched the donations to double the money available to the mural artists. At the onset of the project, 10 artists paired with local business owners on the sites of their future murals. In October, two additional murals were announced, raising the total to 12. This initiative is part of the ongoing A2AC Art in Public program that aims to make art “accessible and equitable to everyone,” relying on community-based donations.

Since the Art Center helped crowdfund two other public murals in the recent past, those have been added to the A2AC Murals Map, which features a walking tour of all the works. Currently, 13 murals are finished, with the 14th debuting sometime in 2021.

Here's a rundown of all A2AC's mural commissions, starting with the two that were preludes to the larger project.

AADL 2020 STAFF PICKS: BOOKS, MUSIC, MOVIES & MORE

2020 Staff Picks

Normally, you might come into the library, talk to someone on staff, get some recommendations, perhaps share a few of your own, and we'd go on our merry ways, content we could engage in a positive social interaction while discussing whatever book, movie, TV show, music, or more that came up.

Art is life and life is people.

But we've not seen most of you since March 13, the last time the Ann Arbor District Library was fully open to the public—and to the staff. While many AADL staffers have returned to the buildings to do important behind-the-scenes work since the summer, many others have been working from home since the closure. And we miss being able to share what we're currently loving not just with patrons but also with each other.

So, to staffers and patrons alike, these are the movies, TV shows, music, books, and more that helped the AADL crew get through 2020. 

Raqs Media Collective's "The Pandemic Circle" explores how artists share and create during quarantine

VISUAL ART REVIEW

Stills from videos in The Pandemic Circle exhibit

Top: video still from Why do they call the answer to a question, a solution? (12 minutes, video, spoken word), 2020.
Bottom: video still from twentyfourbyseven (7 mins, video, calligraphy, text, animation), 2020.

On December 1, Raqs Media Collective premiered two new videos as part of an ongoing project titled The Pandemic Circle. This three-part series, curated by STAMPS Gallery’s Srimoyee Mitra, was commissioned by the University of Michigan Stamps Gallery and the Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design as part of EXPO CHICAGO’s online adaptation of its previously in-person discussions and events series. The focus this time is on ways in which those working within the arts are changing and adapting their practices to continue making and sharing art amid the pandemic. 

The virtual exhibition includes three short films that explore themes of time, space, and routine, and, more. As described on the exhibition page, the works “grapple with the pervasive and dispersed impact on daily routines and relationships with one another, and beyond, in the age of the Coronavirus." The two new videos are paired with 31 Days, created earlier this summer, three months after the pandemic ushered in sweeping quarantines across the globe and changing the flow of daily life. The follow-up films expand upon the members of the Collective’s response to these changes, broader cultural events, and their own worlds. 

Objects of Veneration: "Sacred Hands" and other online exhibits at the University of Michigan Library

VISUAL ART WRITTEN WORD

Pages from Hebrew and Coptic manuscripts

Left: This page belongs to a 10th-century manuscript of the Torah or Pentateuch. The Masorah (a set of rules of pronunciation, spelling, and intonation designed to transmit the text accurately) is written in a mashait hand (formal cursive script) and added in the margins and between the columns. Parchment, fols. 151, 210 x 180 mm.
Right: Parchment fragment. Verso. Book of Jeremiah. Sahidic Dialect. White Monastery, Sohag (Egypt), 10th century. Fragments of the same manuscript are kept in London, Manchester, Paris, and Vienna. The images of birds and fish are fairly common in these Coptic manuscripts as exemplified in the decoration accompanying the initial "T" on the left margin of this page. Parchment, 365 x 278 mm.

The introduction to Sacred Hands, a new online exhibit by the University of Michigan Library featuring ancient manuscripts for Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, sums up why objects of veneration such as these are important even if none of those religions apply to you:

It seems appropriate to use the term "sacred" to describe the hands that copied the manuscripts containing the texts of the three Abrahamic faiths: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. However, the meaning of this word transcends the conventional limits of the religious sphere. "Sacred" can also designate what is unique, exclusive, and venerable.

Additionally, so much of our current social and philosophical climate is generated from these old texts that it's impossible to understand the present without studying the past.

“No, not even for a picture”: Re-examining the Native Midwest and Tribes’ Relations to the History of Photography at U-M's Clements Library

VISUAL ART REVIEW

Medicine Bottle and Cut Nose by Joel E. Whitney, 1864

Wa-Kan-O-Zhan-Zhan (Medicine Bottle)
Joel E. Whitney
Carte de visite, 1864
Wa-Kan-O-Zhan-Zhan, or Medicine Bottle, was a Sioux wicasa wakan, or holy man, who stepped away from that role to defend the Dakota way of life in the rebellions. After the uprising, Congress called for the removal of all Sioux from Minnesota, leading Medicine Bottle to flee to Canada. Two years later, he was found, drugged, and brought as a prisoner to Fort Snelling, Minnesota, where he was tried for his participation in the 1862 uprisings. He was executed three years after the initial trial. This photo was taken shortly before his death.
Marpiya Okinajin (Cut Nose)
Joel E. Whitney
Carte de visite, 1862
Marpoya Okinajin (pronounced: Mar-piy-a O-kin-a-jin) was also known as Cut Nose or He Who Stands in the Clouds. His vibrant life was filled with stories of hunting, fighting, and womanizing. Cut Nose’s distinctive name is credited to John Other Day, who allegedly bit off a chunk of his nose during a fight. During the Dakota War, Cut Nose fought to restore Santee Dakota sovereignty in Minnesota and is remembered for his leadership and brutality in the uprisings at Fort Ridgely, Minnesota. He was ultimately executed for his violence against settlers on December 26, 1862. After his death, William Mayo, a founder of the Mayo Clinic, exhumed Cut Nose’s remains to use for science experiments, keeping his bones for over a century and a half. The eagle feathers appearing in this photo were likely retouched into the photo after it was taken.

As I look out over a pond that's rippling gently from snowfall, the pine trees and fields covered in white, I'm writing this post in my Christmas-light-bright house, which rests on Bodéwadmiké (Potawatomi) land ceded in a coercive treaty.

A version of the above sentence is also what begins “No, not even for a picture”: Re-examining the Native Midwest and Tribes’ Relations to the History of Photography, a new online exhibition produced by two University of Michigan students with Native American ancestry for the William L. Clements Library. Lindsey Willow Smith (undergraduate, History and Museum Studies; member of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians) and Veronica Cook Williamson (Ph.D. candidate, Germanic Languages and Literatures and Museum Studies; Choctaw ancestry, citizen of the Chickasaw Nation) used materials in the Richard Pohrt Jr. Collection of Native American Photography to explore ideas of consent, agency, and representation. 

Map of the Interior: Sarah Rose Sharp’s "Results or Roses" at U-M Institute of the Humanities Gallery

VISUAL ART REVIEW

Sarah Rose Sharp's Hand of Fate
Hand of Fate, 2019, screen print by Too x Nail, fabric, embroidery thread, charms, beads, etc., 11.5” x 6” x 2.5

During these Covid times, visual artists’ exhibitions have migrated to online locations, with mixed results. For some whose work is photographic or text-based in nature, the effect is hardly noticeable. But for artists making very tactile or three-dimensional work, like the artworks in Detroit artist Sarah Rose Sharp’s Results or Roses at U-M Institute of the Humanities Gallery, much is lost in translation. I felt some guilty delight when the gallery curator, Amanda Krugliak, consented to open the gallery (now temporarily closed to the public during the pandemic) for my visit, but you can still view the exhibit online

Sharp employs traditional needlework and sewing techniques to create a diaristic map of her interior life. The intimately scaled artworks illustrate several different trains of the artist’s thought and share the walls of the gallery and an adjacent vitrine, providing a virtual tour of the artist’s memories, observations, and preoccupations. The overarching intention of the work seems to be located somewhere in the psychic territory between nostalgia and satire. 

U-M's Institute for the Humanities Gallery offers two new exhibits by Detroit artists

VISUAL ART

Sydney G. James and Sarah Rose Sharp

Top: Sydney G. James poses next to her new mural in U-M's Modern Languages Building; next to that image is a portrait from her Watch Me Work exhibition.
Bottom: Sarah Rose Sharp, Target, 2020, fabric, handkerchief, t-shirt salvage, beads, sequins, etc. 10” x 7.5” (unframed, hung from 29” arrow).

Two new exhibits organized by U-M's Institute for the Humanities Gallery don't share much in common other than Sydney G. James and Sarah Rose Sharp are both artists from Detroit. James is a painter and a muralist; Sharp makes fiber-based works.

But when I read James' artist statement, I realized that even though she and Sharp don't share similarities artistically, they both have the need to work through this pandemic, to continue to create in the face of daily challenges that are determined to knock us on our asses. We're all facing this, artist or not. As James writes:

Open Your Eyes: Jaume Plensa's "Behind the Walls" finds a new home at UMMA

VISUAL ART

Jaume Plensa, Behind the Walls

About a month agoShang, the giant metal sculpture by Mark di Suvero, was removed from the entrance area of the University of Michigan Museum of Art (UMMA). It was deinstalled after a 12-year run at UMMA because a private collector bought the on-loan sculpture.

But collectors also giveth, not just taketh away, and J. Ira and Nicki Harris have giventh a sculptureth to UMMAeth to replaceeth Shang.

Behind the Walls, a 25-foot-tall sculpture made of polyester resin and marble dust by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa, will now greet visitors at UMMA's entrance.