After giving out short artistic fellowships to 75 Detroit artists since 2012, Detroit’s Red Bull House of Art adjusted the formula last year.
Now the Eastern Market institution offers three-month residencies to three artists at a time, many of whom come from out of state.
An exhibition by the three current residents — Ellannah Sadkin, Tschabalala Self and Mr. Kiji — will be held April 14. Wildly different one from another, the three artists nonetheless all take as their starting point the basic elements of graphic design and illustration, and go from there.
Ellannah Sadkin grew up both in both Birmingham, England, and New York City. But for the past three years, she’s been based in Woodstock, New York.
“I left England because of the weather,” she said with a shy smile. “Just couldn’t deal with it anymore.”
Isolated in a Woodstock cabin, Sadkin created a body of work called “Toonology” that was shown in the fall at a New York gallery.
At Red Bull, she’s working on a painted series based on actual brain scans, including one from an individual with an anxiety disorder — something Sadkin’s long suffered from.
“I wanted to express that it’s an actual disorder,” she says of her current project, “and not, you know, that you’re just worried.”
The black women in Tschabalala Self’s painted and stitched collages look out at the world with cool, sometimes highly sexualized, independence, daring you to criticize them.
These woman, unlike their counterparts in ads and the mass media, are free agents, dependent on no one.
Confronting what she calls the “narrow representations of black women,” the Harlem native and Yale MFA presents “women with the ability to be however they want to be, and to show a huge variety of aspect and possibility in their movement and personality.”
And in a nice flip on conventional gender roles, men, when they do appear, are there to define the woman — not the other way around.
“With a lot of visual media,” Self says, “the women are there to tell you more about who the man is, rather than who they are. You really see this in video culture, which I’ve always been fascinated by.”
In Detroit, Self is experimenting with larger sculptural work than usual, which will get a showing in the Thursday Red Bull show and the upcoming Art Fair of Brussels.
Mr. Kiji’s bi-cultural origins inform everything he does. His mother is American and his father Japanese. Born in Japan, he grew up mostly in New Mexico and New York City.
Not surprisingly, perhaps, his work centers on the Pacific conflict in World War II.
The influence these nations, once locked in mortal combat, have had on each other in the postwar years fascinates Kiji.
“American and Japanese culture are united because of the conflict,” he says, “and there’s this weird mirroring and mimicry — these echo effects in pop-culture imagery.”
Kiji’s not trying to make a statement. “It’s more like I’m building a toolkit to play with,” he says, “creating a language that deals with folklore and pop-culture references from when I was a kid.”
Right now he’s toying with a book of military patches for clandestine operations that would get stitched on someone’s uniform.
“They actually came out of government,” he says. “It’s super-crazy.”
‘Ellannah Sadkin, Tschabalala Self & Mr. Kiji’
6 p.m. Friday
Red Bull House of Art
1551 Winder, Detroit