Heating up the strip 

I love this scene! With each new season, the art world in metro Detroit comes up with more and more compelling reasons for the obsessed, the thrill-hungry, the enlightened and the curious to get out and see what we can see.

And nowhere have more promising changes in the artscape taken place lately than in Detroit’s Cultural Center, on Woodward between the Detroit Institute of Arts and Orchestra Hall.

Visual action on the strip has grown beyond what the DIA, Wayne State University’s art department and the Center for Creative Studies have to offer, with the pivotal additions of the Elaine L. Jacob Gallery (at WSU), C-Pop Gallery, the Detroit Artists Market (DAM) and two pioneering projects west of the John C. Lodge expressway, Alley Culture and detroit contemporary. And it’s all laying the foundation for greater things to come.

So what’s on the bill of coming attractions for fall? Who’s waiting to get us all lathered and intrigued, dazed and confused, or primed and pumped with incisive, lascivious, brilliantly disturbing objects of desire? Two projects dominate the season, with VideoCulture (video installations, September-October) and Detroit Focus 2000 (photography shows, November-December) happening at galleries all over town. But some one-of-a-kind occasions are also on the horizon.

Over at the flagship, the DIA brings in another installment of Matthew Barney’s unsettling film project on Wednesday, Oct. 18: Cremaster 4 takes another creepy look at the undersides of America, this time focusing on Barney’s animalistic alter ego tap dancing his way to hell, so to speak. One showing only, at 7 p.m. in the DIA auditorium.

The museum’s contribution to VideoCulture is Bill Viola: Video Installations (Sept. 15-Dec. 31), three major works by the American guru of cathode-ray performance, including “Nine Attempts to Achieve Immortality,” “Eternal Return” and “Science of the Heart.” Viola is an essential, a touchstone of the video movement.

And in a joint effort, the DIA and the CCS Center Galleries present a talk by New York painter Elizabeth Murray, one of America’s poetic originals, discussing her color-powered work on Thurs., Nov. 9 at 7 p.m. in the DIA Lecture Hall. Call 313-833-4020 for all DIA events.

Center Galleries, which two years ago took over the former digs of the Museum of African American History, has upped the ante in Detroit’s art game with a series of two-person and small-group shows featuring a molten core of important artists.

At the top of the fall agenda is Rewind: Seminal Works in Video 1968-1974 (Sept. 9–Oct. 7), with such groundbreakers of the medium as Vito Acconci, John Baldessari and Nam June Paik, among others. Then, later in the season, the much-awaited Cay Bahnmiller/John Egner: New Work (Nov. 18-Dec. 16) puts two of Detroit’s most challenging painters together in a meeting of postmodern minds and generations. Call 313-664-7800.

WSU’s spacious Elaine L. Jacob Gallery brings in the world-class Video Interventions by all-stars Vera Frenkel and Krzysztof Wodiczko (Sept. 8–Oct. 20), two deeply affecting manipulators of the TV image. Then from Nov. 1-Jan. 19, the gallery hangs a series of stunning photomurals by Toshio Shibata, a pristine and unusual survey of the American landscape. Call 313-993-7813.

In a space so new it squeaks, Detroit Artists Market (corner of Forest and Woodward) warms its house with the traveling conceptual show, Great Lake Erie: Imagining an Inland Sea (Sept. 15–Oct. 13), a multimedia take by eight artists (from Windsor, Cleveland, Ann Arbor, Buffalo and Niagara Falls) living near and rethinking that enigmatic body of water. Then from Oct. 27-Dec. 22, DAM mounts Bounded Intervals, a meditation on time and natural processes of growth and regeneration, with photographs by John Roloff and Cynthia Greig, and the amazing “dust rugs” of Sheila Moss. Call 313-832-8540.

If an award goes out for courage in urban redevelopment, then C-Pop Gallery deserves it. The folks behind this highly successful populist venue were the first (of what promises to be many art sites) to move into the Woodward cultural corridor, bringing art openings, crowds and a new kind of excitement to the hood.

The fall lineup features more pop nostalgia by Niagara paired with the techno-hot collages of Rico Africa (Oct. 7–Nov. 1), then hip new visions from Steve Cerio and Mark Dancey (Nov. 4-29) and the always impressive and sexy Glenn Barr (Dec. 2–Jan. 3). Call 313-833-9901.

If you drive west on Warren past the WSU campus to Trumbull, you’re just a few short blocks from the new art frontier — a pair of viewing spaces which extend innovation into their very walls and overall design.

The older of the two, Alley Culture (on the alley between Trumbull and Lincoln, south of Willis), puts together uncommon encounters with the imagination, but limits its exhibitions to one or two per fall and spring. This Nov. 1-Dec. 2, New York painter Richard Mock’s highly political linocuts will engage “State of the Union issues” (says curator Sherry Hendrick), including environmental and women’s concerns. Also part of the show will be Mock’s radical hanging sculptures, called “Money Lures,” that he has hung in banks in Boston and New York. (No phone but much aura.)

More recently established is Aaron Timlin’s detroit contemporary, the scene of an inner-city explosion of music, performance and provocative exhibitions. Coming Sept. 30–Oct. 29 is the largest group show of Timlin’s season, Sex, involving 13 artists in a gang-bang of supreme relevance: covering gender relations, the act of sex and women’s social issues in a mature take on the eternal theme (with works by Paul Snyder, Peter Williams, John Haggerty, Diane Levine et al.). Then Nov. 4–Dec. 3, the gallery turns to photography with Out of Focus, a three-person show modifying our usual expectations of the medium with works by painter Mitch Cope, ersatz audio’s Nicola Kuperis and installation artist Linda Soberman. Call 313-898-4ART.

And last but certainly not least, Cass Cafe (just south of Forest on Cass) offers a sublime look at the intensely colored personal narratives of Detroit painter Maureen Maki (Sept. 16 thru November). Call 313-831-1400.

And that’s just the downtown tip of the ’berg. George Tysh is the Metro Times arts editor. E-mail him at gtysh@metrotimes.com

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