Lyrical Lines: “Matisse Drawings: Curated by Ellsworth Kelly" at UMMA

VISUAL ART REVIEW

Lemon and Mimosas by Henri Matisse

Sketch for the Painting "Lemons and Mimosas on Black Background" by Henri Matisse; ink on paper, 1944.

Matisse Drawings: Curated by Ellsworth Kelly at the University of Michigan Museum of Art’s spacious second-story A. Alfred Taubman Gallery is proof that less is more when it comes to art.

Principally managed by the UMMA’s Assistant Curator for Western Art, Lehti Mairike Keelmann -- herself working from the late-Ellsworth Kelly’s instructions -- this exhibit of 45 Matisse drawings (with an additional nine Kelly lithographs) from the Pierre and Tana Matisse Foundation Collection cuts an artful swath across this French master’s career.

“This exhibit reflects the imaginative artistic rapport of two celebrated artists through lyrical line and efficiency of gesture," Keelmann said in a recent interview. "But how they get to the place where they intersect is the subtle underpinning of this deceptively complex exhibition.”

Look Deep: John Lilley's “Wandering Around … in black and white” at Kerrytown Concert House

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John Lilley

John Lilley, Sand Dunes, Early Morning: Great Sand Dunes NP, Colorado, black and white photograph on archival paper.

We last saw [http://johnlilleyphotography.com|John Lilley]’s photography at the Kerrytown Concert House in June 2012. His John Lilley Photographs exhibition found the Dexter photographer using digital color notable for its exhilarating chromaticity as well as its remarkable penchant for detail.

“Simply put,” said Lilley at that time, “I make photographs because I see photographs.”

But as he later tellingly added in that statement, “I’m rarely attracted to the 'big picture.' Rather, my vision is almost unconsciously drawn to distinct designs, textures, and forms that occur as small subsets of the broader landscape. I’m fascinated by the myriad possibilities for abstract composition that exist in our world.”

All of which is to say that Lilley’s current Wandering Around … in black and white shows us that his monochromatic photography is easily the equal of his color work. Indeed, if anything, Lilley’s photographic self-discipline is as much (if not more) vivid than his color art.

Photographer Nina Hauser dreams of India in her new WSG Gallery show

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Nina Hauser, Expressing the Inexpressible

Nina Hauser's Expressing the Inexpressible, part of The Real World Is Not the Only World -- India Dreams at WSG Gallery.

The last time we saw [http://ninaehauser.com|Nina Hauser]’s iPhone photography at the WSG Gallery was in May 2013. I was keenly struck at that time how her display illustrated the fundamental principle that the human element cannot be taken out of art irrespective of the technology used to make the work. The 22 photographs in that exhibit were marked by a remarkable technique and skill -- with both artful elements reflecting the “eye” implicit in the photographic image.

Hauser’s current exhibit at that same gallery, The Real World Is Not the Only World -- India Dreams, finds this local photographer immersed in her fascination with the culture of the Asian subcontinent -- and certainly sufficiently enough as to revolutionize her aesthetic.

Discrete Ambiance: “Swarm Study/II” at UMMA

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Swarm Study/II

Random International's Swarm Study/II, on loan from by the Maxine and Stuart Frankel Foundation for Art.

It’s not unfair to say [http://umma.umich.edu/exhibitions/2017/victors-for-art-michigan-s-alumn…|Swarm Study/II] is a visual art experience that will long stay with you. But such an accolade is also far too passive. If given the chance, Swarm Study/II will not only stay with you -- it will literally follow you.

This 2011 site-specific installation on display in the University of Michigan Museum of Art’s Irving Stenn Jr. Family Project Gallery, mounted through the courtesy of the Maxine and Stewart Frankel Foundation for Art, is held in conjunction with the museum’s [http://pulp.aadl.org/node/362972|Victors for Art: Michigan’s Alumni Collectors -- Part II: Abstraction] exhibition.

U-M SMTD's tidy exhibition of Beatles material celebrates the 50th anniversary of "Sgt. Pepper's"

VISUAL ART MUSIC REVIEW

The University of Michigan School of Music, Theater, and Dance's “[http://www.music.umich.edu/performances_events/sgt-pepper-symposium/ind…|Summit of Creativity: A Celebration of the 50th Anniversary of The Beatles’ of 'Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band']" drew experts from across the country in June to examine and analyze this timeless music with an academic panache typically reserved for the likes of Shakespeare, Gilgamesh, and radioisotopes.

By contrast, U-M musicologist Walter Everett’s 46-item exhibit 50th Anniversary of the Release of 'Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band' is tidy in comparison to the sprawling analysis bestowed on The Beatles and this record in particular. Both the band and Sgt. Pepper's are now part of the firmament in our shared cultural and intellectual history, and they are now well worthy of deep study and scrutiny. But The Beatles certainly didn’t conceive the album with all that in mind.

O say did you see the Ford Library's “Banner Moments: The National Anthem in American Life”?

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The Star-Spangled Banner

Jimi Hendrix plays the "Star-Spangled Banner" at Woodstock.

“O say can you see” takes on a whole new meaning at the Gerald R. Ford Library’s Banner Moments: The National Anthem in American Life.

Part of the presidential libraries system of the National Archives and Records Administration, the Ford Library collects, preserves, and makes accessible a rich body of archival materials focusing on the Ford presidential administration. The Library also hosts a series of temporary exhibits that focus on American history.

This exhibit -- curated and organized by University of Michigan musicologist Mark Clague and Bettina Cousineau, exhibit specialist at the Ford Library and Ford Museum -- traces the 200-year history of America’s national anthem through 10 interpretive panels and four display cases filled with historical documents.

And what a busy 200 years it has been.

In a recent interview, music professor Clague dispelled a number of common myths about the anthem as well as a clarification of the anthem’s place in American history.

Soul Nourishers: Kathleen Alfonso's "Quiet Spaces" at Kerrytown Concert House

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Misty Evening, Cultivating Truth, Kathleen Alfonso

Misty Evening (left) and Cultivating Truth by Kathleen Alfonso.

Kathleen Alfonso’s [http://www.kerrytownconcerthouse.com/index.php/events/event/kathleen_al…|Quiet Spaces] paintings are biomorphic abstractions. Her art hums with a quiet spiritual conviction and it has turned Kerrytown Concert House into a meditative setting for leisurely contemplation.

As Alfonso tells us in her gallery statement: “Let us join together in celebration of the beautiful natural world we have around us; the ever-changing landscape that delights and nourishes our soul.” She says her work is meant to “fulfill a need in our human nature to connect with the natural world," and to give word to Alfonso’s imaginative color-field configurations she uses the examples of “the intrinsic design of a plant leaf so full of variety and life; light shining and creating shadows into a space; or the current of water flowing and creating ripples and reflection."

Ultimately, she wisely concludes, art is “complex; but simply viewed, causing us to respond.”

Motion Lights: UMMA's "Moving Image: Performance"

FILM & VIDEO VISUAL ART

Presence

Universal Everything, Presence 4; 2013, two-channel video, stereo sound; running time 2 minutes; edition 1/6. Courtesy of Borusan Contemporary.

The art of motion is currently on display in the University of Michigan Museum of Art’s spirited [http://umma.umich.edu/exhibitions/2017/moving-image-performance|Moving Images: Performance].

The second of UMMA's three presentations drawn from Istanbul, Turkey's Borusan Contemporary museum, Moving Images: Performance illustrates the subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) relationship of performance and moving-image media that’s been fostered by the advent of the portable video camera.

The exhibit complements the concurrent UMMA installation Rafael Lozano-Hemmer: Wavefunction, Subsculpture 9, which is a subject we’ll get to in a forthcoming review. But for the time being, the four short videos in this exhibit stand as prime examples of experimental filmmaking.

Revival: “Whipstitch: The State of Contemporary Textiles" at Ann Arbor Art Center

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Whipstich:

“Exploding Stars Quilt," Libs Elliott / "View III," Anna Von Mertens.

The Ann Arbor Art Center’s “Whipstitch: The State of Contemporary Textiles” does the rather nifty trick of reimagining yesterday’s art today through a conceptualization of what may be the art of tomorrow.

Granted, this notion may sound convoluted, but it’s really quite simple: Fiber, like architecture, can reasonably vie as the oldest of all arts. The reason for this is quite apparent with little consideration.

Yet the art of fiber (like another such ancient art, ceramics) has been essentially aesthetically dormant for millenniums -- and this is also for the same reason already considered. For as a practical artisan regard, fiber’s use has been largely defined rigidly as either being functional or fashionable with little thought outside of this.

Michelle Hegyi's superb sense of spatial balance on display at the WSG

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Michelle

“Wild Forest No. 1,” pigment on paper.

Illustrating the principle that an artful passion can arise from the coolest of mediums, Michelle Hegyi’s “Wild Forest” manages to encapsulate both passion and discipline in a further consolidation of aesthetic strategy.

This is the fifth time I’ve caught Hegyi’s art in her WSG context. There was a streak of exhibits—June 2006’s “The shape of the Sky”; August 2008’s “Gardens of Love and Fire”; August 2010’s “Do You Remember the Shape of Trees…”; and November 2012’s “How the Day Changes with the Light”—where it was possible to chart Hegyi’s growth transitioning from old school printmaking to digital printmaking.

It’s been a privilege to see her work advancing technologically even as she consolidated her print expertise. It’s equally good to note that she’s still as restless in her study as she is in her craft.

In this instance—and working happily in the juncture between abstraction and representation—Hegyi continues to craft a hybrid computer-based painting where her abstraction is comingled with her inspiration.