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Michigan Gallery
2661 MichIgan Ave., Detroit
Through July 4, 1987

And I looked, and behold a pale horse:and his name that sat on him was Death.
and Hell followed with him.

( New Testament, Book of Revelatlon; Chapter 6)

It is hardly surprising that the biblical prophecy of apocalypse in the form of four horsemen who will bring war, conquest, famine and death to the world is a theme that concerns a great many artists. The theme has produced great art (Durer’s 15th-cenuty woodcuts for example) and not a few pictorial disasters.
When Detroit sculptor Sergio De Gusti chose the title ‘Apocalypse” for the current exhibition at the Michigan Gallery which he curated, he was not interested in blatant sensationalism. "The last thing I was looking for, he explained, “was a series of paintings with bombs going off.

Sergio De Giusti, curator of Michigan Galler'y Apocalypse

"What I wanted was to bring together a group of local artists who I know personally and whose work I respect— artists with a particular orientation toward fantastic and surrealistic images who sensitively explore the moral and spiritual issues of this theme in our time within the framework of skill.” said De Glusti. The project was about nine months in the making, and De Glusti has suc­ceeded— admirably. He has assembled a selection of mixed-media work by 25 outstanding local artists, both the well-known and the up-and-coming, to create an exhibit that has a subtle, psychological, melancholic and sometimes humorous content, rather than one with a visceral explosion of blood and gore, or an overly sermonizing religious message.

Untitled by Jack Baily (left); "Subconcious Holyland" by Carl Demeulnaere.

The one work that does deal directly with war Is a chilling but almost unbearably moving painting by Michael Joseph, aptly titled Class of 1965,” where soldiers in modern combat dress in the top half are massed with photographs of Joseph’s 172 high school graduation classmates. Joseph, who attended an all-male Jesuit school, has made markings in colored pencil on the boyish faces of those killed and wounded in action in Vietnam— 33 killed and eight wounded.
Coyote-like dogs tear at a piece of meat In an auto graveyard, oblivious to the single female observer in one of Edward Levine’s powerful “dog paintings.” Equally powerful Is Mel Rosas’ Il Medico de Ia Peste”: a Venetian street bordered by a canal of sickly, green water, deserted but for the menacing, hooded and masked (with a huge beaked nose) plague doc­tor who seeks out the dying and the dead.
Jo Powers, whose work is always fraught with unknown tension, paints a pristine-new freeway devoid of traffic and activity, except for a young woman with a madonna-like face crawling up the bank- like a shot from a Fellini movie. The unmistakable mystique of a Bradley Jones painting is depicted with two stony-faced guys in a car, the one In the passenger seat nonchalantly drinking from a can of pop while cleaning his gun.

(Left) "Yellow River" by James Stephens; (right) Untitled by Jack Baily.

Talented newcomer James Stephens conjures up a vision of hell with an unpeopled, desolate Junkyard, where the still-smoking chimney stacks give the Impression of an in­cinerator belching poisonous waste or even a Nazi gas chamber.
Turning to surrealism and sym­bolism, David Becker’s two meticulously detailed drawings and small watercolor with their macabre and humorous figures and phallic symbols evoke Images of a 20th-centuiy Hieyonimus Bosch. Ed Fraga is represented by one of his extraordinary avant-garde paintings that often seem to blend mysticism and eroticism with religious symbolism, Russell Keeter with a stylish “theatrical-back­drop” painting which might be compared to a medieval brothel in hell and Douglas Bulka with two apocalyptically symbolic paintings.
Jack Bailey’s view of a world destined for disintegration reflects haunting, Francis Bacon-like imagery, and another standout is a surrealistic painting, with an agonized, ghostly face as the focal point, by up-and-coming young artist Tom Humes.
There are fewer sculptures in the exhibit than paintings, but these are remarkable in their diversity of style.

Sculpture by Jay Holland

Jay Holland has two magnificent lifesize statues representing man as the broken hero. A figurative bronze relief
of the first horseman of
the first horsemen of the apocalypse by John Pappas combines fluid of movement with an Interesting patina, and David Barr contributes a beautifully crafted sled-like model and a drawing from his "Bering Straits" series. Barr wants to build two

sculptures and ship them to villages on either side of the Bearing Straits, the two settlements where the Soviet Union and America geographically almost meet. Barr said he is concerned about global issues and believes art can help to unify humanity. Who knows? It is possible that a glasnost gesture of this kind might discourage possible future disputes over oil and territory in that region, and help prevent events that could lead to apocalypse.
Down in the vaults of the Michigan Gallery's basement, Ed Fraga has a sculpture/installation that comes close to a surrealistic shrine. The focal point here is a luminous photographic transparency of a robed woman, but so strangely apparition-like is this figure that "she" also appears to suggest an androgynous form. A Christ figure?

Photograph by Misha Gordin

By comparison, the black-lined walls of another basement room, highlighting a ghoulishly beautiful photograph by Misha Gordin, look like the setting for a black mass. This head of a man, emerging from a hole in the ground, resembles a disembodied piece of Greco/Roman statuary weeping tears of blood. (Gordin, who seems to have an unlimited supply of volunteer models, apparently covered a male face with plaster or glaze to achieve the slightly cracke effect.)
Italian-born De Gusti, who is well known for his romantic, renaissance sculptures, is, rather surprisingly, represented in the exhibit by a large and stunning abstract charcoal draw­ing in black and gray, which he titles “Diluvio” and which summons up an image of the flood or the last wave that might well engulf the world.
De Giusti explained that he was reluctant to feature any one artist in the Introductory poster and flyer. “How could I possibly choose the Work of a single artist,” he said, “when they are all so good?” Instead, he photographed and used two awesome segments of bronze tombstones on the apocalypse theme from the Cimitero Monumentale In Milan, Italy, one by G. Piazza, dated 1910. Other fine photographic imagery is by Kevin Sharp, Mary Aro and Dan Pohlman.
“Apocalypse” is a testament of the excellent art being made in Detroit

See “Apocalypse” now - and save Kathleen Rashid's diptych painting for the finale - an eerie view on one panel of a city which seems about to fall, and a television screen picturing Katherine
Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart on the other which someone has forgotten to switch off Understated, but psychologically menacing! The Michigan Gallery has earned many kudos for mounting good shows by Detroit-area artists, and this Is one of the best.

Manon Meilgaard is a frequent contributor to the Metro Times on the local art scene.
Photos by Bob Mckeown