Last but not least a few images from the Murals in the Market event last Friday in Detroit, an event that has grown exponentially in the last two years. The amount of people there was incredible and the murals impressive, although we come from a place where graffiti is a bit old hat having been co-opted for a political cause. Financing the medium encouraged exploration and Venezuelan tags and murals are much more creative than many I’ve seen abroad, but this is definitely more ambitious in scale and scope and not obliged to serve as propaganda. In fact the murals really make the most of what could be a devastated urban landscape and convert it into an open air museum.
So we finally made our way down Woodward Avenue past the motorways and construction sites to the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit. The main show by a Detroit artist called Sanford Biggers was Subjective Cosmology, described as an “unseen world made visible”. At first glimpse it could be the parallel worlds that people of different colour and ethnicity seem to inhabit here, as someone observed, it’s a room full of corpses, and as a comment all too pertinent in the exhibition text with the “continued killings of unarmed black civilians by the police”.
Turning the corner on our way downtown from the Heidelberg project was this beauty of a building all boarded up and awaiting rescue. The mix of styles from Art Deco to Neogothic is almost whimsical in many buildings dotted around and a testament to the tremendous energy and creative freedom that must have existed in the city’s heyday. And so very different in feel from Europe, I was particularly struck by a church that seemed to use gothic and islamic in one go and was Pentecostal in denomination. Downtown we caught a quick glimpse of wonderful stone carved skyscrapers while looking for galleries that were shut and decided to make our way up to MOCAD. Even though a light rail is just being installed (we saw a train speeding by but were told later it must have been a trial run) it’s not particularly friendly to pedestrians as we found wandering down Woodward Avenue. Maybe too much to ask of a city which was (is?) the epitome of the automobile culture, and still has a way to go reinventing itself in that sense. Definitely a long way before I’d be comfortable cycling around the expansive motorways. There are civic minded details that we appreciated though like the outdoor reading room at the library…
Tyree Guyton has been a pioneer in urban renovation with the Heidelberg project since the mid eighties and it’s already world famous, but how to resist taking a few more pictures of such an interesting installation. Several people came by while we were there to wander through and do the same, even a police officer! Obviously the reasons that led to this amount of open space available are not ones that anyone would repeat intentionally, but it definitely feels inviting if you like to intervene creatively in your surroundings. Such as in the work of Monica Canilao (although from California not Detroit) she also uses recycled materials, found objects and has a wonderful mural on Gratiot Avenue from last year.
Two of my favourite subjects… in one place! Last week we went to Detroit to discover something of the urban regeneration process underway there during Detroit Design Festival (celebrating the recent designation of Detroit as a UNESCO City of Design, first in the USA). In a very short visit we managed to see some urban farming in Corktown, the Heidelberg project, downtown Detroit, MOCAD and the Murals in the Market After Dark with the advice and company of Emily Jane Boeuf of USArt boutique.
I first visited Kalamazoo in 2013 and was impressed with the architecture that survived from the last two centuries. I have since discovered that the city is unique in having several historic districts; it is incredible that these old wooden houses have been conserved for so long. This time around I have begun sketching the urban landscape which feels like walking through a Hopper painting. These will be on show in an upcoming Art Hop.