As tough as the Detroit art scene is, there's always someone game enough to fly in the face of reason by opening a new gallery. The latest entry into that select group is artist Ann Gordon, 26, known to most Detroit-culture types as the host of Detroitarts blog.
"I travel a lot and am always interested in other art scenes," she says, sitting at a blond wooden table at the entrance to the gallery, Apple notebook opened in front of her and cell phone to one side. "I want to show people what I've come across in the last few years; that you can bring in artists from other cities, and it's not terribly hard."
The space, Yacht Club Gallery, is on Yemans in downtown Hamtramck. The building was formerly occupied by Primary Space, another gallery. The name is a tease on the supposed elitism of the art world, according to Gordon, and has nothing to do with the Ivanhoe Café, the longtime restaurant on Joseph Campau known as the Polish Yacht Club.
Opening a gallery is something Gordon has wanted to do for a while, she says, initially in response to the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit. While much smaller than MOCAD, the building's red-brick facade has been updated with frosted-glass windows and doors and sleek metal mullions. There's even graffiti on the side (the difference being that the vandalism in this case is real as opposed to a commissioned artwork). Where MOCAD has been criticized by some for not including enough Detroit art in at least two of its first three shows, Gordon wants the dialogue between local and national art to be central to her project.
"The point is to mix in national artists with people from Detroit," she says.
The first show, F*ck You/Commentary Criticism, features artists from Detroit, Toronto, Los Angeles, New York and Chicago, and its theme is a twist a critique of the idea of criticism. There's a video of Detroit artist and curator Dick Goody reading pedantically (and ably assisted by his English accent) from Art in America to Jef Bourgeau, who responds by tying Goody up with a length of rope. There's also an installation of drawings and collages by Los Angeles-based Mary Addison Hackett featuring a banner that reads "Today was fucked, but tomorrow is another day."
The latter piece hadn't been fully unpacked at the time of this writing and Gordon was considering showing it as is with the work jammed in a box and pushed to the side (sort of like the postcard image for MoCAD's current exhibition, Stuff), and only the installation instructions mounted on the wall. "It's a way of saying 'fuck you' to the artist," Gordon says, clearly having fun with the installation.
Two other shows are scheduled for the summer, also combining artists from Detroit with those from New York, San Francisco and points in between. The show scheduled for July deals with art as a form of escapism and features hot-shot New York City painter Elizabeth Peyton. The one in August has art as both symptom of and solution for what ails.
Most of the artists' connections have come as a result of Gordon's blog, which has gotten national attention. (It's listed on Artkrush, the arts e-zine put out by Flavorpill, and has been favorably written up by Modern Art Note's Tyler Green, the granddaddy of arts bloggers.) People are surprisingly easy to contact online, Gordon notes, and are generally receptive. Many contact her first. In fact, Gordon was put onto the Yemans building by an e-mail she got from the owners, readers of Detroitarts blog, who thought she might help them lease it out.
While all of this sounds promising, it apparently is to be short-lived. Gordon is planning on relocating to Los Angeles by the end of the year. Yacht Club Gallery is an experiment in what she might be capable of doing in a more hospitable environment, and she's only taken the space for the summer.
"The gallery is really a trial to see whether I want to be a curator, a consultant or an artist," she says. "This space almost makes me want to stay in the city, but then I remember the Michigan winters."
F*ck You/Commentary Criticism opens 6-10 p.m. on Saturday, June 16, at Yacht Club Gallery, 2750 Yemans, Hamtramck. The gallery is open by appointment after that. Call 248-709-9747.
Vince Carducci writes about art and culture for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected]