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. 

UMMA & Vault of Midnight team up for comic art in the "Age of the Internet"

VISUAL ART WRITTEN WORD PREVIEW

UMMA & Vault of Midnight comic book club covers

UMMA's exhibit Art in the Age of the Internet, 1989 to Today tracks the impact of the web on visual art over the past 30 years. While comic books aren't represented in the exhibit, it is a visual art form that has been radically modified over the past three decades by digital culture.

Inspired by the exhibit, UMMA and Vault of Midnight - Ann Arbor are combining forces for a new comic book club: "The Age of the Internet in Comic Books and Graphic Novels." Vault of Midnight will host the meetups once a month in its Ultralounge, all of which are on a Sunday at 2 pm.

The series will include the following titles:

Penny Stamps Distinguished Speaker Series Winter 2019 lineup

Penny Stamps Distinguished Speaker Series collage of winter 2019 events

U-M alumna Penny W. Stamps died from leukemia on Dec. 18, 2018, but her dedication to bringing arts and ideas to Ann Arbor community continues with the school and speaker series named in her honor.

The winter lineup of U-M Stamps School of Art & Design's Penny Stamps Distinguished Speaker Series was announced Jan. 11 with 12 events, primarily at the Michigan Theater and many in conjunction with other performances and events at the university and in the community.

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. 

In a Mellow Tone: Earthly elements define Candace Compton Pappas' paintings at Cafe Zola

VISUAL ART INTERVIEW

Candace Compton Pappas' Journey With Branches painting

Journey With Branches, ink, oil on paper 22" x 30"

Candace Compton Pappas' paintings evoke the dirt at dusk, the soil at sunset, and trees in the bleak mid-winter. 

You can view these earthen works at Ann Arbor's Cafe Zola through the end of December, but you might have to lean over someone scarfing some smoked salmon bruschetta for a closer look.

It can be tricky to navigate this frequently full restaurant to get a close view of Pappas' paintings and truly appreciate their moody evocations, but she doesn't seem worried.

"Customers can figure out how to view the work amidst the coming and going of diners," said the artist, who lives in Chelsea, Michigan. "Cafe Zola is open from 7 am to 10 pm every day -- so lots of quiet times to enjoy without the high volume of lunch or dinner."

Plus, it's not the first time Pappas has shown her work at the 112 W. Washington St. restaurant.