Zubel Kachadoorian’s Cass Corridor on display at DAM

Michael H. Hodges
Detroit News Fine Arts Writer

“Tree of Life: Zubel Kachadoorian” at Detroit Artists Market is a long overdue reminder of the artistic power of the late Wayne State University professor and veteran of the Cass Corridor movement.

You’ll have to move quickly if you want to take it in, however — the show closes Saturday evening.

Kachadoorian, a Prix de Rome winner who died in 2002, started life as a figurative painter of dark, almost noir-ish paintings, employing a dim palette with only sparing use of strong color. These canvases from the 1940s almost resemble Renaissance paintings darkened by centuries of grime and ill-advised varnish.

Whether “Open Window Amazon Street Dearborn,” with its framed view of his childhood neighborhood by the Ford Rouge plant, or the powerful and gloomy “Mother and Son,” infused with hidden meaning and pathos, these paintings are a revelation.

“Kachadoorian is an artist who really has a signature to his work — you can really see a distinct personality,” notes DAM director Matt Fry.

“I think it’s particularly cool to see the evolution of his work,” he adds. “Personally I love the ethereal works that he did while living on Lake Michigan. He captures the light beautifully, and they’re gorgeous, otherworldly images.”

It’s interesting to see how Kachadoorian’s choice in color shifts and lightens, and how he moves from figurative to more abstract.

Zubel Kachadoorian’s 1988 “Self Portrait.”

While you can still find dark work, like 1962’s dramatic “Lake Reflections,” other pieces like “Campsite Sentinels III” (1983-1986) are rendered in lighter, optimistic greens and yellows.

Kachadoorian returns to a more somber viewpoint with his 1985 “Urban Hammock Figure,” which seems to touch on the progressive collapse and shabbiness overtaking Detroit.

Before landing at Wayne State, Kachadoorian also taught at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and was reportedly one of those charismatic, larger-than-life figures — all the more reason to mourn his absence.

“Zubel was more European than American,” Detroit sculptor and good friend Sergio De Giusti wrote in the show’s catalog. “He was Detroit’s European bohemian — the wanderer, the dreamer, the romantic, the scholar, the father and the lover.”


(313) 222-6021

‘Tree of Life: Zubel Kachadoorian’

Through Sat.

Detroit Artists Market, 4719 Woodward, Detroit

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

(313) 832-8540, detroitartistsmarket.org