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low-res Suzy Parker with Robin Tattersall and Gardner McKay, evening dress by Lanvin-Castillo, Cafe¦ü des Beaux-Arts, Paris, August 1956 fc

Suzy Parker with Robin Tattersall and Gardner McKay, evening dress by Lanvin-Castillo, Café des Beaux-Arts, Paris, August 1956. © 2009 Richard Avedon Foundation.

(*Edit: how could I have neglected to mention? Richard Avedon: Fashion Photographs, 1944-2000 runs through January 17, 2010 at the Detroit Institute of Arts. Golly.)

Richard Avedon was 21 when he was first published in Harper’s Bazaar. It was 1944. Sixty years later, on a shoot for The New Yorker, Avedon died of a brain hemorrhage. His life and career plots an uninterrupted course through 20th century fashion — and fashion’s animation of the joyful and spirited cultural moments that defined what was beautiful in the modern world.

I don’t really follow fashion — my wardrobe is built with an eye for solid colors, comfortable fabrics and not looking too clueless —  nor am I very smart about photography in an art-historical sense. But there is lots to love about this exhibition, and you can pretty much just walk in the door and love it, no questions asked, and I think that’s the greatest testament to Avedon’s mastery. The clothes are beautiful, even if you, like me, can’t tell a Dior from a Balenciaga; the models are strikingly, naturally gorgeous, and everyone is glamorous and having a good time.

Avedon was most certainly in control of every detail of his photo shoots, which were as complicated as movie-making and frequently required blocked-off streets and generator trucks. Nonetheless, there is a fundamental free-and-easy-ness to these works that feels captured, not contrived: a model in a circus-huge hat posing with contortionists and street musicians in a Paris alleyway; Dorian Leigh hugging a rough, delighted bicyclist; Buster Keaton, Gardner McKay and Zsa Zsa Gabor at the Moulin Rouge in campy Western wear, giggling and drinking. And there are animals everywhere — monkeys, big silly dogs, little silly dogs and, famously, elephants, which add an animating liveliness and perhaps remind the viewer to let fashion to bring levity into our lives.

The 1940s  Stephanie Seymour in Charvet, Paris, April 1995 - low res

“The 1940s,” Stephanie Seymour, hat and suit by Charvet, Paris, April 1995. © 2009 Richard Avedon Foundation.

It’s not all folksiness-couture, gambling in evening gowns and topless showgirls, of course. Avedon’s studio works are full of movement and fun, too, but they are also where Avedon really showcases his peculiar taste in faces — doe eyes, sharp noses, comically long necks — and dramatically highlights the sculptural quality of the garments.

Veruschka, dress by Kimberly, New York, January 1967 low res

Veruschka, dress by Kimberly, New York, January 1967. © 2009 Richard Avedon Foundation.

The show is an ambitious survey of Avedon’s entire career in fashion, crisply and stylishly installed with little elaboration in text. Even if you don’t think this exhibition is your “thing,” I’d recommend a visit if you’re feeling drab, uninspired, or in need of a quick infusion of spring in your step. My boyfriend, who was not overly prepared to enjoy himself, had a wonderful time.

We left the museum when it closed at 5 pm and strolled next door to the Park Shelton (15 E. Kirby) in hopes of visiting brand-new Leopold’s Books (right next door to Good Girls Go to Paris crêperie). Posted hours say Leopold’s also closes at 5, but owner Greg Lenhoff lets us hang out for a while to browse his small but sumptuous and well-curated collection of art and literary magazines, graphic novels and comic books, zines, small and local press publications and contemporary and classic literature.

Underneath a city streets map painted by Emily Linn from City Bird (also opening a storefront soon — look out!) is a prominent drinking fountain which Greg says the City Inspector made him install. When he saw a patron tentatively lingering near it, he said “Please! By all means — have a drink.”

Greg wants all of the trouble he took to have a drinking fountain installed to be appreciated by his customers and members of his community, and we encouraged him to promote it as a value-added aspect of the Leopold’s shopping experience.

So, Detroit: if your Nalgene is in need of a refresher, hop into Leopold’s and help yourself. Also maybe buy something. I picked up a Believer collection of interviews, which is very handsome and makes me look hip when I read it in public, but if that’s not your style, might I also recommend a little matchbook-sized collection of Detroit trivia cards, published by the Detroit Historical Society?

Here are a few questions to pique your curiosity. Best guesses in the comments:

the supremes

GEOGRAPHY: What does the name “Detroit” mean in French?

HISTORY: In what year was the first car driven on the streets of Detroit?

BUSINESS: The Michigan Telephone Company, established 125 years ago in Detroit, is now known under what name?

PEOPLE: What Native American leader laid seige to Detroit in 1763?

SPORTS: In what year did the Red Wings win their first Stanley Cup?

ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT: Name the three chart-topping hits by Diana Ross and the Supremes released in 1965.

Your move!

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This is what I love about working on this podcast: meetings of great minds. Illustrator/live artist/smart guy/mystery man Dwellephant dropped by the WMSE studios to talk to Mark Metcalf about art, advertising, graffiti, working on a book with Justin Shady, setting goals for the future and why he trys anything once.

Mark reveals himself to be an anti-capitalist anarchist, Dwell reveals himself to be a little OCD about cleanliness, and everyone has a really good time.

You can listen online at ThirdCoast Digest or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes.

More interviews with illustrators and artists to come in the next couple of weeks!

On Sunday we went to Richard Barnes’s lecture on Animal Logic, his installation at the Cranbrook Institute of Science (part of the Artology series, a collaboration presenting “visual and experiential examples of the ways in which art and science frequently parallel or complement each other,” which will hold over creative-types while the Cranbrook Art Museum is closed for renovations).

The photographer gave a comprehensive introduction to his life as a photographer — working on assignment, documenting archeological excavations for universities and museums — and as an installation artist. His work, at its most basic, is about objects in space: buildings (like the Unabomber’s cabin, a series that is not on display in this exhibition but which Barnes discussed extensively in his lecture), tools, fetishized objects of trades and professions, the body as object and objects on display. There’s a sculptural element to this work — something formal.

exhibit a

But there’s also something intensely interrogatory at the heart of his work; in the Unabomber series, Barnes explores the building on trial, the building as an object of interrogation. And in a series on the excavation of the Legion of Honor Museum in San Francisco — built over a Gold Rush-era cemetary — Barnes explores what goes inside of museums and what stays outside (or underneath) them and questions the authority of the museum in preserving, displaying and creating our past.

legion of honor

(I’m reminded of a recent conversation about the British Museum, which a friend described as hilarious, and how the artifacts, although they should probably be returned to the nations they were looted from, are in the British Musuem to stay, and unintentionally create a shadow museum — a permanent exhibition on the history of British colonialism. But that’s another blog.)

Animal Logic is about museums, too — specifically, natural history museums — and what goes on underneath them, in this case in a more figurative sense, as the artist explores museum objects (mostly taxidermy) in transition, or in storage. The museum is a theater, and Barnes allows us to go backstage with him to see the rigging.

animal logic

The exhibition is like a Victorian cabinet of curiosities: disarticulated skulls, bird nests made out of trash, beheaded mallards, tiny stuffed parakeets so bright they look like they’ve been painted, installed on their backs with their skinny legs in the air. (Further reading on Animal Logic should include the New York Times’ piece on “New Antiquarians” and the Morbid Anatomy blog and the artwork of Cassie Smith.)

It’s a critical survey of the way we see nature from inside an institution, but with the incorporation of “Murmur,” a 2007 multimedia installation about starling migration in Rome, the exhibition takes on a layer of graveyard meditation, too: the defiance of death through the eternity of taxidermy (hints of humanity’s romance with ancient Egypt, and Barnes worked there on a dig with Yale); the creepy liveliness of a mounted stag’s head; the second death of a stuffed specimen taken off display; with the starlings, aspirations of eternal return.

New photographs and specimens for the exhibition were taken behind-the-scenes from Cranbrook’s extensive ornithology collection, and it’s amazing to go upstairs after spending some time with Animal Logic and see the Science Institute dazzlingly refreshed. Richard Barnes makes art from artifact; upstairs in the science museum, the artifacts on display— dinosaur bones, stuffed peacocks, pinned butterflies—look curiously like art.

bugs and butterflies

Barnes also has corresponding exhibitions at the University of Michigan Museum of Art (through December) and Uof M’s Institute of Humanities (through October 30). For another perspective on photography, the Detroit Institute of Arts hosts a comprehensive study of Richard Avedon’s fashion photography through January 17. If objects in space are more your style, Breeding Ground continues at the Museum of New Art through November 21.

Animal Logic runs through January 3. Next up in the Artology series, Cape Farewell (hint: it’s about climate change. Fun!) opens January 13.

I am so excited for this opening at the Cranbrook Art Museum: a mid-career survey of photographer and installation artist Richard Barnes called Animal Logic.

I’m not familiar with Barnes’s work, but from the looks of it his work combines some of my very favorite things: animals, nature, museums, science and deep thinking about how we experience all of those things, and how all of those things inform each other and us.

From Cranbrook’s website:

Integral to Animal Logic will be new photography and installations utilizing the collections of Cranbrook Institute of Science.  During three extended visits to Cranbrook in 2009, Barnes explored and photographed the Institute’s vast collection of over 150,000 objects distributed across nine fields of study, including items from the collections of Anthropology, Ornithology and Paleontology.  The resulting photographs, as well as large selections of the objects themselves, will provide a rich context for Barnes’s mid-career survey.”

The exhibition opens on Saturday in tandem with Art Detroit Now, a major contemporary art event that includes a midtown culture crawl, tours of area art galleries with lectures and workshops and other goodies and an open house at the Russell Industrial Center. You can download The Gallery Guide (which is also useful for general Detroit-area art-seeing reference) here.

breeding ground

Also opening this weekend: a new show, Breeding Grounds: New Detroit Sculpture at the Museum of New Art in Pontiac (I have never been there; is it awesome?). The show features work by Kevin Beasley, Christopher Samuels,  Nathan Morgan, Abigail Newbold, Andrew Thompson and the Detroit Projection Project (go meet them on Facebook)! There’s a panel discussion tomorrow night on the state of the arts and sculpture, specifically, in Detroit metro’s social landscape. We believe this to be worth checking out.

And the new Burton Theatre, an independent art house in the Cass Corridor, opens this weekend. But you already knew that!

It’s also time for us to take in our recycling, but that is neither here nor there.

On the cover of this week’s Real Detroit: a five-point beginner’s guide for attending gallery openings entitled “Free Booze, Expensive Art.”

There was a folk saying, back in Milwaukee, during the brief and wondrous life of the Armoury Gallery, about attending art openings. It went something like, “it’s not an opening until Amy Elliott spills a glass of red wine all over the goddamn place.”

So this cover of RDW — it resonates with me.

My first reaction to this story was “morons” — but of course that’s unfair, especially coming from me, a shy person who worries often about decorum and social expectations. Galleries can be intimidating spaces, populated by intimidating people, and of course I’ve been the lady at the art opening casting unsure glances at those bottles of two-buck Chuck, wondering if I can go ahead and serve myself. (I’ve also been the lady wondering who to talk to after spilling two-buck Chuck on the floor, the freshly-painted walls or, I’m embarrassed to say, some art. Although I have never, unlike this cover model, tried to stealth away with a few dozen cheese cubes in my handbag.)

RDW interviews Jessica Slaven, a NY-based contributor to the Paper Monument pamphlet I like your work: art and etiquette, published in August. This little treatise explores the role of etiquette in the increasingly social world of art-creating, collecting, curating and reporting, both in practical and theoretical terms.

Here’s the problem, though: why didn’t RDW provide a next step for those of us who are ready to practice our new art gallery smarts? Say, a list of upcoming art openings in the metro Detroit area?

I guess I’ll have to get that at the Metro Times.

MOCAD opened a new show on Friday — two solo exhibitions by two Scandinavians that occupy the raw concrete gallery space (yes, we know it used to be an auto dealership) with an outstretching emptiness, blanched of color,  goverened by shape and movement, flickers of shadow and whiteness, mechanical noises and unpeopled silences.

Except, of course, the opening was crowded with people and people-made sounds, and showcased a rowdy family of petulant robots (by Apetechnology) with huge lightbulbs for heads and swathed in conical rubber capes, rocking on their wheels, hollering at the crowd and flashing strobes in everyone’s bewildered, delightedly terrified faces. And the night’s musical guest, Caroliner — a group of humans, presumably, underneath the puppets, future-tribal headpieces and layer upon layer of day-glo — happened to be a very loud group of (neon-bedecked, glow-in-the-dark) humans.

caroliner

Caroliner

Under the racket of the performance art, Alexander Gutke’s slide and video installations reminded me of a world that everyone had to flee on rather short notice, never to return, leaving their projectors and slide carousels running. Now they only play jammed-up loops of dust and burning cellulose,  animations of physics and photographs of machines.

guttke

Alexander Gutke, Lighthouse, 2006. Kodak carousel slide projector, 81 slides, timer, stand Ed. 4 + AP
Courtesy Galerija Gregor Podnar, Berlin

Anne Lislegaard: 2062 is a more straightforward (at least in concept) interpretation of the future as seen through a telescope of science fictions — specifically, those of Stanley Kubrick (or Arthur C. Clarke?), Ursula K. LeGuin, J.G. Ballard, Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind and others.

lislegaard

Anne Lislegaard, The Left Hand of Darkness, 2008. The Left Hand of Darkness. 2008. Three-channel video installation. Courtesy of the artist and Murray Guy, New York.

We found it harder to concentrate on Lislegaard’s denser installation of jutting, black-and-white 3D animations (projected on imposing tilted screens) and her interplay of time, sound, motion and space over the din of the party, so we left a closer look for a future visit. But I was tantalized by the sense of transportation the exhibit imparted – and in particular, by one pitch-dark, isolated, set-back room in which the only illumination comes from behind a tall black screen.

I was satisfied to let that room be, and made myself comfortable in the enveloping darkness (and the only quiet place in the Museum), until my partner beckoned me closer to the light.

“Sometimes you have to look under the rocks,” he said. Behind the panel is a sassy twist of neon handwriting that spells out, simply, science fiction.

Alexander Gutke and Anne Lislegaard: 2062  runs through December 27. For more information on the exhibitions and a complete list of programs and events, visit MOCAD’s website.

In yesterday’s New York Times: a painting long relegated to the “school of Velazquez,” with a deep-cleaning, turns out to be the work of the master himself.

Art conservation belongs, to me, in the same poetic category as wreck diving,  digging up cities in the desert, recovering heisted jewels and putting together skeletons. In another life, I think I would be very happy as a conservator, but I fear it is a little too late in life to learn the trade, and also I have somewhat poor fine motor skills.

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