There was a time, not so long ago, when saying that Detroit is a beautiful city would raise skeptical eyebrows, possibly leading to the question, “Are you nuts?”
Happily, the recent uptick of enthusiasm for the city, both locally and worldwide, makes that argument an easier sell these days.
Still, you might consider dragging any doubters to “Detroit After Dark: Photographs from the DIA Collection.”
Up through April 23, this handsome show of (mostly) huge photographs goes a long way toward reminding the cynical of what’s affecting and gorgeous about the Motor City.
“A lot of these images are awe-inspiring, full of the element of the sublime,” says Nancy Barr, curator of photography at the Detroit Institute of Arts. “And that’s really accentuated at night.”
This 13-artist group exhibition ranges from elegant skyline shots to gritty images of nighttime streets and smoke-filled underground music clubs. You’ll probably recognize some famous photographic names, like Robert Frank, Leni Sinclair or Scott Hocking.
But there are some marvelous surprises here, such as the elegant black-and-white architectural photography of Jon DeBoer.
Barr says that DeBoer used to do a lot of his shooting in abandoned buildings, but recently turned to more classic urban vistas.
“He got interested in nighttime photography in part because our public lighting was so spotty in areas,” she adds, “places where the light at a party store might be the only illumination.”
His “Gotham Detroit,” however, is anything but a shot of a half-lit street, and uses the city’s abandonment to brilliant effect.
This is a breathtaking picture of Detroit’s downtown all a-glitter, framed on one side by the elaborate, and very dark, architecture that crowns the completely empty Book Tower on Washington Boulevard.
Jenny Risher, who produced the beautifully illustrated book, “Heart Soul Detroit: Conversations on the Motor City,” also uses the nighttime skyline to good effect. But in contrast to almost all the other work on display, Risher’s shot is a staged portrait.
Her “Guilty Simpson, Hex Murda, Phat Kat” shows the three local rappers posed around a classic car on the Windsor waterfront, the lights of Renaissance Center and the Ambassador Bridge in the background.
Other artists on display include Doug Coombe, Ralph Jones, Dave Jordano, Rob Kangas, Russ Marshall, Sue Rynski, Steven Shaw and Thomas Stoye.
‘Detroit After Dark: Photographs from the DIA Collection’
Through April 23
Detroit Institute of Arts, 5200 Woodward, Detroit
9 a.m.-4 p.m. Tues.-Thurs., 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Fri., 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sat. and Sun.
Free to residents of Wayne, Oakland & Macomb counties
All others: $12.50, adult; $8, seniors; $7, college students; $6, youth (ages 6-17)