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Art In Review: Dark Days Brightened

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Art In Review

Dark Days Brightened

By Jean Paul Slusser (News Art Critic)

Recently, during some of the season’s darkest days, both Ann Arbor’s leading art sales galleries suddenly came up with exhibitions of unusual brightness and appeal.

The Forsythe Galleries (the name is now in the plural) have lately passed into new hands, and the present versatile display is both something in the nature of a seasonal round-up and the beginning of a wholly new chapter. In both capacities the affair is a great success.

The new owner of the Forsythe establishment is Daniel L. De Graaf, formerly of Muskegon and now of Ann Arbor, a man of proven experience in the field. It would be premature to try to estimate his taste and direction from the present display alone. One merely noted with pleasure that this first round contains many good things, and that its overall mood is one of real sparkle and vitality.

On the subject of Michigan art and artists De Graaf is obviously a man of unusual knowledgability. Thus, one discovers here with satisfaction several fine works by Stefan Davidek of Flint, an arrived artist of true stature and authority, and much too little known in this community. Davidek has been through various phases and periods, but in the large canvases he shows here, particularly in one splendid upright red-keyed landscape, he is what is termed the “painterly” type. An agreeable addition to the stable, too, is Allen Leepa of the Michigan State art staff, a coloristic abstract expressionist of lyrical quality.

Effectively included in the current showing are various regulars of the earlier Forsythe regime: Richard Wilt, William Lewis, Chet LaMore, Kingsley Calkins, Louise Janssen Nobili, Zubel Ka-chadourian, Chuang Che and Teng Beng Chew. And, particularly featured — rightly, so, surely — is Mignonette Cheng of our own art faculty, with a major abstraction in oil, a highly textured blond rectilinear affair, plus two of her commanding performances in darkly rich, floated-on water color.

Likewise in the spotlight is strong sculpture by a newcomer here, Wolfram Miessen of the art staff of Northern Michigan University. Taking off from an early Bauhaus training, this seasoned exhibitor shows a luscious large-scale clear plastic work in the form of a perforated block, as well as other attractive pieces in mixed media or alabaster. Chet LaMore is right in there, too, with more of his pungent and well-wrought found-parts metal constructions. A series of small-scale mixed-media relief arrangements by Nancy Wilkoff is sharp and witty and well conceived.

A true highlight of the show is a single stunning tapestry weaving by George Elyane Blick, and one hopes there will be more of her work shown here in the future. A new name in prints is James Walker of Kent State University. His darkly robust silk-screens consort very well with those of Dean Meeker of the University of Wisconsin art faculty.

The exhibition continues with progressive changes through Dec. 23; hours are 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, with extension to 9 p.m. Wednesdays.


Making another strong contribution to the brightness of the local art scene is the Lantern Gallery, with its fine display of the color silkscreens of Otmar Alt of Berlin.

This outstanding young German painter and printmaker is already well known throughout Europe, and his current trio of American displays — in New York, Ann Arbor and Los Angeles — will without doubt further enhance his American reputation.

His showing at the Lantern Gallery includes some 15 silk-screens plus a panel of wallpaper adopted from one of them. The work at first sight is not easy to “place”, for it falls into none of the currently dominant print-making categories. Its appeal is strong and immediate, however, and one must conclude that here is an original and not just another follower — a fairly rare experience in the competitive (and repetitive) art market of today.

Otmar Alt’s color is his greatest strength and it employs to the hilt all the radiance and emotion-stirring power of this, the truest inheritance of the artist of today. His imagery, clear-cut and strongly stated, and always infused with something like a baroque rhythmic quality, is of the stuff of fantasy and dreams and reverie, but with a Teutonic folk-lore sturdiness about it too.

This expression bypasses the Bauhaus, the minimal, the less-is-more tradition; it relates rather to the Fauves, to Miro and to the surrealists, for, though utterly controlled, it is richly lyrical and exuberant, the song of the natural man of today. Alt is 32 and quite possibly his art speaks out for the young.

The exhibition continues to Thursday with hours 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays.


America Crafts, a new high-level crafts gallery, has just opened at Englander Triangle, 2333 South State street, under the direction of Gretchen Cassara.

The opening display, aside from a regular collection of fine one-of-a-kind American ceramics, weaving, jewelry and the like, is devoted to a special exhibition of Raku pottery by Janka McClatchey, and hand-loomed textiles by Kathryn Hiltner.

Mrs. McClatchey's strongly decorative talents show to excellent advantage in her new, softly glowing lustre ware bowls, plates, pots, mirror frames and other accessories. Miss Hiltner’s tapestries and wall hanging in simplistic classic designs of quietly graduated blues or reds, revive an ancient Japanese process in which pre-dyed wool yarn is used.

The gallery is worth your attention, and this showing can be seen on weekdays until Saturday.

[image]:  General View At Forsythe Galleries