Art Detroit Now - Pictures -Reviews Daniel Ballance
Fine Prints at the Elaine L. Jacob Gallery (WSU)
The Elaine L. Jacob Gallery, located at Wayne State University’s campus, exhibited some very fine prints from numerous artists enrolled, or past enrolled students at the university. The array of prints consisted of almost every technique of printing including etching, mezzotint, drypoint, chine colle, woodcut, lithograph, and screenprinting. Akiko Taniguchi’s work seemed to reveal a sense of spirituality, particularly the pieces “Release of Wisdom” and “Persephone’s Return”, combined with a surrealistic design quality, constructed from etching, mezzotint, drypoint, and chine colle forms of printing. There were also fine works from Chris Papa , who embellished on the techniques of woodcut, lithograph, screenprint, and chine colle to create colorful, and dynamic pieces, such as “Bundle”, and “Carolina”. No matter the artist, each and every work withheld it’s own personality and charm, making for a casual and soothing visual experience at the Elaine L. Jacob Gallerry.
Massi V, The First Recording
By: Daniel Ballance
As an artist bridging the internal world with the external world, successfully, requires much assertion and deliberation. This bridge unites the viewer with a creation, which, upon perceiving, enters the personal space of an onlooker. During the first exhibition from the new MassiV gallery, located at Russel Industrial Center, the artist Chido Johnson provided a spectacle of work titled, Domestified Angst, The First Recording. When asked about the title of the show, Johnson explained his work was a response, and externalization, in the process of dealing with different localities, and the nuances that come with a new affiliation and place. The artist is not new to relocating, in fact, after being born in Africa and living there for the first 5 years of his life, Chido Johnson has not lived anywhere for that span of time since, except for Detroit, where he has taught at the College for Creative Studies, as a professor of sculpture, for the last 5 years.
Upon entering through the open double doors of the gallery, white streaks of paint, made from a customized bicycle, with text treaded tires, pulled your attention into the space. The space was colored black, like a dark night, with dramatic spot lights casted on the works scattered around the space, almost as if walking a dark street with nothing but street lamps to direct you. The white tread marks at the entrance, led the way to the first piece, called “Me, Me, Me”, a little wooden African figure, about a foot tall, resembling “airport art”, described by the artist. Art found in airport stores and shops across the globe, presented for consummation. This act of marketing clearly uproots the meaning and value of a highly thought of item, in relation to the culture, which the product belongs, thus allowing the conceptualized item to become a commodity, much like Buddha figures that have been marketed globally.
The main model to represent Domestified Angst’s premise, was the always, uppity “Smiling Bob”, a marketing tool, who permits a false sense of happiness, received from a dose of Viagra. This false figure mainly represents substitutive bliss in the Post- Modern, consumer world full of instant gratifications and artificiality, and all around the gallery, “Bob’s” were situated in different circumstances. One Bob, called “Squashed Bob”, revealed the head of Bob, carved from marble, being squashed by a wooden chair’s leg, causing an anguished look to radiate from the head’s situation. Another piece including the use of Bob as the subject, was a drawing called “Pumped Bob”, which included Viagra’s representative with an insane, smiling, “Jack Nicholson” like expression coming from “Bob’s” face. This insane look portrayed “Bob” as if he had been filled with an evil influence and false conception of pleasure, while all the susceptible victims, manipulated into needing a product that fixes any marriage, or psychological conflict, had been falsely led.
The brains capacity for imagination is a phenomenon that is best expressed through creation. One work that fulfilled the depths of the imagination, during the first showcase at the MassiV gallery, was “Knock, Knock” a true visual feast which required looking through a peephole, placed in the middle of a door, while sitting on a wooden chair. Through the looking window was a small, closet like space, filled with nine individual heads arising from the floor, one smiling, one laughing, one growling, each one with their own specific and personal expression. In order to approach this piece, some amount of bravery, rivaled by curiosity, played an effect in the looking process, but once the looking process began, it was a stimulating and dreamlike experience. Another work which fulfilled the minds capacity for imagination, titled “Call Me”, exemplified two nude, identical figures, facing each other, both standing on a skateboard moving back and forth in-between two wooden chairs. The two figures being pulled by a pulley system installed within two stereo speakers located at each end of the piece. Both figures facing each other, had their hands at each side of their face, gesturing a phone to each ear, while a phone conversation, followed by Van Morrison’s “Just the Two of Us”, played from the stereo speakers. The piece demonstrated a cycle of two that went back and forth in continuation, the two never actually getting anywhere outside of their boundary within the two speakers.
Dealing with relocating to a new area can be a struggle, which produces a learning, and growing experience for the self’s own understanding of the internal and external world around the self. The work and life experiences of Chido Johnson exemplifies the realizations and understandings involved in dealing with different localities, and the processes of understanding the internal and external world once changes have occurred. The changes in Johnson’s life have resulted in the creation of mind provoking and deeply contextual forms that fulfill the mind’s imagination and curiosity, while exerting questioning of the external world that seems so naturally to exist. Hopefully, the first recording of Domestified Angst , will be the first showcase in a continuation of events that incite the mind to think deeper about the world that is presented.
Art found at the Zeitgeist Gallery
By: Daniel Ballance
During my first visit to the Zeitgeist Gallery, located at 2661 Michigan Avenue, I was startled upon entry with commotion from a performance piece, being rehearsed behind a closed curtain. I didn’t know what to think of the absurd remarks in the back of the gallery, but continued with my hunt for stimulation, and found the work of Joan Painter Jones and M80, who built meticulous and obscure forms from found objects and materials. There were politically charged pieces, such as Painter Jones’ “Game”, represented through the placement of plastic army men surrounded by busts of superiority, all contained within a rectangular structure. M80’s piece “The Dead Presidents,” consisted of a functioning clock with a trivial president game positioned as the face of the clock, and the heart of the piece. “Tinkertime”, also by M80, was crowned with a yellow bird, on top of a tinkered clock, with sound horns coming out the side of the piece.
The combination of M80 and Joan Painter Jones, both provided a unique and interesting first visit to Zeitgeist Gallery, by strategically constructing, in some people’s eyes, “junk”, crafted into smartly built works of art which provoke thought, imagination, and questioning, of items, and their relationship to useless garbage.
Art at the 555 Gallery
By: Daniel Ballance
During the ArtDetroitNow extravaganza, including 100 gallery exhibits over a course of four days, a visit to the 555 Gallery could not be avoided. Upon entering the gallery I quickly noticed the art of Billy O’Bryan and his daughter Aqua, who sat welcoming eager viewers of the area. I was appalled as I looked at canvases that were tacked to the wall with loads of hummus, pizza slices, sprinkles, and other perishable substances that covered the unstrecthed canvas. The first piece that grabbed my attention was “Detroit City Flag”, a canvas covered in jalapeño hummus, and lightly colored with sprinkles that were allowed to grow and attach to the canvas support. Another piece of similar taste was “Piss Mirandi”; a similar canvas supporting found pizza slices, from Little Caesars that were attached with cheese and according to the artist himself piss from his own body. Billy O’Bryan, who graduated from California State, claimed his art comes from organic, untraditional materials that are kept at room temperature. These materials are allowed their own personal growth, as an experiment drawn from nature, which break away from the acceptable, typical mediums and play at a minor scale.
Billy O’Bryan’s daughter Aqua, did not disappoint, with her colorful series of digital photos called, “Electric Church”. These photographs included churches found in the Detroit area, which were altered to radiate a more mysterious, and questionable appearance, exerting a much larger presence of the church, much more fantastical than your everyday casual looking. There was also a grand figure sculpture, crafted by the artist Carl Goins, called “Betrayed Figure 1”, sculpted out of an oil-based clay. The figure was an older, mother type figure situated in a flat stool with a sunken expression on her face, as if she had something taken from her against her will. The craftsmanship of the piece cannot go unrecognized, for she exuberated much life and actuality, as if she was a viewer participating in the visual experience at the 555 Gallery.