Cranbrook Art Museum graduates spring into action

Above: “A Meeting Place and Time” by Logan Hamilton Acton at CAVE Gallery. Photo by Rosie Sharp.

Spring has come, and with it, a fresh crop of hopeful art school graduates prepare to take on the world. But first, the final hurdle—graduate shows. There’s still one week to catch the graduate show at Cranbrook Art Museum, which features the work of more than 80 graduates across 10 departments.

Cranbrook, the recipient of multiple Knight Arts grants, is making efforts to bring groundbreaking work to metro Detroit. Aiming to encourage dialogue between the historically divided suburban and inner-city communities, it is a fitting venue for presenting the art academy’s most recent cohort of graduates, who are about to leave the nest and take up their own efforts to engage in the wider conversation between art and society.

The show’s opening was a riot of activity, with works and participants too numerous to mention—in a survey of so many artists, it is challenging to focus on individual works. Patrick McGuan dealt with vulnerability in a photograph series that featured the artist exposing his stomach amid industrial landscapes. Benjamin Santiago turned in a high-energy multimedia performance piece during the opening. Every gallery was a riot of colors, methods and materials.

Photo series by Patrick McGuan. Photo by Sarah Blanchette, courtesy of Cranbrook Art Museum.

In the relatively remote corners of the festivities, several installation pieces quietly captured attention. In the furthermost back hallway of the fiber department, painting student Mike Koftinow erected a forgotten altar by gathering empty bottles around a glowing neon sign depicting the same. Architecture grad Kelly Stickrod assembled a sort of pavilion in the furthest reach of Cranbrook’s long series of reflecting pools, and within that construct, hung a pair of stretchy fabric hammocks. Participants were encouraged to borrow one of several pairs of knee-high rubber boots, and wade out through the water to swing on the hammocks. The resistance of the water was surprising and satisfying, at a level for which the boots were just strategically high enough to avoid direct contact; the hang time was surprisingly peaceful.

Interactive installation by architecture grad Kelly Stickrod. Photo by Rosie Sharp.

The 2016 sculpture grads set up camp at CAVE Gallery in Detroit, with an exhibition dubbed “The Real Real Spectacle.” Each of the eight graduate candidates had one piece in the show, including an untitled installation of kite-like geometric structures by Chrissy Scolaro. “Wishing for Love” (2016) by Virginia da Rosa employed an inflatable children’s pool with pump-activated running water, and the work’s title spelled out in coins across the pool’s bottom. A nearby cup of change invited participation (I wished, Virginia–still waiting!). An installation by Logan Hamilton Acton featured a triangle of sod flanked by three sod pillars, anointed with chrysanthemums, topped with acorns, and beaming the interstitial space between them—“A Meeting Place and Time,” the title suggests—with a wash of iridescent black light. Perhaps the show’s most ambitious work, “Untitled (Kaleidoscope)” by Johannah Herr, displayed an upsized and technologically complex version of the eponymous children’s toy. In a wooden housing, acrylic mirrors reflect a monitor feed that rotates personal footage, screen grabs and appropriated video feeds, creating a hypnotic whirl from the media that constantly surrounds us in only a slightly less abstracted form.

“Wishing for Love” (2016) by Virginia da Rosa at CAVE Gallery. Photo by Rosie Sharp.

Graduation is a hopeful and ambiguous time, and Cranbrook students have been going all-out to meet the public, through the grad show and open studios activities that took place over the final weekend of April. Perhaps some will follow the example of the sculpture department, heading straight out of the gate to find welcoming venues in the wilds of Detroit. Likely some others will take the summer to recover from the final push to graduate and plan next moves. Whatever their approach, the world is out there waiting.

The 2016 Graduate Degree Exhibition of Cranbrook Academy of Art runs through May 15, 2016.