Midtown art shows puts the Motor City into persepective

Michael H. Hodges
Detroit News Fine Arts Writer

Two Detroit-specific shows within easy walking distance of one another could make for a gracious day of high culture in the big city.

The N’Namdi Center for Contemporary Art hosts “Essay’d VI” through Sept. 3, while on the other side of Woodward there is the amusingly titled “Greetings from Detroit: Wish You Were Here” at Detroit Artists Market. “Greetings” comes down Aug. 27.

“Essay’d VI” is a small group show with some marvelous Detroit artists including Todd Erickson, Design 99 (the creative duo of Mitch Cope and Gina Reichert), Carl Demeulenaere, Biba Bell, Andrea Eis, Levon Kafafian and Robert Sestok.

The show is based on the collections of articles published in “Essay’d,” a new online publication that focuses on the Detroit art scene, generally posting two articles a month. After the 10th article, a show of the most recently reviewed artists is prepared. The N’Namdi show, curated by Steve Panton of Hamtramck’s 9338 Campau gallery, is the magazine’s sixth exhibition.

Among the pieces in this exhibition (hung by N’Namdi’s Michaela A. Mosher) are two limpid Caribbean scenes by Wayne State studio-art professor Mel Rosas, in which we’re confronted with two planes of reality — a building, and an aperture through which we get a glimpse of ocean or sky.

“Culo” (a naughty word in Spanish) features a rough, urban wall that looks like it could be in Cuba or Puerto Rico, complete with graffiti and a well-painted pair of shapely women’s legs. Just visible through an arch is a slice of perfect sky, unexpected in such a distressed scene, and one that gives the meticulously composed canvas its punch and contrast.

Renata Palubinskas’ “Disguised as Punchinello I” stars a grinning skull with a Venetian mask and lacy outfit who’s interacting with a leering kitty. Punchinello was a stock grotesque from Italian puppet shows, and this one lives up to his lurid, and comical, reputation.

Of special note? The meticulous black-and-gray Victorian wallpaper behind the two characters.

Fun to look at as well are any number of pieces in DAM’s “Greetings from Detroit.”

Emilie Beadle’s “City Street,” part of “Greetings from Detroit: Wish You Were Here” at Detroit Artists Market.

Emilie Beadle gives us “City Street,” a gritty street scene reminiscent of the turn-of-the-century Ashcan School of artists.

Bruce Giffin’s “Michigan Central Depot” is a moody black-and-white shot of Detroit’s train station beneath an unruly sky, while Robbie Aaron’s portrait of a ramshackle Detroit home is a color study that calls to mind work by local painter Clinton Snider, albeit much looser in technique and style.

Finally, Sandra Cardew’s “Belle Isle Bridge — Detroit, Michigan” veers around sentimentality by featuring a creepy mom and child on what looks to be the forerunner to the current bridge. That these two unlovely figures are set against a map of Tierra del Fuego and the Strait of Magellan stirs the pot even more.

Why this unlikely juxtaposition? Is Belle Isle, figuratively speaking, at the bottom of the world? Or did Cardew just pick the map for its evocative place names — “Madre de Dios Island,” “Queen Adelaide Archipelago” and “Desolación Island?”

It’s hard to say, but it makes for an oddly compelling composition.


(313) 222-6021

‘Essay’d VI’

Through Sept. 3

N’Namdi Center for Contemporary Art

52 E. Forest, Detroit

(313) 831-8700


‘Greetings from Detroit: Wish You Were Here’

Through Aug. 27

Detroit Artists Market

4719 Woodward, Detroit

(313) 832-8540