Choices & choice words

Nov 15, 2006 at 12:00 am

Since 1998, when the College for Creative Studies' Woodward Lecture Series began, Center Galleries director Michelle Perron has given more than 50 inimitable introductions for art world personalities. Perron's often-brilliant words occasionally embarrass the lecturers with insightful praise and humble them with heartfelt welcome. But her presentation, which has become iconic in the art scene, articulates the depth and breadth of her diverse selection. And it gives voice to the College for Creative Studies' contribution to our art community.

Celebrating the Woodward Lecture Series that she has energetically shepherded since 1998, Perron has assembled an exhibition of painting, sculpture, ceramics, photography, videos and texts by 35 former lecturers. The Woodward Lecture Series: The First Eight Years is an unexpectedly charming survey of seminal moments of contemporary art from the last few decades. Among the standouts are early videos by Vito Acconci and Carolee Schneeman, artists who harnessed the video camera as a tool for contemporary art. Performance artist Guillermo Gomez's outrageous velvet painting "St. Frida of Detroit," a prop for his "Temple of Confessions" performance at the Detroit Institute of Arts in 1994, includes a halo around Frida Kahlo's head that replicates the huge Goodyear tire on I-94. The most exciting work in this show is "Ventilation Tower and Scaffold and Netting, Canal Street," a brilliant painting by famed realist painter Rackstraw Downes, whose work is rarely seen in metro Detroit.

Perron will, no doubt, be hard-pressed to find appropriate words for Richard Tuttle, the arch avant-garde artist of our time, who delivers this week's lecture.

For more than 40 years, he has nimbly challenged the boundaries between painting and sculpture.

Tuttle's rough and ready object-making is characterized by the use of rudimentary materials and an aesthetic never far from drawing, imbuing it with a delicate but palpable presence that's almost spiritual, and will surely be one subject of his talk.

The artist comes to Detroit, not from his desert home and studio in New Mexico, but from Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art, where last week he attended the opening of a career retrospective. After the show's first stop in San Francisco, it was hailed as a landmark exhibition. His lecture at CCS will give Detroiters intimate insight into the art and life of one of the most important artists of our time. 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 16 at the Wendell W. Anderson Jr. Auditorium in the Walter B. Ford II Building on the CCS campus, Detroit; 313-664-7800

Glen Mannisto is a freelance writer. Send comments to [email protected]