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Black figurative art in 'Multifaceted Narratives' at DAM through Sept. 12

Michael H. Hodges
The Detroit News

If you can only get to one exhibition in the next week or so, "Multifaceted Narratives: An Exploration of Black Figurative Art" at Detroit Artists Market would be an superb choice.

Up through Sept. 12 and organized by freelance curator Juana Williams, this 16-person group show of Detroit artists is a knockout -- surprising, handsome and consistently absorbing.

The exhibition gets off to a roaring start with "The OG's (Grandma and Auntie)" by Desiree Kelly, an affectionate portrait of two formidable Detroit matrons dressed for church in their Sunday best.

"The OG's (Grandma and Auntie)" by Desiree Kelly at Detroit Artists Market through Sept. 12.

Kelly, once the Metro Times production manager and senior graphic designer, is one of the city's best portrait artists, and "The OG's" brims with insight, empathy and respect. It's the sort of painting you can stand in front of for minutes at a time.

Just to the right of it is another striking piece, Bakpak Durden's "This Again," with its dreadlocked protagonist seemingly pinned -- a bit like a butterfly in a collection -- by intersecting lines. It's an emotionally charged work that seems to allude to some sort of personal paralysis or affliction.

"Misplaced and Connected" by Brian Raynard Nickson is one of the show's delights, a cubist treatment of a Black man's face that reminds us how white Picasso and Bracht's subjects were.

"Misplaced and Connected" by Brian Raynard Nickson at DAM through Sept. 12.

Nickson, who also goes by BNick, scored a hit last year when one of his portraits, "Wine Fine," was bought by Pamela Adlon, the star and writer of "Better Things" on FX, and featured on the show's set. It even made it into the New York Times.

But the show isn't all paintings. Indeed, sculpture is one of the charms of "Multifaceted Narratives."

Of particular interest is Austen Brantley's "There's a Hole in My Heart, Self Portrait." Brantley, who created the Viola Liuzzo statue in the west-side Detroit park that bears the name of the martyr to civil rights, has created a self-portrait that's deeply introspective and somber - as if he's contemplating the particular, peculiar moment we all find ourselves in this summer.

Austen Brantley's "There's a Hole in My Heart, Self Portrait" at DAM through Sept. 12.

And don't leave the exhibition without taking in Ricky Weaver's two large black-and-white photos of Black children in a yard.

These prints are almost painfully crisp and beautifully lit, with much of the authority of great historical paintings. "Moments Forgotten" is particularly gorgeous and not to be missed.


(313) 815-6410

Twitter: @mhodgesartguy

'Multifaceted Narratives'

Detroit Artists Market, 4719 Woodward, Detroit

11 a.m.-6 p.m. Tues.-Sat.

(313) 832-8540