Abstract, figurative photos at Ann Arbor Art Center

Michael H. Hodges
Detroit News Fine Arts Writer
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Some of the most striking photographs in “Art Now 2016: New Directions in Contemporary Photography” at the Ann Arbor Art Center are those that look the least like photographs — abstract compositions that in some cases read more like paintings than pictures.

Disorientation, of course, is one of the charms of photography — the thrill behind, “It looks gorgeous — but what the heck IS it?”

It’s a question that’s written all over Washington, D.C., artist Dean Kessmann’s “Details #1-6 (Nature’s Promise Organic Vegetable Broth),” a series of six up-close shots that look like certain NASA pictures of the sun with multicolored coronas spilling beyond the edges of the black orb.

(Actually, it’s a tiny graphic found on many food packages.)

The show is up through May 14.

“So much of photography is contingent upon the idea that it presents the world truthfully as we know it,” says curator Millee Tibbs, who juried the show and teaches photography at Wayne State University.

“Abstraction is interesting,” she adds, “because it works against what the camera does best — creating a credible, believable world.”

Consider “DreamStart,” a luminous, portrait by Horace Kerr II of Wheat Ridge, Colorado, printed on metal of an erect egg in front of a pillow, the whole scene bathed in a lurid, green-and-orange glow that gives this unusual still life a science-fiction vibe.

Equally striking is Italian artist Marco Garabello’s black-and-white “The Ball,” a sharp-edged, geometric composition of a large ball improbably balanced on a brick cornice, framed by a nearby skyscraper with strong horizontal lines.

It’s one of the show’s most-arresting images, and as Tibbs notes, the center made a great choice in pairing it with “DreamStart,” a savvy juxtaposition that works to the advantage of each.

This is not to say that abstractions are the only things worth looking at in this exhibition.

Don’t miss the remarkably tender portrait, “Dad, Bogota, N.J., 2013,” by Chicago photographer Juan Giraldo, an affecting picture of a kneeling, shirtless older man painting a room.


(313) 222-6021

‘Art Now 2016:

New Directions in

Contemporary Photography’

Through May 14

Ann Arbor Art Center,

117 W. Washington, Ann Arbor

10 a.m.-7 p.m. Mon.-Fri.; 10 a.m.-6 p.m . Sat.; noon-5 p.m. Sun.

(734) 994-8004


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