CCS hosts ‘Herstory’ & ‘Evidence of Things Unseen’

Michael H. Hodges
Detroit News Fine Arts Writer
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Two handsomely hung exhibitions at the Center Galleries at the College for Creative Studies, “Herstory” and “Evidence Not Seen,” will both provoke and give you food for thought — neither a bad thing on a chilly November afternoon.

The two shows are up until Dec. 16.

“Herstory” is a posthumous show of sculpture by CCS 1983 fine-arts graduate Rose Dalessandro, a fixture in the Detroit art world for decades. Those with long memories might recall when she ran the Center Galleries from 1989-1998, when still in the Park Shelton apartment building.

Dalessandro died earlier this year at 76.

Dennis Alan Nawrocki, who teaches at Wayne State and is a frequent contributor to the Detroit art journal Essay’d, curated a small show with three of Dalessandro’s favorite subjects — small, abstracted sculptures of “Goddesses,” a series of “Shields,” and recent black-metal sculptures of blossoms she called “Mourning Flowers.”

Nawrocki termed her wall-mounted shields “protective armor” that could defend against the indignities of a patriarchal culture — a timely concept, given the avalanche of sexual-harassment charges ricocheting through American society.

But viewers could be forgiven if they read something sexual into these sculptures, which Nawrocki called “frankly feminist.” They almost call to mind artist Judy Chicago’s “Dinner Party” in the late 1970s, quite shocking at the time, where many plates at the table setting were sculpted or painted to look like an abstracted vagina.

“Shields” demands a little time and contemplation — there are some gorgeous surprises here.

Dalessandro’s “Goddesses” are mostly small, and often reduced to the simplest female outlines. A small shelf with six standing figures — some headless, and all without arms, as if unearthed from ancient cultures — makes for a handsome, provocative lineup.

Interestingly, “Herstory” is hung in a pleasingly narrow space, where shape and compression somehow add to the drama of Dalessandro’s small sculptures.

In the main gallery, “Evidence of Things Not Seen” is a show of black-and-white, large works on paper by four local artists — Richard Lewis, Mario Moore, Sabrina Nelson and Rashaun Rucker — all of whom play with the ways in which African-Americans are represented in society.

Richard Lewis’ canvases are larded with small comic references, including a number of allusions to what seems to be a future when robots will be so common as to be boring.

“They Drive By Night” is a particular delight, with its tired-looking African-American woman at the wheel, and a bored robot — or it an alien? — in the passenger seat.

It’s one thing to have a robot seated next to you. It’s quite another when said robot has, for no apparent reason other than the delightful absurdity of it, dozens of nails sticking out of his or her chest and shoulders.

Or perhaps she/he is a stand-in for what the marvelously coiffed driver, a Frida Kahlo lookalike, actually feels inside? It’s hard to tell.

Everything in this show is worth close study, but don’t miss Moore’s naturalistic portraits, such as “Danielle,” or Nelson’s array of James Baldwin sketches including “Colored Entrance Only.”

(313) 222-6021

Twitter: @mhodgesartguy

‘Herstory’ and ‘Evidence of Things Not Seen’

Through Dec. 16

Center Galleries

College for Creative Studies

301 Frederick, Detroit

10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays

(313) 664-7400

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