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Why doesn't downtown Detroit boast more large-scale Lois Teicher sculptures?

It's a question hard to shake as you walk through "Lois Teicher: Woman of Steel" at Scarab, a handsomely hung retrospective of the artist's mid-sized work over the decades.

The drama, elegance and piercing simplicity at work here intoxicate. 

Scarab Executive Director MaryAnn Wilkinson has admired Teicher's sculptures for decades, going back at least to her time at the DIA, where she could look out at the white "Curved Form with Rectangle and Space" in the pocket park between Scarab and the museum.

"I'd look out at that piece," she said, "so light and buoyant -- yet probably weighing a ton and a half." But that, as she sees it, is the artist's gift. 

"Lois' works look weightless," said Wilkinson, who curated the show. "They create their own space and their own sense of movement."

Teicher, 81, has had an intriguing career trajectory. She came to art late, after marrying and having two kids. She was a couple decades older than most of her fellow students at the College for Creative Studies, where she got her degree in 1979 in her early 40s. 

At the time, the world of monumental steel sculpture was an almost entirely male domain, and most of them aimed to keep it that way. 

"Lois had to work at foundries with burly men whose attitude was, 'What are you doing here?'" said Wilkinson, tipping her hat to the artist's personal steeliness. 

As artist John Douglas Peters notes in his introductory essay to the show's catalog, Teicher's visions often require a small village of fabricators, installers, painters and architects to give them form and life. 

Other public examples of her work in Detroit include a half-circle bench at downtown's Boll Family YMCA, and "Box" in front of the Eastern Market offices. 

Flint's Bishop International Airport boasts three "paper airplanes" by Teicher, huge exercises in bent metal that can't help but amuse and impress. 

For her own part, Teicher writes that her work involves a "duality held in dynamic tension, motion and energy," concepts she then channels into her sculpture.

"I like Lois' through-line of sculptural forms," said art critic and author of "Art in Detroit Public Places" Dennis Nawrocki, "composed of abstract forms or single shapes -- and sharp piercing color."

Indeed, he added, it was the color that first stopped him in his tracks on entering the Scarab show. 

One more thing: If you take in Teicher's show on the first floor, by all means scoot upstairs afterward to Scarab's second-floor gallery, to catch Michael Crane's slightly unhinged "Cats Rule" - as different an art experience as one could imagine. 

'Lois Teicher: Woman of Steel'

Through Nov. 16

Scarab Club, 217 Farnsworth, Detroit

Free

Noon-5 p.m. Wed.-Sun.

(313) 831-1250

scarabclub.org

mhodges@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-6021

@mhodgesartgu

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