Cass Cafe show an absurd delight
Absurdity rules at Detroit’s Cass Cafe with “Art Mavericks,” a three-person show up through Oct. 31.
This spirited exhibition brings together three very different artists — Tim Burke, Miriam Marcus and Joel Mockovciak — all of whom, to one degree or another, trade in the surreal.
Of the three, Burke’s artistic sensibility is the most childish — and in his hands, that’s a distinct virtue.
Indeed, Burke was drawn years ago to live in the middle of Tyree Guyton’s childlike Heidelberg Project, in a neon-orange cottage Burke used in recent years used as studio and storage. (Sadly, it was torched last year in the arson attacks that destroyed so much around Heidelberg.)
But where Guyton’s work radiates the innocence of a 5-year-old — stuffed animals and big, colorful polka-dots, for example — Burke places himself on the knowing edge of adolescence, like a caustic 13-year-old who spends too much time with Mad magazine.
Robots number among Burke’s favorite subjects. If you work downtown, you might have seen his silver-gray robot on a bench at Griswold and Fort, just west of Campus Martius.
You’ll find one of silver-boy’s cousins halfway up the stairs in the Cass show, a robot comprised of candy-colored metal parts from an F-16 fighter jet that, from a distance, looks adorable.
But up close, the little guy is a study in unhappy surprise, socket-like fingers spread out against some unseen threat.
With his circular mouth, “Scared Guy” bears a striking resemblance to the chronic victim in the “Mr. Bill” film clips from the old “Saturday Night Live.”
Burke also deals in cats. Near the robot, two giraffe-like felines sport cartoon smiles. But for all the chipperness, these grinning mugs have a loopy, unhinged quality to them, as if the cats in question had popped way too much Xanax.
On the other hand, a good anti-anxiety medication might be just the thing for various figures in Marcus’ paintings.
Marcus, who came out of the Cass Corridor movement, has updated several famous historical works, including a version of what appears to be the “Rape of the Sabine Women.”
In “Weeper by the Tanks,” she sets a familiar, grieving figure in Renaissance garb next to great industrial tanks, just visible through the murky air.
(Sadly, Marcus’ amusing take on Titian’s “Venus of Urbino” — where she locates the leering nude in the middle of an American Main Street — is not in this show.)
Marcus’ work is painterly and beautiful, qualities on full display in “Backyard — Verso Aurora,” a completely un-ironic view of a reddish-brown house in the snow.
For his part, Mockovciak hews closer to Burke than Marcus in the offbeat department, producing uniformly interesting stuff that’s all just a little ... disturbing.
A great example not to be missed is “Domestic,” a black-and-white print featuring two lady-like mutants with animal faces, each carefully examining a pair of male undies.
Dressed like society women circa 1958, they’re even wearing white gloves. It’s all too perfect.
Through Oct. 31
4620 Cass, Detroit