Detroit photographers take over Center Galleries at CCS

Michael H. Hodges
The Detroit News

The black-and-white show, "100 Photographs: Detroit 1970-1990," lands us forcefully back in a vibrant if ailing Detroit 40-odd years ago, a city on the slide yet still busting with life and gusto. 

"100 Photographs" will be at the Center Galleries at the College for Creative Studies through Dec. 14. (Note - the gallery is closed for the holiday weekend, but will reopen Dec. 3.)

Five photographers -- Michelle Andonian, David Griffith, Don Hudson, Dave Jordano and Glenn Triest -- have pulled together a collection of crisp, often raw images that bring to mind the pioneering street photography of Robert Frank, or in Detroit, the late Kresge Eminent Artist Bill Rauhauser.

Photographer David Griffith caught exuberant crowds in the act of flipping a car right after the Tigers clinched the 1984 World Series.

All the photos, said gallery director Michelle Perron, "come from a very strong tradition of documentary photography. They have a fleeting quality -- a millisecond of life that was captured. And yes," she added, "they do have that raw quality Detroit kind of had back then." 

A good example is the very first image in the show, Michelle Andonian's "The House That Fell," with its little girl cheerfully perched on a rooftop that's collapsed onto the ground, with no visible sign of house beneath.

Michelle Andonian's 1983 "The House That Fell," at the CCS Center Galleries through Dec. 14.

Or consider her "Vernor Highway," with its earnest, patriotic parade in 1983 starring a young girl in white as the Statue of Liberty, balanced on a tiny float. 

Glenn Triest also gives us one knock-out portrait after another, starting with "Motel Lobby" and its gloomy clerk in the glass booth at a by-the-hour establishment -- or "Woman Waiting for Bus, Warren Avenue, First Day of Spring." Lunch-bucket in hand and bundled against the cold, she sits on a bench advertising a funeral home, with an empty, hopeless landscape behind her.

Desolation crowds Glenn Triest's 1980 "Woman Waiting for Bus, Warren Ave., First Day of Spring."

By contrast, Dave Jordano -- a Chicagoan who's the one out-of-stater in the show -- is probably best known for his affecting, almost geometric pictures of inconsequential buildings, often in the middle of nowhere. But here he demonstrates considerable street-cred. 

"You don’t really associate Dave with portraiture at all," Perron noted, though points to his "Jonnie" and "Bi-Racial Couple" as particularly moving examples of the form. 

Dave Jordano's 1973 portrait, "Jonnie," in "100 Photographs: Detroit 1970-1990" at the CCS Center Galleries through Dec. 14.

Moving and oddly haunting is Jordano's "Two Boys in Front of a House Under the Ambassador Bridge," with its cute-as-a-button little kids in front of dilapidated, late-19th century cottage -- quite handsome, really -- with the mighty bulk of the bridge looming overhead. 

Or take "Gay Libbers" from 1973. It would have been easy in that era to mock the two young men in the shot, both of whom in dress and attitude leave little question as to their orientation. But Jordano treats them with respect and dignity. 

Finally, under no circumstances should you miss his somewhat obscene "Man in Trickey Dickey Costume" taken late in the Nixon administration. 

David Griffith, by contrast, concentrates on crowd scenes from the violent aftermath of the Tigers' 1984 victory in the World Series, the team's first since 1968.

In one of his "Detroit, Michigan, 1984" series, rowdy young men, like as not suburbanites, join forces to flip a car onto its roof. It's a remarkably vivid image. You can almost taste the tribal excitement and the illicit joy of pointless vandalism.

Finally, Don Hudson - who's not as well known as he deserves to be -- seems to have a particular gift for the goofy, slightly unhinged portrait. A marvelous example is his "Farmington, 1978," with three guys in the empty parking lot of a drive-in movie theater -- one of whom is wearing a paper bag with cut-out eyes over his head, and tied around his neck with binder twine. 

A completely different mood, however, is struck with his "Detroit, Poletown" from 1981, with a car about to disappear into billowing smoke, presumably from burning refuse where worker cottages once stood. 

"Demolition for GM Poletown Plant" by Don Hudson, in "100 Photographs: Detroit 1970-1990" at the CCS Center Galleries.

(313) 222-6021

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'100 Photographs: Detroit 1970-1990'

Through Dec. 14

Center Galleries, College for Creative Studies, 301 Frederick, Detroit

10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tues.-Sat.

(313) 664-7800 - search for "Center Galleries"