Contemporary Abstractions at Passenger

Tylonn J. Sawyer at Passenger for Contemporary Abstractions.

On the southern edge of Capitol Park, two huge geometric halves triggered nostalgia for an egg hunt with their exposed interiors greeting newcomers near the entrance of Passenger. Other sculptures stood prominently across the cement and white wall landscape while paintings, photographs and drawings created a charming atmosphere for a one-night presentation between the gallery and Detroit Creative Corridor Center, among other prominent proponents of Detroit’s scene of innovation.

Laith Karmo at Passenger for Abstracticus.

Brian Barr curated Abstracticus, which opened in mid-October but Contemporary Abstraction offered a one-night multitude of visual and performance stimuli. Near the area designated for libations was a large amount of traffic where viewers gazed at two portraits by Tylonn J. Sawyer. His shadows, lighting and immeasurable detail made the subject’s face seem oily enough for a blotting sheet. Ceramics by Laith Karmo yielded a similar effect with his capacity to catapult fine sculpting into the public sphere.

Noah Stephens at Passenger for Contemporary Abstractions.

Noah Stephens extended an opportunity to gaze into a fondness for exteriors and the night sky with his photographic lens. As Noah’s work emitted a brilliance often seen in motion pictures, he responded with much enthusiasm for the accidental creation of nightscapes resembling paintings and shots from a movie-making process.

While the evening encapsulated respective communications of form, aesthetics and contexts, the process of following each artist’s perception of reality proved tedious without a corresponding list outlining who created each piece on display. To the gallery’s credit, there was a compilation of brief artist biographies but perhaps next time Passenger will be able to offer spectators an easier transition between interrogation and evaluation.

Geometric sculpture at Passenger.

Geometric sculpture at Passenger.

Trailing photography at Passenger.

Trailing photography at Passenger.

Bad Habits of Lee and Lacey at 17

Subsidize by Jay Oscar Lee at Gallery 17.

Subsidize by Jay Oscar Lee at Gallery 17.

As a gangrenous yet gorgeous Beetlejuice walked the opposite direction of Gallery 17, Jay Oscar Lee indulged an inclination for nicotine. The scene was a befitting first impression for Bad Habits, an experience at the gallery for which original pieces were crafted by Lee and Brian Lacey.

Both artists accomplished cycles at Red Bull House of Art and study at CCS but possess distinct journeys of honing talents. Lee chose from three dimensions to contribute to the highly celebrated 2013 Actual Size Biennial at Whitdel Arts and detroit contemporary. Lacey completed murals in Brooklyn and Detroit, contributed Lobby to Imago Mundi’s Biennale of 2013 and whipped up new advertising with four artists for Sierra Mist.

The collaborative energy transferred swimmingly to the collection for Bad Habits. Congregative moments took place in curious spaces while spectators moved from the independently and jointly painted statements. Subsidize by Lee and I Ran Contra by Lee and Lacey held several people’s attentions in the southeastern corner of the gallery. SorbetDenial and Denial pt. II heightened senses near the entrance but sparked the resemblance of a group tendency to plant itself within reach of libations.

Basking in the ambience of Gallery 17.

Basking in the ambience of Gallery 17.

With or without a beverage, steady traffic bore witness to visual stimulation by the dynamic duo and audio satisfaction from Justin Ngelhart. As the opening carried on, so too did a fashion show, traditional African drum experience as well as loads of makeup, muscle and masquerading in customary Russell fashion.

Colectivo Cajeme at 555

Una Galaxia para Fatima by Graciela Galaz at 555 Gallery.

Una Galaxia para Fátima by Graciela Galáz at 555 Gallery.

When I was told about an iron pour at 555 Nonprofit Gallery and Studios, I didn’t realize the radiance of Colectivo Cajeme had begun showing two days earlier. Insightful Mr. P of 555 relayed helpful background information about the artists until I pointed in admiration to Una Galaxia para Fátima. Quickly he
pointed to a woman sitting alone and preoccupied with her phone across the exhibition space and said, “You should tell her yourself. She’s sitting right there.”

It was Gabriela Galáz—the artist whose work I found thrilling. After nearly galloping to speak with her, I invaded her isolation by flooding her personal bubble with compliments. Unfortunately, my impulse incited a raised hand, slight tilt of the head and an unsettled, “I’m sorry, I only speak Spanish.”

Quick to excuse my poor Spanish diction, I reacted with, “Lo siento, mi español no es tan bueno pero yo quiero darle gracias por mostrar sus obras en esta galería.” [I’m sorry, my Spanish isn’t very good but I want to thank you for showing your work in this gallery.”] From our exchange, I learned Colectivo Cajeme began with artists in Sonora, Mexico and the municipal support was a tremendous advantage in garnering community recognition and in showing internationally—two members had already exhibited their work in France and Spain. Those who came to Detroit for the opening, created molds for the smoldering iron outside but would either continue traveling or return to Mexico.

Mictlán by Ebeth Roldán, Encuentro Estelar by Gabriela Galáz and Naranja Dulce by Salvador Escalante.

Mictlán by Ebeth Roldán, Encuentro Estelar by Gabriela Galáz and Naranja Dulce by Salvador Escalante.

As with any craft, age had little to do with the expanse of talent but was fascinating to take into consideration. A pause in conversation kept the eyes moving until Mictlán by Ebeth Roldán became central to the conversation of living twenty-six years and demonstrating a remarkable commitment to perception and reality. Roldán’s exquisite movement of subjects, tones, shadows and light were held in a single moment in unison with a viewer’s capacity to appreciate such boldness.

En Evolución and Florecer by Graciela Galáz at 555 Gallery.

En Evolución and Florecer by Graciela Galáz at 555 Gallery.

Before Galáz elaborated on Fátima, En Revolución and Florecer, each piece seemed motivated by a repertoire exposed as an intricate system of pulleys and weights pouring rich hues into the finest stencils, which were carefully placed over large wood and canvas surfaces. However, my fascination with creative output preceded me as she explained Fátima was an aunt whose perfectly coiffed hair had been the subject of Galáz’s admiration for years. Similar questions then circulated around En Revolución and Florecer but Galáz’s minimal responses led to expressions of gratitude, which I regarded as a signal to check out the iron pour where it was chilly but warm tea and vibrations of blaring music kept the festivities cozy.

Desperation for a nap

While an interior dining space offered solace for hungry companions, the decrepit building's exterior sent chills down Mr. F's back.

While an interior dining space offered solace for hungry companions, the decrepit building’s exterior sent chills down Mr. F’s back.

In the dining area of a building, there were seven treats on the floor ready to be picked up by seven people in attendance. Mr. F watched the first hand grab a treat but he was unsure if he was going to be the next as he noticed no one else’s movement. Restless noises trailed from another room and disturbed the energy to the point when Mr. F turned his head and then faced dark space underneath his desk. A pain throbbed on the left side of his neck while he tried shaking his hands and shoulders awake from an awkward attempt at creating a pillow on the speckled blue desk chair. Its pattern made one feel peaceful in the warmth of a hotel’s uninspiring repetitions of color and shapes.

While he straightened his torso, Mr. F slid his seated half very little into comfort. He hoped no one saw his desperation for a nap in the midst of all the chattering in the hallway as students exited and entered the lunch area. Slowly the paralyzing needles crept over his legs and arms as they came to life. Energy drinks were wedged at the top of his briefcase so he snatched one and tossed it into his left hand, pulled his desk drawer open with his right, patted around for a straw and plunged it in the can after he popped it open. He needed to check the time but the alarm didn’t go off so he knew there was no emergency.

He stood up as though he were just checking his briefcase for the smallest piece of information. Nearly jolting by the memory of responsibility, his eyes moved across paper piles on his desk of grades in need of records. To his left he saw the reflection of students giggling as a teacher scolded them for not lining up properly and quietly. It was amazing how little regard students paid to rules and persons of authority, perhaps even comical on a rare occasion. However, deeply troublesome premonitory feelings arose when Mr. F speculated outcomes based on behavioral patterns, which contradicted great ambitions by some of the most uniquely sheepish individuals.

Who was clumsier, the students who couldn’t stay quiet or the teacher who couldn’t manage a night without something to soothe the nerves? It was a question Mr. F was going to write down for another moment’s contemplation until Principal H entered his room and asked, “Good afternoon, Mr. F. How are you?”

Mr. F’s expression shed light on his feelings about her arrival earlier in his classroom but as he casually responded, she angled her head to resemble pouring out any negativity before arriving just in front of him to continue. “I’m not sure you received the email but we’ll need your help starting this afternoon at lunch in the cafeteria. Could you help us with that?”

“Of course. How long do you think this will be?” he inquired.

“From eleven forty until twelve ten,” she replied flatly.

“No issue, just wanting to make sure.”

“Great, well, Mr. L is there now and I’m sure you’ve heard the students already moving,” she stepped back and into a steady pace toward the door. Mr. F couldn’t tell if the turn or passing students interrupted her final words but he took heed and took a final sip before tossing it in the small plastic trashcan on his way out.

Responsibilities in the morning

Before the tin was left nearly empty, the weather began taking a dramatic turn but the behavior worsened in the sixth grade but somehow lessened in the seventh. Announcements for buses were nowhere near and the chatter was incessant with the exception of the few willing to learn. In almost every class, at least one student possessed athletic abilities and small stature while peers carried fuller frames and personalities expressive of a desire to learn.

With contributions from specialized students of scheming, the review twisted into more of a game where admitting a selection of a prize to the strongest performer garnered more attention than perceiving respectful behavior as the norm. Chaos ensued in the peculiar manner dismissals incited. It was clear the organized process of the activity evaporated with Mr. F’s management of the classroom the first week of the year. Smiling was one mistake realized merely three weeks into the year but something from which he felt vital to recover.

Not in a long time had Mr. F been challenged in tactics encouraging adaptability, wit and creativity on such fast pace and in large volume but a challenge of significant proportions it was. Instances of hardship were ill-phrased obstacles worthy of time and consideration, especially when seeking an immediate resolution, but he decided this would be rewarding on several levels.

Before resting for the next morning, Mr. F gazed at the night sky.

Before resting for the next morning, Mr. F gazed at the night sky.

These thoughts of the classroom circulated as quickly as people who passed the counter at Mr. F’s frequent destination. Old Bess offered a banquet for the senses and spirits but very often turned into a mecca of inebriation. Though he could savor a bottle or two by himself, customary it was to find him observing fellow patrons and engaging in delightful conversations with the ease of a butterfly out of its cocoon while offering libations to new and familiar comrades. Memories of Old Bess and visits to familiar places strung together his daily habits in spite of inevitable responsibilities in the morning.

The nearly empty tin

Nearly paralyzed by the anguish of despair, the poor Mr. F dragged his feet beneath the warm sun as he pondered whether to beg, steal or forget about a morsel of food. The answer created a struggle of character more than hunger as he walked further from the sidewalk adjoining his school and a gas station. To his surprise, a cherry apple colored car screeched to a halt in a gas lane. The driver door swung open and exposed a well-dressed young person whose thickly heeled shoes tapped the ground with severity. Keen on concealing the extent of his curiosity, Mr. F adjusted his navigation toward the array of cigarette ads and scratched windows to get a clear view of the newcomer’s reflection.

To Mr. F’s surprise, the suave energy and tailored attire of a bearded young lad uplifted his spirits and pushed him to the point of laughter when he reflected on the juxtaposition of gracelessness and elegance of the arrival. It was a change of pace in this part of the city where bursts of expression puncture the stale sensation of normalcy but depart just as quickly. As the gentleman hurried from his car to the entrance, Mr. F straightened his posture and allowed the spectacle to enter first.

Inside, the gas station attendants boisterously debated with a paying customer the previous night’s surprise football victory. The debate ensued with “Yo, bro” strewn throughout the conversation, which Mr. F learned to expect as much as the consistent banana supply at the first register. He sauntered down the chip and frozen food aisle, which led to the fully stocked energy drink display where Mr. F routinely scrutinized lists of ingredients and caffeine contents.

His final decision was the same as always so he let the door slam shut as he went up a different aisle toward the animated sports conversation. Not wanting to be rude, he hovered on the carpeted space and looked to his left to see if the red car was still parked outside. To his dismay, he remembered hearing the clicking of heavy heals exit as he contemplated the origins of taurine but the absence of the car left a foreboding sentiment in the pit of Mr. F’s stomach.

“Alright, I can help next customer right here,” exclaimed one of the cashiers.

“Hi, how are you today?” inquired Mr. F.

“Just fine, thank you. And yourself?”

“Well, thanks. Can I get a,” Mr. F quickly scanned the familiar candy display just below the register, “Never mind. Just the drink will do.”

The cashier rambled something very quickly to his coworker then asked Mr. F as he prepared to swipe his card, “Debit or credit today?”

“Credit will do, thanks,” replied Mr. F.

“Credit, alright. Go ahead and swipe.”

Mr. F swiped his card and waited for the receipt as the cashier greeted a new customer. A receipt was the least of his desires so he waved to the cashier while he turned to the left and made his way back to the school.
____

Mr. F recognized one of the voices exclaiming, “Hey, Ms. Y,” or “Hey, Ms. G,” blurted out by students who were scolded for not walking quietly in the hallway. He gazed at the desks upon which he laid handouts for his exam review but Mr. F felt certain the afternoon would flow smoothly to review for the forthcoming test. His plan entailed a question and answer competition with opportunities for students to earn sweet incentives. This, in his mind, would influence students to recognize the advantage of a review day and improve their disruptive behavior exhibited in previous weeks.

Just a few minutes before they were released from lunch, he remembered he needed to retrieve the vintage tin (a lengthy container holding sweet incentives) from its hiding place. He snatched a sheet of paper left on the floor while approaching the metal storage cupboard, slowly opened the door and peered over his right shoulder to make sure no one was watching as they passed his room.

He grabbed what used to be a tin for crackers but Mr. F noticed the weight was significantly lighter than when he left his class the day before. As he moved from the rear corner to the front of his classroom where he would place the bribing system, he opened the lid and found only a quarter of the full supply of incentives left in the tin. The only thing on Mr. F’s mind was getting through a successful day of reviewing with his students and while candy was the least of his worries, stealing was quite another matter.

As he walked toward the board of the classroom, one of his more amiable students entered the room and inquired, “Ey, Mr. F, can I have some candy?”

In an instant, Mr. F’s stomach tensed and wanted to remark, “It’s rather difficult to appease you and your classmates’ plethora of desires especially when a simple incentive system can be abused in the manner I recovered it within fourteen hours of leaving my classroom.” However, he decided a succinct note inside the tin would suffice as he continued walking down the hall to return the culprit’s worksheet, which he found in the vicinity of the nearly empty tin.

DIFFA Weekend in Detroit

Along a silent auction wall at Friday's ArtWorks Detroit by DIFFA.

Along a silent auction wall at Friday’s ArtWorks Detroit by DIFFA.

Vast ceilings and glass walls made the interior of the Federal Reserve Building feel like it was taken from a swanky gathering scene in Batman: The Animated Series when DIFFA’s Fifth Annual DINING BY DESIGN served luxury in design, art and cuisine. The expanse of vision from board members to staff held in groovy energy the main attraction of conceptual fascinations supporting the fight against HIV/AIDS and the work of Michigan AIDS Coalition.

To the right of the entrance, guests weaved through the silent auction placing bids and eating up visual spreads from artists like Deborah Kashdan, whose flair I’d first acquainted myself with at the Whitdel Arts at a summer show. To the left, buyers slowly filled the live auction arena where image-makers donated work to Friday’s ArtWorks Detroit.

Behind the live auction a wide passageway offered an assortment of cheese and quenching signature cocktails by Patrón, which lead to the dining exhibition spaces. In the monstrous display arena, some of the striking contributions for DINING BY DESIGN are included below but do not fully encompass the scope of excellence for the dinner gala.

DDF and Melinda Anderson were presented by bronze sponsor Event Source.

DDF and Melinda Anderson were presented by bronze sponsor Event Source.

Emerald City Design, David McKnight, Liz Sheriden and Alicia O’Reilly were presented by silver sponsor Dana Holding Corporation.

Emerald City Design, David McKnight, Liz Sheriden and Alicia O’Reilly were presented by silver sponsor Dana Holding Corporation.

Planterra Corporation was presented by platinum sponsors Hour Detroit and Detroit Home.

Planterra Corporation was presented by platinum sponsors Hour Detroit and Detroit Home.

Dpop! gleamed with support from presenting sponsor Quicken Loans.

Dpop! gleamed with support from presenting sponsor Quicken Loans.

It was impossible not to hover in front of arrangements or fail to appreciate each bulb of light and napkin fold. Magical it was to witness some great humanitarian strides as the community anticipated more atmospheres to eat with the forthcoming DLECTRICITY and Detroit Design Festival.

So much to see, so little time [Part II]

YESTERDAY by Herbert Gentry at N'Namdi Gallery.

YESTERDAY by Herbert Gentry at N’Namdi Gallery.

On the way from Ellen Kayrod Gallery, I caught up with a friend and shared ponderous comparisons of beverage availability at the N’Namdi Center for Contemporary Arts. Ultimately it didn’t matter as we turned the corner and felt music blaring at the opening of Herbert Gentry and His Contemporaries alongside Adnan Charara and woodcut inspired pieces. As we entered, George N’Namdi was near the source of the evening’s melodies so I shook hands after the gentleman I entered with did the same.

I realized before entering a smaller display area there should have been no mistake missing the eastern wall, which was given life by the inquisitive and worldly glances at the other and the self. Gentry’s work presented this feast of beings and exchange with uncompromising hues to guests who dawdled and were determined to absorb a glimpse of the artist’s breadth of talent and travels.

Traces by S. Margot B Myers exhibited at N’Namdi Gallery.

Another woodcut creation on display at N’Namdi Gallery.

After getting my fill, I went toward the western wall hosting a smaller display area where woodcut made a very strong reiteration of Abstraction and Landscapes: Contemporary Woodcuts. There were a few familiar faces I had seen earlier in the night but there was a particular Mr. K whom I embarked on conversation and transition to the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit since it was the next destination on the evening’s agenda. Just after passing Seva, housed in the same building of the gallery, I made the acquaintance of the remarkable Ms. M who donned a recently acquired cape. She and Mr. K discussed a few matters before we parted ways to explore the music and havens of vibrant expression fashioned by pairs of creators within confined spaces.

Outside one of many collaborations for the People’s Biennial at MOCAD.

The line only took a few minutes to pass and as I wandered to the cubicles of inventiveness, a groovy guitar player of a Brooklyn band prepared for their upcoming set behind a table of merchandise and radiated excitement to perform in Detroit. After weaving through one side of the People’s Biennial, I saw professor Baz Dreisinger standing next to a beam and observing spectators of her collaboration with Hank Willis Thomas. So poignant was the arrangement of writing from students within an East coast prison. It drew spectators closer to connect through sentences of identity and frameworks of improvement. She was exhilarated people were responding so affectionately by acting on the impulse to observe the content and snap an image or two. Ultimately she was firmly grounded in a mission to bolster more proactive attitudes regarding achievement.

Words of learners housed in the system of criminal justice.

Words of learners housed in the system of criminal justice.

Celebrations of growth and accomplishments
took place in more places than the few I
could reach but as I waited to hear the
Brooklyn band to play, accompanied
by intriguing associates there
stood that fabulous Mr. K.

Matchless Virility

Models for Savvy Gents in the Eastern Market.

Models for Savvy Gents in the Eastern Market.

In the midst of fine housewares and women’s clothing of Savvy Chic, the new menswear department called Savvy Gents boasted a penchant for catalytic styling by Randal Jacobs. The recent opening festivities offered clothing and accessories as well as grooming products, hors d’oeuvres and beverages lending to Jacobs’ vision of masculinity.

In preparation for the opening in Eastern Market, Jacobs channeled his model management days in London and Milan by recruiting gentlemen whom he crossed paths in Detroit befitting the aesthetic of Savvy Gents. One model accompanied his mother while she was shopping at Savvy Chic when he was approached by Jacobs to help inaugurate the department as a model. There was also a yoga educator, photographer, law clerk, disc jockey, and lively Detroit resident who donned unique ensembles, which blended gender norms and stimulated conversations.

While clothing is a significant facet of one’s style, grooming plays an equally important role in the theatrics of personal presentation. This was reiterated by the presence of the Detroit Beard Collective at Savvy Gents’ affair, which sparked much enthusiasm about the evolution and popularity of beard maintenance. The creator’s infectious energy about quality and adaptability struck a chord of positivity regarding a shift in Detroit’s influence on style.

I met Jacobs at the recent opening of Bask’s highly anticipated return to Detroit after two years. That same weekend, I stumbled upon the Detroit Beard Collective at the Sunday Street Market. Little did I know how quickly we would all cross paths to participate in the city’s matchless virility.

Guests endlessly celebrating the beginning of Savvy Gents at Savvy Chic.

So much to see, so little time [Part I]

Landscape by Susan Goethel Campbell at Detroit Artists Market.

Landscape by Susan Goethel Campbell at Detroit Artists Market.

The warmth of the exhibit United States at The Scarab Club made me feel completely at ease with not having more than three sweater options (and forgetting my camera) before I wandered downtown. As soon as I turned the corner from the shallow steps of the club’s entrance, one of several oil and wood pieces by Matthew Breneau gripped my eyes. While using the price list as a sort of narrator for my first Scarab experience, I felt very appreciative of serenity incited by Jeanne Bieri’s act of curating work by Meighen and Bill Jackson, Julie S. and Michael Mahoney, and Renee Dooley and Breneau. As I continued, the subjects and sizes of Bill Jackson’s photography projected a hearty appreciation for the busy life outside of the concrete and steel mazes of urbanization. After noting dignified energy from the oil depictions of Julie S. and Michael Mahoney, and briefly observing Julie float amiably and majestically from one side of the venue to another, I fell victim for a few moments to the captivation of Meighen Jackson’s West Wind 1, 2 and 3. Her distinct use of ink reminded me of a piece she submitted for the Detroit Artists Market’s August show. However, an up-close view of her capacity to harness mixed media with her signature flair gave many of us in attendance a feast for the eyes.

Hanging installment by Teresa Cole at Detroit Artists Market.

Down the street at the Detroit Artists Market, this month’s Abstraction and Landscape: Contemporary Woodcuts also served plenty to eat in textures, themes, colors and ambience. What initially caught me off guard was the spirited installment on silk and cotton saris by Teresa Cole, which hovered from an overhanging grid. There was something otherworldly about the woodblock and collaging techniques of Amanda Lilleston while woodcut in reduction by Geodele Peeters gently forced eyes to move up, down, across and around each statement of how water can influence its surroundings and vice versa. Parallel to the work of Peeters was a collection of Landscape[s] crafted by Susan Goethel Campbell. It wasn’t until I grabbed a glass of wine that I made my way to Campbell’s grand display of woodblock prints with perforations, which called viewers closer as they passed. From where I was standing, I couldn’t fathom why a couple was engrossed by what seemed a unique exterior view of a city. As I moved near, grains of wood gave movement to the clouds and buildings were perforated to yield a luminous dynamism. There wasn’t much time to get caught up though because I remembered after finding art extraordinaire James Dozier and painter/curator Bryant Tillman, they informed me there was more to be seen at the Ellen Kayrod Gallery of Hannan House.

Gardens Gardens Gardens by Diana Alva

Gardens Gardens Gardens by Diana Alva at Ellen Kayrod Gallery.

On my way to see the exhibit Color, Line, Form by Diana Alva at the Kayrod Gallery, I crossed paths with a couple on the way home from DAM. We chatted briefly and I was left with a heartfelt message to call my grandmother as much as possible–a surprise to which I took heed the next day. Then I inhaled brilliant colors and wondrous compositions by Alva who quietly sat next to someone I imagined to be close a friend. In order to minimize any annoyance in being there right up to the last minute of the opening, I silently perused large and small segments of a two-year project. I laugh came across titles like My Cup Runeth Over so I thanked Alva for her humor and excellence in artistry. It was then I learned the process of creating titles for her work offered an exhilarating thrill in her creative process. I noticed and heard a shift to a more pleasant and less tired artist but I didn’t want to push my luck with any further prying so I rushed out to see what was being shown at the N’Namdi Center for Contemporary Art.

A fine specimen of Diana Alva’s collection at Ellen Kayrod Gallery.

Wild Irish Night by Diana Alva at Ellen Kayrod Gallery.

SWIMMINGPOOL I by Geodele Peeters

SWIMMINGPOOL I by Geodele Peeters at Detroit Artists Market.

More work by Geodele Peeters at Detroit Artists Market.

More work by Geodele Peeters at Detroit Artists Market.