Bask, aka Ales Hostomsky, lived in Detroit from 2000-2004 and, like many artists, fell in love with the city’s offbeat aesthetic.
“I liked everything about it,” he says on a rainy afternoon at Inner State Gallery across from Eastern Market, where his show “Location, Location, Location” is up through Sept. 14. “I liked the landscape, the downtroddenness of the city and the beauty in its decay.”
Some artists, similarly moved, created paintings or photographs of our fabulous ruins that much annoyed the locals, and led to the creation of the disdainful epithet “ruin porn.”
But Bask, who’s now based in St. Petersburg, Florida, but comes to Detroit at least once a year, did something completely different.
Struck by the look of fading ads on the sides of forlorn buildings, the tall, rangy redhead started toying with pop-culture and advertising motifs, re-creating the weathered look of ancient billboards on pieces of wood scavenged from the city streets.
“Great art usually comes from dark places,” Bask says, noting that that’s something he’s always admired in one of his heroes, Detroit artist Glenn Barr. (He says the two of them are currently looking for a wall somewhere in the city to paint together, which should be interesting.)
Bask adds, “I don’t paint on anything purchased. It’s always on found objects. I build off the texture of what that material provides” — all of which gives his work an appealingly raw, grainy quality, often rendered on boards of irregular shape.
You’ll find a great example with “Come,” which stars the artist’s French bulldog, Mortimer, painted on two old cupboard doors and a spare piece of wood.
Generally speaking, Bask deals in a muted palette, fitting for one who took early inspiration from the faded colors of abandoned Detroit. “The One You Feed,” from a series dealing with the wolves within each us, falls neatly in this spectrum, painted with nothing but black, gray and occasional red.
A more technicolor exception, however, is “Party Store” — an unusually vivid work divided into three parts and rendered in strong reds, blues and greens.
Generally speaking, this is an artist who plays with issues more personal than political. But perhaps he should toy with the latter more often. He makes a downright amusing exception with “Eye Contact,” a black-and-gray work in which all we see is a woman’s bust, fetchingly outfitted in a low-cut dress.
Clearly, this is a woman who knows her men. Pinned to her bodice is a small button with an arrow pointing at her head. “My eyes,” it reads, “are up here.”
One last suggestion: After you’ve taken in “Location, Location, Location,” consider walking down the block to Trinosophes, the combination cafe/gallery/performance space for a cappuccino and a quick look at a most unusual art exhibit.
On display right now is “Bonsai,” a collection of the elegant miniature trees cultivated by Detroit artist Tom Phardel, better known for his mixed-media and ceramic work. While small, this show of meticulously crafted natural beauty is surprisingly affecting and serene.
Feeling anxious or harassed? “Bonsai” will bring you right back to your psychological center.
‘Location, Location, Location’
Through Sept. 14
Inner State Gallery
1410 Gratiot, Detroit
‘Tom Phardel: Bonsai’
Through Sept. 10
1464 Gratiot, Detroit