Representation, Now: “Art Now 2019: Painting” at Ann Arbor Art Center

VISUAL ART REVIEW

Judith Bemis' painting Waiting for His Grace

Judith Bemis, Waiting for His Grace, oil on canvas, 60" x 48". Roula David and Judith Bemis at the opening night for Ann Arbor Art Center's “Art Now 2019: Painting” exhibit. Images courtesy Ann Arbor Art Center.

Continuing with the fifth installation of its semi-annual exhibition themes, the Ann Arbor Art Center’s Art Now 2019: Painting illustrates the vitality of this perennial art form in our contemporary arts.

Given the dramatic permutations that some art mediums have experienced in the last century -- fabrics and ceramics come readily to mind -- the transitions that painting underwent are seemingly under the radar. But this statement, of course, is not the case.

After all, it was only a little more than one brief century ago that the fury of expressionism was beginning to be felt in European art. Ultimately, various abstractions were going to rule the cutting-edge roost for all intent and purposes through mid-century to be supplanted by the playful shock of Neo-Dada in the 1950s and then branch into the various -isms that would amaze audiences through the balance of the 20th century.

Representation -- expressive or otherwise -- was always a predominant force in painting that worked itself around these flashier kinds of headliner aesthetics. And as the Art Center’s Art Now 2019: Painting heartily shows us, representations -- expressive or otherwise; particularly portraiture -- are still front and center in the visual arts same as it ever was. 

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.

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.

Dennis Jones’ “Candyland” is a graffiti-inspired exploration of post-painterly art

VISUAL ART REVIEW

Dennis Jones' Candyland paintings

Clockwise from top left: Chewy Swirls, acrylic, latex, spray paint, paint marker, and paint fragments on canvas, 2014-18; Candyass, acrylic, latex, spray paint, paint marker, and paint fragments on canvas, 2017-18; Sugar Pills, acrylic and paint marker on canvas, 2014-18.

Dennis Jones’ Candyland at the University of Michigan North Campus Research Complex Rotunda is for those who like to have a little contact high to go along with their art.

A 2014-2018 14 masterwork concoction crafted by this adjunct faculty at Detroit’s College for Creative Studies, Candyland is a full-throttled exploration of post-painterly art whose graffiti-inspired abstraction is more than enough to push your glucose level beyond its prescribed limit.

Local Legends: "One-Shot Stanger: The Photos of Eck Stanger" at AADL

VISUAL ART REVIEW

Eck Stanger - YWCA Day Camp "Circus," July 23, 1937

Eck Stanger, YWCA Day Camp "Circus," July 23, 1937

Local legend says Egbert ("Eck") Stanger, a 1930s copy editor for The Ann Arbor News, was hired as the paper's first staff photographer because he was the only staffer who knew how to read the German instruction manual for the newspaper's only camera. 

As recounted by Arthur P. Gallagher, News editor 1954-1976, in a 1976 article, Stanger supposedly said, "They gave me a second-hand Speed Graphic Camera and a booklet on how to use it."

But why would the Rochester, N.Y.-made Speed Graphic Camera have a German instruction manual?

We're clearly in the realm of John Ford's famed journalistic observation in his 1962 cowboy movie, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence: "When the legend becomes fact, print the legend."

But Stanger doesn't need any shaky legend to legitimize his incredible body of work, and AADL's One-Shot Stanger exhibition gives us a look at 21 of his finest photos, taken from AADL's Old News collection.

Both Sides Now: “See Through: Windows and Mirrors in Twentieth-Century Photography” at UMMA

VISUAL ART REVIEW

Elliott Erwitt, Cracked Glass with Boy -- Colorado

Elliott Erwitt, Cracked Glass with Boy -- Colorado, 1955, gelatin silver print. University of Michigan Museum of Art, Gift of Gerald Lotenberg, 1981/2.194.2, © Elliott Erwitt / Magnum Photos. 

​​​​​​See Through: Windows and Mirrors in Twentieth-Century Photography at the University of Michigan Museum of Art focuses on one of the most thought-provoking conundrums of art photography.

Curated by Jennifer Friess, the exhibit pivots on her observation that there’s a disjunct between “the choices photographers make when constructing their images and, in turn, the manner in which we -- as active viewers -- see [their] photographs.”

Drawing from one of the preeminent collections of photography in the country, Friess has crafted one of the most provocative exhibits of art photography to be mounted at the museum in this last quarter-century.

Patterns in the Process: “Sara Adlerstein: Ecologies, my true colors” at WSG Gallery

VISUAL ART REVIEW

Sara Adlerstein's paintings Seeds to Come and Milk Weeds, Weeds

Sara Adlerstein's paintings Seeds to Come and Milk Weeds, Weeds.

Vivid, biomorphic expressions take imaginative turns in Sara Adlerstein’s Ecologies, my true colors at downtown Ann Arbor’s WSG Gallery.

Adlerstein’s mixed-media Ecologies exhibit features biologically themed art crafted largely in dramatic three by four feet proportions. Her all-heart artworks are abstractions based on realism featuring nuanced, organic leitmotifs.

An applied aquatic ecologist and current faculty member at the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment, Adlerstein hasn’t pursued formal training in the arts. Rather, she says she’s has been painting for as long as she’s been a scientist. “Art and science belong together as naturally as air and water,” Adlerstein wrote in her artist's statement

Minimalesque: “Deborah Campbell and Lois Kane: Burgeoning” at Kerrytown Concert House

VISUAL ART REVIEW

Deborah Campell's Divergent and Topography; Lois Kane's Sathonii

Left and upper right: Deborah Campell's Divergent (fiber) and Topography (1) (fiber, crochet). Lower right: Lois Kane's Sathonii (ink drawing).

There’s minimalist art and there’s art on the edge of being minimal. This distinction may seem paradoxical, but it is one way of describing the Burgeoning exhibit at Kerrytown Concert House by local artists Deborah Campbell and Lois Kane.

Deborah Campbell's art is minimal -- and it's bountiful for it. Where a less talented artist might overpower her work with excess, Campbell strategically stitches her fiber art with just enough effort to convey her articulation. Every stitch counts.

Lois Kane's draftsmanship functions in a similar fashion as Campbell's stitching. Where Campbell’s touch is serene, Kane’s line is vigorous, or memorably spare, and is always on point. 

Causing Moments: WSG Gallery's “Lynda Cole: Recent Places and Themes”

VISUAL ART REVIEW

Lynda Cole, Two-2

Lynda Cole's Two-2; oil stick, cold wax on Terraskin, mounted on Gator Board.

Local artist Lynda Cole is back at the WSG Gallery with another adventure in abstraction that’s as much about her sense of self as it is an exploration of art itself.

The last time we saw her work was in November 2015 when she held North to be as much a state of mind as it is a navigational direction. As I wrote at that time, Cole’s North exhibition was a “fusing of time and space -- through a particular state of mind.”

Her Recent Places and Themes is more of the same. As Cole says in her gallery statement, “Months ago, when I began working on paintings for this show, I was exploring the simple way in which two colors would interact.”

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.”