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Art

New Changes at the Detroit Institute of Arts

Mario Moore

The Detroit Institute of Arts is a place I consider my second home. I grew up exploring the galleries as a kid. There’s excitement and familiarity when I walk into the Grand Hall and make my way to the Diego Rivera murals. I had one of my first jobs at the Detroit Film Theatre, which is a part of the museum. I have worked many different positions in the DIA—from the education department to inventory control. I have seen the in-house storage as well as the off-site storage building for the institution and I can tell you the collection is massive. The DIA has always been a part of my life, which is why I am closely watching when any new announcements are made regarding the museum. As a former employee and an artist who has benefited from the museum's programming, I have an interesting perspective of the DIA.

 Big changes are announced in news stories every other week. It feels like the DIA’s new Director, Salvador Salort-Pons, is taking the museum to new heights and I’m pretty optimistic about its direction—the recent 5 million dollars that’s been allocated specifically for purchasing African and African American art; the new Contemporary Art Curator, Laurie Ann Farrell and two new assistant curators, Lucy Mensah and Taylor Renee Aldridge (I already know Taylor is going to bring her knowledge to this gig).

 These changes have made me hopeful that the museum will move forward in ways that introduces new work to the public. I’m not talking about something that is self-beneficial; I’m talking about the possibility of what can happen at the DIA. When the recent funds for African-American Art were announced, the first purchase made was a David Hammons piece that cost somewhere between $1 million and $1.5 million dollars. 

Don't get me wrong, I believe having Hammons in the museum is truly amazing, but what happens next is more important. I like to think of the museum as a place of excitement, learning and reflection. If you walked through the current Contemporary Art galleries, it would look and feel like you were stuck in the 20th century. Of course there are staples like Warhol, Alex Katz and others but these galleries have been pretty stagnant since the reopening of the museum. Upon hearing that the new Contemporary Art curator wants to have a Yoko Ono show, I wasn't impressed. I'm tired of seeing the same names being presented by museums. Sorry not sorry. I believe this museum can take a new direction and include artists that are bringing new experiences and voices to Contemporary Art.

Now I know I am talking about two separate departments and I haven’t a clue what the funds are for the Contemporary Art department but I believe this department is in a position to bring home some of its contemporary greats. As a museum, I totally get that it has to collect and show artist that have long arching careers but what about those artists that are currently changing the way we see art and ourselves. I believe it would be dope if the DIA considered artists from Michigan that are killing the art world game right now.

Dana Schutz–an artist born in Livonia, Michigan—is someone to consider. While I was in grad school at Yale she conducted studio visits and we had a chance to speak. She told me that the first artist studio she visited while in school was the Detroit great, Gilda Snowden. Now for those readers who are not from Detroit, look her up. For those who are familiar with the Detroit art world, you already know Gilda was an art giant and her passing left a void in the city. How great would it be to have such an amazing painter, who said Gilda Snowden's studio visit made her open her eyes to the possibilities of art, in the collection of the DIA.

Dana Schutz,  Presentation,  2005, Oil on canvas, 120 x 168 in

Dana Schutz, Presentation, 2005, Oil on canvas, 120 x 168 in

Another name I’ll add to the mix is Titus Kaphar, a Kalamazoo, Michigan-born artist. Both Schutz and Kaphar are relevant, exciting artists that would reflect the city and surrounding areas of Detroit, Michigan. These are big names and as a museum, you have to have the staples—the standards the art world approves of but the DIA could move in another direction in collecting new, young contemporary artists. 

Titus Kaphar,  Behind the Myth of Benevolence , 2014, oil on canvas, 72 x 60 inches

Titus Kaphar, Behind the Myth of Benevolence, 2014, oil on canvas, 72 x 60 inches

 

All the artists don’t have to have a connection to the city, of course, because when thinking about a museum like the DIA, it has a responsibility as one of America’s greatest museums to present the world of art to the citizens of Michigan. But just for the sake of showing how much talent has come from and is still inside Detroit here are two young artists to consider: Kevin Beasley, who currently lives in New York, who attended the College for Creative Studies in Detroit for his undergraduate degree and has shown at MOMA and the Whitney Museum. Tiff Massey, an alum of Cranbrook Academy of Art, recently received a Kresge Grant and creates amazing sculptures and jewelry. Their work would be great additions to the museum collection or even curated shows. Other exciting rising and established artists that would be an asset to the DIA: Erick Mack, Jennifer Packer, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Senghor Reid, Patrick Earl Hammie, Anita Bates—the list goes on.
 

Kevin Beasley,  Unititled (shrink),  2016,  Resin, house dresses, kaftans, wood, 66 × 64 × 20 in

Kevin Beasley, Unititled (shrink), 2016,  Resin, house dresses, kaftans, wood, 66 × 64 × 20 in

Tiff Massey,  Vanity

Tiff Massey, Vanity


Like I said, a museum has to think broader. I hope that the DIA’s GM Center for African American Art, which represents one of the first curatorial departments dedicated solely to African American art at any major art museum will not just load up on artists comparable in cost to David Hammons but that the new changes happening in the museum will also consider new, young artist with powerful voices that are creating exciting work. 

Poetry from a Queen

Mario Moore

As we here at the BMG continue our conversation about what is happening in America today, (you can check out in our Special posts section) things have slowed down. With the constant writing and endless videos of people being killed at the hands of police officers every other week, we needed to slow down. But as the art contributor I realize that Black people have been dealing with these issues in America since it's founding. African people of all nations have been dealing with oppression and takeover since historical Egypt.

Creativity and ingenuity get us through these tough times and they will power us through this oppression as they always have. We also have to realize that as far as statistics go, it may be getting worse but what really is taking place is that everyone has a camera readily available to show the horror of murder. I believe that poetry can allow us a different insight than visual art. So here is some poetry and sayings from the amazing director, screenwriter, playwright and photographer Danielle Eliska, who also happens to be my girlfriend:

westernized mainstream.

i cannot unbutton my blackness, 
strip down to colorless—
nor do i wish it.
because
even if
my skin was transparent, 
you’d
find something
wrong with
my hair, 
my walk, 
the curve of my hips, 
the arch of my back, 
my sturdy step— 
(you claim i’m dis/torted.)

oh, you unhappy world.

so.i.am.content.letting.this.black.skin.illuminate.light.

Danielle Eliska,  Discipline of Emotions: Deux , 2016 (raw shot from  Female Protagonist  series)

Danielle Eliska, Discipline of Emotions: Deux, 2016 (raw shot from Female Protagonist series)

living truth.

you can’t just be woman.

you have to be
objectified
dehumanized
borrowed
bought
sold
uncovered
undressed
exposed
interrogated
manipulated
saturated (with imaginary cum)
tarnished
degraded
brigaded
(sacred places) auctioned
&
when you don’t respond in a favorable way—
you’re showered with “bitches” & “cunts”.

all within three blocks before arriving at the train station— just in the eye of rush hour.

& a side of you dies a little every time. (the softer side— the kind side, the side of hope & affection, mating.)

your daily epitaph will renounce you to “mean whore stupid bitch”, as if the day isn’t hard enough.

the clock just struck 9am.

 

DEL Thoughts.

I avoided stepping on a caterpillar today because I know the beautiful future it is destined to have.

If only we were that careful with one another

 

All poems and writings are by Danielle Eliska. I am thinking about doing more posts about poets and writers who are saying some dope stuff. What do you all think?

Peace,

Mario

 

 

Figuring out the LIVE/WORK Space

Mario Moore

New York City, aka “The Big City of Dreams” is another world with its memorable landmarks, music production, Broadway shows, film and television sets, prestigious galleries and more. Everybody dreams of living in the Big Apple. New York is a place where most creatives want to move, especially Brooklyn. Of course this whole narrative is changing as prices continue to rise. Everyone is looking for a decent space to create art at a low cost. As we all know, that has its draw backs. I pretty much live in East New York and it is changing so fast it’s alarming. The train used to be relatively empty with the exception of Black and Brown faces at my stop now everyone is getting off with me. I am staring at them like they made a mistake and they need to get back on the train and head towards Manhattan.

 What this great city lacks is space…space to create. 9 chances out of 10, you live in a shoebox. With a roommate or 5. Gentrification has made prices shoot up higher than sky high. So if you’re an artist, like me, you need space to create. Getting a studio is out of the question unless you land a residency that includes studio space, some blessed arrangement with a building owner or you’re a part of Jay-Z’s squad. So what do you do? Stop creating? NO.

Like the Black Yale class of 1863 motto was, “I Will Find a Way or Make One.”

Since I’m young, gifted and black—I found a way. You want to know what I do?

I create.

In my shared apartment.

In my room.

In a corner.

On a single wall.

It’s not ideal, but I make it work.

When I first moved to the city, I was pretty optimistic about finding a studio I could afford. So I slowed up on creating new work until I locked down that dream studio space. I had a storage space in Connecticut where a lot of the work I created at Yale was housed and planned on moving everything to the city once I received that letter of acceptance from one of the many residencies I applied to or found an affordable studio space. Well, I still have that storage in Connecticut and I am still searching for an affordable studio space.

I’m not an artist that wants to create where they sleep, but, I’m not going to stop creating. My paintings are really big, so size can be somewhat of an issue. As an artist, I have to think about how to make things work.

So, if you are anything like me, it can be hard to work within the same place you live.

I can’t lock myself in a space and just work away without being in contact with other humans. I have to enjoy life too. So here are some things that I do to keep the creative juices flowing :

·         I visit museums and get some inspiration

Jamel Shabazz at the Whitney Museum

Jamel Shabazz at the Whitney Museum

·         I get out of my “studio” and visit a coffee shop to clear my head

·         I keep the dream in front of me and focus on making the most innovative work I can.

At the end of the day, you’ve got to make your live/ work space work for you. Even though I don’t have my own studio, I am preparing for my first solo museum show at the Urban Institute of Contemporary Art in Grand Rapids, Michigan! Just because you do not have what you believe is necessary doesn’t mean it is impossible to create your own way. I encourage you to continue creating. Your work and your purpose are relevant. Create now.  Keep pushing towards what you want. Like they said in 1863, “Find a way or make one”.