Revolution has accepted four new artists — the emerging Lesley Louden, Christian Tedeschi, Norwood Viviano and internationally recognized sculptor Michael Lucero — into its illustrious stable. In Free Fall, a group show running through the end of July, the Ferndale gallery integrates its newcomers with its vets. Showing new work are Anne Wilson, Jim Chatelain, John Ganis, Heather McGill, Amy Vogel, Peter Williams and Conrad Bakker, contributing to the show’s diversity and strength.
In Space 1, Lucero’s Koons-esque sculptures stand out right away — as any 2-foot-tall ceramic puppy attacked with wool yarn, 1,001 colors and a psychedelic vision would. That is not to say that the works (two included) are not meticulously made nor fully explored. On the contrary, they have multiple, rich references and succeed in communicating the sensuality and seduction of form and color while retaining a sense of humor.
Heather McGill’s untitled wall sculpture in lime green is smart, sexual and clever in its execution. She has maximized simplicity, creating an elegant and provocative work playing with the words FEMALE and MALE. Sexually provocative in a more hands-on manner, and different intellectually, is Amy Vogel’s all-white models of horny caricatured bunnies at the feet of what could be the Queen of the Bunnies, her head an enormous bunny helmet, her skirt turned up in the breeze, and her hand grabbing at her, um, maybe it’s a gun.
Stills from Anne Wilson’s new video project, “Errant Behaviors” (created from animating her pin-size sculptural works), are also sexual, documenting processes of building, demolishing, transforming and maintaining a kinetic feeling. In these photographs she is able to work in her crochet-detail scale yet through the camera’s eye she enables us all to be Lilliputians. Conrad Bakker also manipulates scale to influence our view of his work “The Judge,” a three-quarter scale of a 1969 Pontiac GTO Judge, which overwhelms the second gallery space.
Meanwhile, the parallels between the works of the gallery’s new contemporary sculptors, Christian Tedeschi and Norwood Viviano, are striking. Both use elements of the metal casting process to alter objects, obliterating their original function, and both create a “constant shift of context,” as gallery director Paul Kotula observes, thereby elevating the objects for study and honoring form and reference. However, the comparison unveils strong dissimilarities as well.
Tedeschi’s work is enigmatic and classical. The artist has taken a wine bottle and a ceramic cup and dipped each repeatedly into a slurry used in bronze casting to create an amorphous ceramic shell around the forms. His approach is a means to a new transformation, one still vulnerable to oxidation and change. His work screams “alchemical” and indicates a search. Materials of the bronze casting process are supposed to be the avenue not the result. Here he has exaggerated the process (building up the shell to excessive thickness); process and material inspire the concept and form as opposed to following it.
Viviano’s “First Generation Artifact” series seeks to stop the inevitable effects of time. Taking from the bronzed shoe tradition, Viviano translates the artifact and object of function, exhibiting “Christening Bonnet, Journal/Prayer Book and Button-Box Accordion.” The pieces define a period in the past, an ethnicity and specific values (i.e. identity of the artifact). Though potentially moving, the pieces fail to express themselves beyond their status as mementos. While beautiful and historical, the objects lack mystery.
Lesley Louden contributes six digital prints from her “Dye” series. Her work is not as spontaneous as it at first appears, with cropped shots of the beauty ritual and relationships (mud masking, nail painting, etc.) structured to mimic classical themes in painting, such as “Pieta” or “Judith and Holofernes.” Perhaps she is unaware of the work of her predecessor, Gottfried Helnwein, whose photograph from 1987, “The Last Supper,” could be fairly convincingly inserted into this series.
Peter Williams’ 7-foot-by-7-foot “Detroit Story, River City” requires investigation to decode the personal narrative (broken into three main areas on the canvas) of his feelings while in the studio, and of the larger environment around him. John Ganis also contributes a work of local reference, “Boundary of Detroit and Highland Park at Davison Freeway,” and Jim Chatelain supplies two new paintings with mixed media and screws, playing with the concept of surface.
Kotula and assistant director Sandra Schemske have hung this show well, and the emerging artists fit well into the group represented by Revolution, expanding the range of prices so as to make purchasing art at the gallery possible for a wider audience of art enthusiasts.
Decide for yourself during Revolution’s summer hours or on the third Thursday in July when galleries open late for the Ferndale gallery walk.
Free Fall runs until July 31. Revolution is located at 23257 Woodward Ave., Ferndale. Call 248-541-3444. Gallery hours are Wednesday-Friday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The gallery is closed in August.Phaedra Robinson is an artist and curator who writes for Metro Times. E-mail [email protected]