Best in the Midwest 

Since the Detroit Institute of Arts is closed for renovations in August, it seems like a good time to get out of the city and check out what’s going on in museums around the Midwest. This season, there are amazing shows at several institutions in the region. So pack some bologna on white bread, get some audio books (Crimebusters and Crossed Wires: Stories from This American Life is a fun disc), hop in the car and pick an expressway, any expressway. And while you are wherever you are, it could be fun to visit the local destinations off the beaten path. Naturally, we’ve got some suggestions.


Dan Flavin: A Retrospective
Through Oct. 30
Museum of Contemporary Art,
220 E. Chicago Ave., Chicago; 312-280-2660

In an autobiographical essay in a 1965 issue of Artforum, Dan Flavin says: “It never occurred to me that the way I wanted to live could become a saleable work of art.” Flavin’s simple installations of brilliantly hued electric lights on gallery walls permanently changed the way the art world views space. In this show, walking through empty rooms becomes a religious experience; hard-edged corners disappear as pink mist and blue pools fill the spaces.

While in Chicago, it’s up to you whether or not you want to brave the crowds at yet another blockbuster Art Institute of Chicago show; Toulouse-Lautrec and Montmartre is at the museum through October. But here’s another option: Spend time wandering through American Science and Surplus, a large mart full of cheap and odd educational objects meant for teachers but perfect for artists and eccentric hobbyists — there are shelves of beakers, tubs full of dime-sized plastic pigs and piles of spent army parachutes.


4 Under 40: Contemporary Michigan Artists
Through Sept. 11
Grand Rapids
Art Museum,
155 Division St. N.,
Grand Rapids;

You can’t help but look at Thomas Allen’s photographs and wonder: “Now, why didn’t I think of that?” Like the earliest dioramas in natural history museums that fascinated artists a century ago, pop-up books allow us to invest ourselves in an alternate reality. Thomas Allen has a new take: He finds old paperback novels with interesting covers, cuts around the outline of figures and bends them forward to animate the action. Then, he takes close-up photos, dramatizing his work. The artist is featured with three other spectacular contemporary Michigan artists working in various media Adam Tetzlaff, Meredith Ridl and Adam Wolpa. While in town, grab a drink at the divey Pickwick Tavern and satisfy a late-night food fix at Yesterdog, a city institution.


CUT/Film as Found Object
Through Sept.11
Milwaukee Art Museum,
700 N. Art Museum Dr., Milwaukee;

The 14 works in CUT, each housed in a private viewing room, take editing to the extreme to express reality as it is shaped on film. Omer Fast, Paul Pfeiffer, Pierre Huyghe, Douglas Gordon and others employ techniques of looping, erasure, repetition and compression to fool the mind and the eye. The museum is also home to 273 items in the Michael and Julie Hall Collection of Folk Art.

You can continue your art education at Buffalo Forum, a collection of outsider art and Art Brut owned by private collector Anthony Petullo, located down the street. Then get a good education on the Bloody Mary at the Knick, located a short drive outside the city. The cheese and sausage store has a bar in the back that serves the drink with shrimp and cherry peppers, along with the usual garnishes, and always offers a beer chaser.


Multiple Strategies
Through Aug. 21
Arts Center,
44 E. Sixth St.,

Aside from being called “the most important American building to be completed since the end of the Cold War” by The New York Times, the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati, designed by Zaha Hadid, houses some of the most innovative exhibitions mounted in the Midwest. With no permanent collection, the space is continuously turned over to curators for comprehensive shows. Multiple Strategies presents editions of works by megastars Joseph Beuys, Donald Judd, Andy Warhol, Claes Oldenburg and Marcel Duchamp, among others. While in the city, drop by Publico Art. The living and gallery space, run by brothers Paul and Matt Coors, showcases under-the-radar concerts and above-par emerging art exhibitions.


Michaël Borremans: Hallucination and Reality
Through Sept. 4
Cleveland Museum of Art,
11150 East Boulevard, Cleveland; 216-421-7350

Michaël Borremans: Hallucination and Reality is the American museum premiere for this contemporary Belgian artist, as well as his only stop in the nation. Borremans’ mysterious and sometimes satirical paintings and drawings on cardboard, recently showcased in the Saatchi Gallery’s Triumph of Painting exhibit in London, capture his subjects in strangely undefined tasks with no indications of place or time.

While you’re in Cleveland, there’s also the Museum of Contemporary Art’s great show, Out There: Landscape in the New Millennium, with current art world darling Olafur Eliasson, and the Great Lakes Science Center’s Bodyworlds show of dead human bodies that have undergone a “plastination” process and are now posed and on display.


Permanent Collection
Toledo Museum of Art,
2445 Monroe St., Toledo; 419-255-8000

In comparison to the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Toledo Museum of Art is small, but holds an impressively large collection of outdoor sculpture, including an amazing Mark DiSuvero and two Jim Dine bronzes. The museum recently acquired two pieces by revolutionary turntable artist Christian Marclay (a video reel and a ring of album covers), a carving of a little man with a bull’s head by bizarre figurative sculptor Stephen Balkenhol and a wall of wonderfully quirky scrapbook drawings by Marcel Dzama.

Those in town can also take in a Mud Hens baseball game and head to Tony Packo’s restaurant for a Hungarian hot dog or a cabbage roll.

Rebecca Mazzei is Metro Times arts editor and Nolan Simon is a freelance writer. Send comments to

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