Detroit jewels

Scott Hocking: Drawings, Photographs, Sculptures

“I see the beauty in things that say to me that we’re nothing … it’s reassuring,” says Scott Hocking, a multimedia artist who might qualify as the visual art manifestation of the Blanche ode penned by Dan Miller, “Garbage Picker,” in which Miller sings, “I find my own treasures in other people’s trash.” Hocking sees the sublime in the detritus of Detroit’s old factories and industrial landscape.

Hocking’s debut solo exhibition is currently running at the District Arts Gallery in Birmingham. The show features Hocking’s well-known work from the Relics collaboration, in which he and painter Clinton Snider filled a room of the DIA with an installation made from stacked wooden boxes with found objects such as toys and street signs. There’s also new and old art by Hocking displayed as three series: photographs, wall-hung sculptures and “The Salon.”

“The Salon” began as sections of wood and metal scrap found in Detroit’s abandoned industrial landscape. In earlier exhibits, Hocking carefully chose, trimmed and hung these abstractly patterned surfaces. In reaction to criticism that the work didn’t suffice as art, Hocking framed the pieces with found and occasionally gaudy frames as a tongue-in-cheek solution. The resulting works are part of the art world, yet simultaneously resentful toward it (as if to say, “it’s framed, so it must be art!”).

The struggle between nature and man mirrors the artist’s inner process. Accordingly, his art is homage to nature and makes subtle references to man’s relationship with it. The main reference plumbed by Hocking is the Chinese oracle, “I Ching,” which uses chance, metaphor and imagery to guide the user toward a clear understanding. This is the same approach used by Hocking in his work.

Often, and purposefully, these deeper meanings are concealed from the average observer, buried in metaphor and myth and lost amid pleasing composition and seductive surface texture.

At the same time, Hocking photos are more obvious, and subject matter is clear and relevant. A cold, quiet photo illustrates diverging railroad paths as an active place of serenity; another visualizes Detroit with Third World-style overgrowth.

His “Pictures of a City” were taken over six years. The later works depict a scrawled word, a couple of dead fight dogs, a rainbow and a house entirely under the grasp of a broken tree limb. Here Hocking deals with subject and imagery in a more open, conversational manner.

The polished gallery of District Arts features small rooms that are well-suited for Hocking’s smaller works, but don’t do justice to the sculptural works, which hang in a hallway space, disallowing a wide view.

Scott Hocking: Drawings, Photographs, Sculptures runs through Oct. 16. The District Arts Gallery is at 955 S. Eton, Birmingham and is open Tuesday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call 248-258-9300 or visit

2004 Biennial

For its biennial exhibition, the Detroit Artists Market has the high-minded goal to showcase artists representing the best in metro Detroit talent. An 11-member exhibition committee made up of curators, collectors, artists and DAM staff chose a talented, energetic and diverse group consisting of Kristin Beaver, Matthew Blake, Steven Matthew Brown, John Harkins, Enis Sefersah, Wennie Huang, Rick Vian and Yeqiang Wang.

No question the majority of these artists are worthy of being singled out. Vian’s own words regarding his celestial subject matter, as “so sublime that they seem to be infused with meaning,” speak well for his work. Harkins’ Francis Bacon-esque mixed media drawings show a new sophistication conceptually and aesthetically, indicating a maturity not found in his previous work. Wang’s photorealist paintings are introspective and full of play on the themes of reflection and barrier/opening. His subjects sit, potentially waiting, without movement, behind a highly-reflective window; their eyes stare off in contemplation. His “Reflection-Woman and Her Dog” is the most melancholic as even the dog appears to be lost in thought or sadness.

Matthew Blake and Enis Sefersah’s large steel sculpture is drawing the most attention from artists and gallery visitors alike. Its sleek craft and design make it the “bling-bling” of the show, as DAM Director Aaron Timlin jokingly describes it. And while the work is worthy of admiration, it becomes a bit embarrassing after a while that Detroiters are so easily overwhelmed by competence and size.

Huang’s installation works overcome potential placement disadvantages as her magical outdoor “Paradox Garden” stakes its own plot just north of the building, while “Between Heaven and Earth” makes its presence known in the gallery hovering at hat-level. Huang’s desire for transformation in these spiritually evocative installations goes beyond mere spatial intention, utilizing the values of feng shui and Chinese superstition to invoke, as she puts it, the “ghosts of the human presences their shape implies.”

Beaver shows one larger-than-life-sized painting of a man and woman. Ideas of facade emerge as the subjects wear sunglasses and stand with ego as their shield and nothing else in their environment. The painting is intriguing with more thought, suggesting references to such things as possibly an Adam-Eve self-portrait through the egos of Beaver’s peers? But it lacks immediacy.

Timlin says that with the biennial, the exhibition committee intended to get people interested in the artists’ work. This goal is certainly met as there are quite a few new faces in the Artist’s Market that are generating their own notice.

The DAM Biennial runs through Oct. 17. DAM is located at 4719 Woodward Ave. and open Tuesday through Sunday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Visit or call 313-832-8540.

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