Announcing Four New Exhibitions Opening This Fall at Cranbrook Art Museum

Ash Arder: Flesh Tones
Carl Toth: Reordering Fictions
LeRoy Foster: Solo Show
Press Releases
Skilled Labor: Black Realism in Detroit

Skilled Labor: Black Realism in Detroit

LeRoy Foster: Solo Show

Carl Toth: Reordering Fictions

Ash Arder: Flesh Tones

All Exhibitions Open October 28, 2023

ArtMembers Preview Party October 27, 2023

Top Left: LeRoy Foster, The Hero, oil on Masonite, Courtesy: Dr. Darnell and Shirley A. Kaigler. Top Right: Senghor Reid, Make Way for Tomorrow, 2022, oil on canvas. Courtesy the artist. Bottom Left: Carl Toth, Untitled, 1980-83. Color xerographic collage. Collection of the Toth Family. Image courtesy Andrea Eis. Bottom Right: Ash Arder, Untitled (Fisher’s Body 04), 2023. Courtesy the artist.

This fall, Cranbrook Art Museum will open a series of original exhibitions that examine the importance of legacy within the artistic community of Detroit by showcasing artists of the city’s past, present and future – while identifying the threads that connect them across generations. 

The museum will also highlight the career of a former Artist-in-Residence of Cranbrook Academy of Art, whose work and teaching inspired hundreds of students over his 40-year career. 

“This series of exhibitions underscores Cranbrook Art Museum’s commitment to showcasing our deep and intertwined artistic community, whether an emerging talent or a legendary veteran,” said Andrew Satake Blauvelt, Director of Cranbrook Art Museum. “This series of shows spans more than nine decades and confirms the consistent richness and diversity of Detroit’s artistic output.” 

Mario Moore, A Student’s Dream, oil on canvas, 80 x 68 inches, 2017. Courtesy of the artist.

Skilled Labor: Black Realism in Detroit

October 28, 2023–March 3, 2024

This new exhibition opening at Cranbrook Art Museum focuses on a community of artists who have worked in Detroit during the last decade and use their highly skilled hands to represent the Black body in personal and cultural contexts through their work. Co-curated by Cranbrook Art Museum Chief Curator Laura Mott and Detroit artist Mario Moore, the exhibition will feature 20 artists with local connections, ranging from emerging to established figures.  

Skilled Labor: Black Realism in Detroit aims to illustrate the range, depth, nuance, and variety of Black life through each artist’s unique approach to figuration. Collectively, the artists are using their skills to reframe historical and cultural norms through acts of representation. The exhibition features a spectrum of lived experiences—joy, intimacy, reverie, danger, and tension—through this artistic lens. 

Skilled Labor: Black Realism in Detroit showcases a creative phenomenon that is homegrown in Detroit—a multi-generational artistic network fueled by an organic educational system of peers, mentors, and mentees learning from one another about concept, technical expertise, and art history,” said Laura Mott, Chief Curator of Cranbrook Art Museum. 

Mario Moore added, “This is a landmark exhibition that acknowledges the immense talent that has been coming from our city for decades”, said Moore. “This exhibit shows the community created by these artists as well as the influence of artist LeRoy Foster, who never garnered the national recognition he deserved and will be shown alongside his artistic progeny in his first ever solo museum show.” 

Many of the artists featured also have connections to Cranbrook Art Museum’s sister institutions, Cranbrook Academy of Art and Cranbrook Schools. Those who have graduated or are current students are noted with their degree and department below.  

Artists featured in Skilled Labor: Black Realism in Detroit include Christopher BattenTaurus BurnsCydney Camp (MFA Painting 2023), Ijania CortezCailyn DawsonBakpak DurdenConrad Egyir (MFA Painting 2018), Jonathan HarrisSydney JamesGregory JohnsonRichard LewisHubert MasseyMario MooreSabrina NelsonPatrick QuarmJoshua Rainer (expected MFA Painting 2025), Senghor Reid (Cranbrook Schools Faculty, 2012-present)Jamea Richmond-Edwards, Rashaun Rucker (expected MFA Print Media 2024), and Tylonn J. Sawyer

Skilled Labor: Black Realism in Detroit is organized by Cranbrook Art Museum and curated by artist Mario Moore and Laura Mott, Chief Curator, Cranbrook Art Museum, with assistance from Andrew Ruys de Perez, the Jeanne and Ralph Graham Curatorial Fellow. The exhibition is generously supported by the Gilbert Family Foundation, the George Francoeur Art Museum Exhibition Fund, the David Klein and Kate Ostrove Exhibition Fund, Samara (Johnson) Furlong & Mark Furlong, Karen & Drew Bacon, and ArtMembers of Cranbrook Art Museum
LeRoy Foster, Renaissance City (detail), 1978, oil on canvas. Collection Cass Technical High School.

LeRoy Foster: Solo Show

October 28, 2023–March 3, 2024

As one of Detroit’s most intriguing characters, LeRoy Foster (1925–1993) was a leading figure in Detroit’s Black artistic community, and in many ways, served as an inspiration for artists featured in the Art Museum’s accompanying exhibition, Skilled Labor: Black Realism in Detroit.  

Best known for his large mural Life and Times of Frederick Douglass (1972), on view at the Douglass Branch of the Detroit Public Library, he was known colloquially as, “the Michelangelo of Detroit.”  

He studied art at Detroit’s Cass Tech High School, the Society of Arts and Crafts (now the College for Creative Studies), and likely took classes at Cranbrook Academy of Art. He also studied overseas in London and Rome, where he grew his skills in figuration.  

As part of creating the exhibition, Moore and Mott have been searching for Foster’s works throughout the city. This led to the discovery of a large mural titled Renaissance City (1978) that had been prominently installed at Cass Technical High School for more than 20 years until the school was moved in 2005. The mural was saved before the old building was destroyed and had been rolled up in storage until rediscovered this year. Through Rochelle Riley, Director of Arts and Culture for the City of Detroit, the mural is being restored by the city, and will be on view in the exhibition. Following its presentation in Solo Show, it will be returned to its home at the new Cass Tech to be installed on permanent view for the public. 

Foster was openly gay during a time of hostility and oppression toward the LGBTQ+ community and earned the support and respect of activist Ruth Ellis, artist Charles McGhee, and philanthropist Charles Wright. 

“Foster’s artistic vision did not fit with the art world’s expectations and trends during his lifetime, which left him without representation and also without historic scholarship about his work and practice,” says Laura Mott, Chief Curator of Cranbrook Art Museum. “We have diligently tracked down many of his works, from museums to private collections, and restored others, in order to put together the first exhibition that shines a light on this important Detroit artist.” 

The exhibition at Cranbrook is Foster’s first significant recognition from a museum, and the exhibition title, Solo Show, is also a testament to the freedom in which he conducted his life. 

LeRoy Foster: Solo Show is organized by Cranbrook Art Museum and curated by artist Mario Moore and Laura Mott, Chief Curator, Cranbrook Art Museum, with assistance from Andrew Ruys de Perez, the Jeanne and Ralph Graham Curatorial Fellow. The exhibition is generously supported by the Gilbert Family Foundation, the George Francoeur Art Museum Exhibition Fund, the David Klein and Kate Ostrove Exhibition Fund, and ArtMembers of Cranbrook Art Museum.
Carl Toth, Untitled, 1993. Xerographic paper. Collection Cranbrook Art Museum. Gift of the Artist in honor of Roy Slade (CAA President, 1977-1994). Photo: PD Rearick

Carl Toth: Reordering Fictions

October 28, 2023–February 25, 2024

Carl Toth (1947–2022) spent nearly 40 years in metro Detroit, leading the photography program at Cranbrook Academy of Art from 1972 to 2007. His artistic practice influenced generations of young artists and his interest in the literary arts intersected with many like-minded people in Detroit over the years.  

A pioneer of alternative photographic techniques, he sought to expand the field of photography through his exploration of the SX-70 Polaroid camera and his adoption of the photocopier as his camera lens of choice. While teaching at Cranbrook Academy of Art, Toth brought a personal interest in literature and literary theory to the Academy at a time when these ideas were just beginning to redirect the medium. The title of the exhibition, Reordering Fictions, is a nod to Toth’s affinity for the written word and the constructed nature of the realities that accompany photographic representation. 

Carl Toth: Reordering Fictions is the first museum exhibition to reassess Toth’s legacy in photography. His intricate use of collage and photomontage will be explored, which resulted in masterful compositions of complex still-life tableaux. This exhibition will also feature earlier series by the artist including black and white photographs that engage with photographic tropes from snapshots to landscapes and hand-colored collages that expand the spatial and temporal constraints of a single frame. By uniting these diverse series and artistic approaches, a coherent narrative emerges, revealing the thread that runs throughout Toth’s career—a relentless exploration of the photographic image creation and the multifaceted meanings they take on. 

Carl Toth: Reordering Fictions is organized by Cranbrook Art Museum and curated by Kat Goffnett, Assistant Curator of Collections. The exhibition is supported, in part, by the George Francoeur Art Museum Exhibition Fund, ArtPack Services, Inc., and ArtMembers of Cranbrook Art Museum.
Ash Arder, Untitled (Fisher’s Body 6), 2023. Courtesy the artist.

Ash Arder: Flesh Tones

October 28, 2023–February 25, 2024

Ash Arder is a transdisciplinary, researched-focused artist from Flint, Michigan, whose work investigates ecological and industrial systems, especially in consideration of the power dynamics between humans, machines, and the natural world. She is a 2018 graduate of the Fiber department at Cranbrook Academy of Art, and Flesh Tones is her first solo museum exhibition. It is also the second installment of Cranbrook Art Museum’s Fresh Paint series, which highlights new work from Detroit-area artists. 

Arder’s practice illuminates moments of intimacy, tenderness, and connection within industrial spaces. Through deeply personal family narratives, Arder’s practice explores the impact and legacy of the automotive industry in southeastern Michigan. 

The departure point for Flesh Tones is a photograph of her late parents celebrating her baby shower on the assembly line of the Fisher Body Plant no. 1 in Flint where they met and fell in love. The intertwining of personal and industrial histories continues with Arder’s manipulation of a 1987 Cadillac Sedan de Ville – her family car from childhood – that she sourced from a junkyard and deconstructed. 

Flesh Tones encompasses a celebration of community brought together through industry while also exposing the complicated nature of aligning identity and well-being with material possessions. Arder’s work memorializes the often obsolete, ephemeral residue of a system at a crossroads in a time of climate change. Rather than a melancholy goodbye to the proverbial, resource-intensive machine, she offers an optimistic rebirth through a demonstration of solar power. Arder harnesses the source of renewable energy to ask who is keeping whom—or what—alive in a time defined by inextricable human-machine relationships. 

Ash Arder: Flesh Tones is organized by Cranbrook Art Museum and curated by Andrew Ruys de Perez, the Jeanne and Ralph Graham Curatorial Fellow. This exhibition is generously supported by the Gilbert Family Foundation and the George Francoeur Art Museum Exhibition Fund.

Posted In: Ash Arder: Flesh Tones, Carl Toth: Reordering Fictions, LeRoy Foster: Solo Show, Press Releases, Skilled Labor: Black Realism in Detroit

Media Inquiries:
Julie Fracker
Director of Communications
Cranbrook Academy of Art and Art Museum