Category Archives: Matthew Piper

60 Levon Kafafian

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Born New York, NY, 1988 / BA (Anthropology), Wayne State University; BFA, College for Creative Studies / Lives in Detroit

The art of weaving has long inspired metaphors for nothing less than the nature of human existence — from the mythic Fates, literally weaving each individual’s destiny, to Ishmael’s musing in Moby Dick that the “mingled, mingling threads of life are woven by warp and woof: calms crossed by storms, a storm for every calm.” The age-old link between weaving and living is of paramount significance to Levon Kafafian, a young artist and teacher for whom this ancient way of making is at the center of a vital, unfolding, multimodal practice — a practice that seeks to connect people more deeply to the natural world, one another, and their own lived experience. Continue reading

58 Mel Rosas

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Born Des Moines, IA, 1950 / BFA, Drake University, Des Moines, IA; MFA, Tyler School of Art, Philadelphia, PA / Lives in Royal Oak, MI

With their luscious surfaces, painstakingly lifelike textures, and subtly surreal depictions of almost-possible places, the oil paintings of Mel Rosas invite and reward both close attention and long-view contemplation. Rosas, an influential professor of painting at Wayne State University, is one of those painters who draws knowingly from the deep well of art history (Vermeer, Hopper, and Magritte are three signal antecedents), as well as an idiosyncratic assortment of wider cultural influences. The expansive body of work that has obsessed him for more than 30 years is also an object lesson in the use of art as a tool to explore, expand, and communicate the self. Rosas’s paintings are portals that offer the artist passage into his Latin American ancestry, and the viewer into a lush and evocative dream world.

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53 Biba Bell

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Born Sebastopol, CA, 1976 / BA, University of California Santa Cruz; MA & PhD (Performance Studies), New York University / Lives in Detroit

On a sunny Sunday afternoon last July, several hundred people crowded the Dequindre Cut, a popular recreation path in Detroit, to watch a dance. The performance, one of three public dance labs programmed to accompany “Here Hear,” the Cranbrook Art Museum’s celebrated exhibition of Nick Cave soundsuits, included music by Frank Pahl and choreography by Biba Bell. There is no telling what, exactly, the audience expected. What they witnessed was a distributed dance, a de-centered performance event, in which any vantage point along the Cut’s long, linear footprint offered a different view of different groups of dancers, some of whom slinked by in sinuous silence, while others posed, elegant and remote, above the crowd. Others danced a mannered duet involving the ritualistic exchange of their black or white soundsuit costumes, and the rest, by the end, were dancing in furious, ecstatic unison. When all was said and done, no one present had seen a complete dance, or the same dance. Everyone, however, had seen a dance by Biba Bell, an artist who specializes in the unexpected.

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50 David Philpot

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Born Chicago, IL, 1940 / Lives in Detroit

David Philpot is an antenna, finely tuned to subtle frequencies. He listens carefully, receiving transmissions from as far away as West Africa, and from as nearby as God or the wood in his hands. His primary medium, fittingly, is the staff, an energizing rod that joins the earth to the sky via the human being who wields it.

Long before he ever considered himself an artist, the 30-year-old Philpot heard a voice call his name, leading him, amazed, to an oasis: a grove of trees in a Chicago housing project. A week later, Philpot, who had never abandoned his childhood habit of gathering and carrying sticks, and who had recently admired Charlton Heston’s staff in The Ten Commandments, woke in the night with a mission: to chop down one of those trees, and make from it a staff of his own. When it was done, he called it Genesis (1971), an apt title for the first of more than 350 staffs he has made in the 45 years since.

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47 Scott Northrup

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Born Dearborn, MI, 1969 / BFA, College for Creative Studies; MA (Media Studies), New School University, New York / Lives in Detroit

Scott Northrup’s recent temporary installation Hämeenkyrö, Mon Amour (2015) was comprised of text projected onto the landscape near the town of Hämeenkyrö, Finland, at sundown. For about thirty minutes, excerpts of scripted dialogue from Alain Resnais’s Hiroshima, Mon Amour and several movies by Finnish filmmaker Aki Kaurismaki, as well as Northrup’s own writing, crawled across the vast, darkening plain in what the artist refers to as a “love letter” to the beautiful, welcoming place he’d come to know after a month-long residency there. Continue reading

37 Adam Lee Miller

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Born Indianapolis, Indiana, 1970 / BFA, College for Creatives Studies / Lives in Detroit

The Oasis Motel, a meticulous 2008 depiction of a shuttered motor lodge arrayed beneath a sky bruised by an inky, foreboding blackness, marks Adam Lee Miller’s return to painting after a nearly decade-long hiatus. The intervening years were all but consumed by ADULT., the electro band that he and his wife Nicola Kuperus formed in the late ’90s that catapulted them to the forefront of a thriving, transatlantic underground music scene. Continue reading

28 Jon Strand

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Born Detroit, 1948 / BS (Education), Wayne State University / Lives in Detroit, Michigan

For Jon Strand, making art is a long-distance sport. He is a 21st century pointillist, manifesting his elaborate visions by applying layer after layer of tiny dots to paper with the use of a rapidograph (a technical pen of German manufacture). When he discusses his “ink paintings,” Strand provides an offhand but remarkably precise account of how long each takes to create: 1,874 hours for this one, 717 for that. Continue reading

17 Megan Parry

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Born Hornell, New York, 1944 Lives in Detroit and Alfred, New York

The paintings of Megan Parry are obsessed with looking. In her wry and varied visual universe, cartoonish, bald-headed figures peer at the viewer, at one another, or at obscure objects of interest that only they can see. Huge, lidless eyeballs (intimations of vast, inscrutable beings that the canvas cannot contain) hover in close-up and stare with a deranged intensity (as in Aspetto, 2008–2010), or else a kind of cosmic serenity. When Parry paints houses, their windows are often eyes: personifying, face-making. Even her multitudinous coffins and “enclosures,” isolated details of an architecture of confinement, have eyes, have windows—or if they don’t, they insistently don’t, inviting the viewer to wonder what is being kept in (or out) behind their solid walls.

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12 David Rubello

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Born Detroit, 1935 / BFA, Accademia di Belle Arti di Roma; MFA, University of Michigan / Lives in Ray, Michigan, and Palm Coast, Florida

If there are tendencies that unite what is categorically understood as “Detroit art” in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, the two- and three- dimensional paintings of David Rubello stand outside of them. If Detroit art is messy, Rubello’s is meticulous. If Detroit art tends toward representation, Rubello’s insists on abstraction. If Detroit art is a reflexive interrogation of the postindustrial condition, Rubello’s formalist paintings exist in an idealized, apolitical, and ageographic universe of pure visuality, where form is content and content simply form.

Yet Rubello is a Detroit artist, and by folding him into that category, the category itself becomes enlarged, becomes more clearly connected to aesthetic traditions, both classical and modern, that continue to inform art and design world- wide. Since the late 1960s, he has experimented with line, shape, color, and perspective in an expansive, evolving body of work that retains an essential precision and verve even as it charts new territory in geometric abstraction, dimensionality, and interactivity.

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