Floating worlds 

White and levitated, sculpture meets architecture at the Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center this weekend. Filling the airways with geometric clouds (pictured), Vincent Sansalone sets a luminous tone Saturday at BBAC’s “Summer Solstice: A Celebration of Light.” And that’s just for starters, as the Cranbrook Academy of Art architecture alum stretches an opaque roof above proceedings that promise to include a fashion show (presented by Birmingham’s Mark Keller and Tender) and a live auction of artworks from 16 different metro-area venues (Art Space II, Au Courant Interior Design, Batista Gallery, Habitat Galleries, The Halstead Gallery, Susanne Hilberry Gallery, Hill Gallery, Robert Kidd Gallery, Arnold Klein Gallery, David Klein Gallery, Lemberg Gallery, G.R. N’Namdi Gallery, Posner Gallery, Revolution, Sybaris Gallery and Yaw Gallery … whew!).

Sansalone has also redesigned BBAC’s interior walls in primary blue, creating a color-coded backdrop to hip sounds from Stingy Brim and Transmat Records’ techno DJs Alton Miller and Kevin Reynolds — which means that desperately desirous dancing is also on the evening’s menu.

Furthermore — and hooking into the “light” theme for the 6:30-11 p.m. fundraising event — some 30 BBAC art faculty members have created one-of-a-kind, free-standing, summer solstice lanterns in a range of media (ceramics, metal, cloth, wood, etc.) that add much more light than heat to the summer scene. And these also will be available for purchase.

A major portion of the auctioneering, music making and dining unfolds under Sansalone’s protective tarps that the artist has installed in two separate locations next to BBAC’s main building. But these deceptively simple hangings go way beyond functional decoration. Anyone who can resist looking up will miss an experience in which, paradoxically, illusion becomes enlightenment. The tarps are subtle rectangles of what looks like canvas (but is actually plastic) and they’re hung from the BBAC roof by means of tension cords that make cubism and minimalism seem to interact like circus high-wire daredevils.

Squint and you just might imagine diaphanous abstractions miraculously coming together overhead. Plato would’ve loved these ideal forms, but might have wondered what exactly they are idealizations of. Perfectly smoothed bed sheets in the sky? Washday clotheslines tended by angels in heaven? The hanging dream gardens of some modernist Babylon? Pages from Mondrian’s monochromatic sketchbook? Sansalone should be applauded for approaching this one-shot, fleeting commission with the care and seriousness of a Frank Lloyd Wright. He has succeeded in transforming a fundraiser party site into something that hints at the intangible, the eternal. But isn’t that what BBAC intended all along?

BBAC, the largest art center in the Midwest, offers more than 175 youth and adult classes throughout the year, serving roughly 6,000 students in southeast Michigan. Tax-deductible tickets (since this is all about supporting one of our vital nonprofit organizations) range from $85 to $250. But don’t get scared; get busy.

 

“Summer Solstice: A Celebration of Light” takes place at the Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center (1516 S. Cranbrook Road, Birmingham), Saturday, June 28, 6:30-11 p.m. Call 248-644-0866 ext. 104 for tickets.

George Tysh is arts editor of Metro Times. E-mail gtysh@metrotimes.com

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