See our Best of Detroit 2020 winners.

The Dreadfuls Art Show Celebrates Alt Publishing 

Dreadfully good art

In 19th century England, the top form of adolescent working-class entertainment was the penny dreadful. Named for their cheap price and lurid subject matter, they planted the seeds for zines, tabloids, and pretty much the rest of alternative publishing. At Whitdel Arts, nine artists take on the form as part of an exhibition called The Dreadfuls.

“[They] had a lot of stabbings and murders,” artist and show curator Ryan Standfest says of the original dreadfuls. For his show, he gathered illustrators from across the country to explore “the cheap and sensational” however they pleased.

Ian Huebert illustrated an Appalachian murder ballad, while Stephen Schudlich lampoons Grosse Pointe archetypes. Gregory Jacobsen’s bizarre drawings cannot be described in any way other than they will make anyone blush. Published by Standfest’s own Rotland Press, the books are available for flipping-through at Whitdel Arts with original art (framed, though not precious, often with white-out corrections or on torn tracing paper) on display as well.

The juxtaposition between commerce and underground is present behind much of the work. Wearing a bow tie and newsboy cap, you get an immediate sense of Standfest’s lexicon even before he admits, “What I’m interested in is that space between the vulgar and the refined.”

“He shepherds this body of smart dark humor,” Shudlich says. (Full disclosure: Shudlich is a former professor of mine.) “It’s observations of dark events and despair but framed and presented in really tasteful and engaging ways.”

“[He] can channel pop culture, but he also channels a lot of 1950s and ‘40s notions,” Shudlich says. “It’s almost like he’s living in a time warp. Ryan would be happier in a job where he can wear a thin black tie and a short sleeve dress shirt everyday. He sort like, worships at that altar of the workman.”

View a slideshow of photos from the opening here.

Runs through December 7. This event is free and open to the public. Open gallery hours are Saturdays during exhibitions, 12-3 p.m., or by appointment. For more information, please visit www.whitdelarts.com.

Tags:

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at letters@metrotimes.com.

Detroit Metro Times works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Detroit and beyond.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Detroit's true free press free.

Read the Digital Print Issue

October 21, 2020

View more issues

Newsletters

Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Best Things to Do In Detroit