Cranbrook show dazzles at DAM

Arts / Article

The annual Detroit Artists Market (DAM) Scholarship and Exhibition Program opened Friday at DAM’s midtown gallery. It features work by nine Cranbrook Academy of Art graduate students, all finalists for DAM’s John F. Korachis Scholarship Award, as well as a handful of alumni.  The exhibition commemorates more than 75 years of support provided by Cranbrook and DAM to the local arts community.  All the pieces are for sale.

There’s a wealth and variety of exceptional work to see. In content and form, the pieces are all over the map, from monumental oil reliefs to funny, tawdry fabric sculptures and dreamy, painted leisure scenes. The most overtly political piece in the show, a powerful photograph by Shana Merola, depicts an anonymous figure wearing a biohazard-like suit, standing (in a position that alludes unmistakably to an infamous Abu Ghraib photograph) on a cardboard box that’s leaking oil. Other pieces revel in abstract abandon, like Mark Sengbusch’s bright, vibrant, horizontal threads of color made with acrylic paint on plexiglass. There are Younghee Hong’s intricate sculptures assembled out of mass-produced materials like zip ties, which almost coil and scurry like marine life, and Celia Butler’s oversized candy bows, made from pulled and cast sugar. (I seriously thought about tasting one.)

"Sugar Bows" by Celia Butler

The scholarships were awarded to three students: James Payne, Jae Yun Hwang and June Lee.  Their included works were all remarkable, but I found Lee’s haunting, delicate sculptures most compelling. They’re fashioned primarily out of colorful filament and an airy, translucent Korean fabric that the artist identifies as noburg.  Parachute Man is a ghostly, white figure with a painstakingly stitched patchwork face, at once blankly benevolent and profoundly disquieting. He’s borne aloft by a colorful ring of balloon-like, fabric heads that suggest ancestry, community or the self multiplied.

Lee’s other piece, Loss, features five brightly-colored umbrellas hung from the ceiling; beneath them, five busts made of black, veil-like noburg are suspended centimeters off the ground by colorful string. As you walk around the piece, the string gently slices your field of view, and your movement causes the hovering busts to sway subtly. This is somber, funereal work that manages simultaneously to achieve near weightlessness.

Detail of June Lee&squot;s "Loss"

The remarkable craftsmanship and imagination of some of Cranbrook’s most talented students and alumni are on full display at DAM. Take this opportunity to spend some time with their work; you’re sure to see something extraordinary.

The Scholarship and Exhibition Program runs from March 4 to April 9 at the Detroit Artists Market, 4719 Woodward Avenue, Detroit; 313.832.8540;