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. Her practice illuminates moments of intimacy, tenderness, and connection within industrial spaces. She transforms recognizable objects like hardhats and car parts into sculptural forms that contrast the hard, cold bodies of mechanical tools with the soft, warm bodies of the humans that deploy them.
Arder is a 2018 graduate of the Fiber Department at Cranbrook Academy of Art, and Flesh Tones is the artist’s first solo museum exhibition and the second installment of Cranbrook Art Museum’s Fresh Paint series, which highlights new work from Detroit-area artists. 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 ultimately 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 both 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, with support by Laura Mott, Chief Curator. This exhibition is generously supported by the Gilbert Family Foundation and the George Francoeur Art Museum Exhibition Fund.
Carl Toth: Reordering Fictions examines various bodies of work that the artist created over his more than forty-year career, from early black and white photography to his pioneering work in alternative photographic techniques. Through his interest in torquing reality, Toth 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. Toth’s intricate use of collage and photomontage resulted in masterful compositions of complex still-life tableaux, toeing the line between representation and abstraction.
Carl Toth (1947–2022) served as Artist-in-Residence and Head of the Photography Department at Cranbrook Academy of Art from 1972 until 2007, shaping generations of students. Toth brought a personal interest in literature and literary theory to the Academy at a time when such ideas were just beginning to redirect the medium. The title, Reordering Fictions, is derived from a quote by the artist—a nod to the 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.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.
One of Detroit’s most intriguing figures, artist LeRoy Foster (1925–1993) was an exceptional talent and a leading figure in the Black artistic community. Perhaps best known for his large mural at the Douglass Branch of the Detroit Public Library, Life and Times of Frederick Douglass, (1972), Foster studied art at Detroit’s famed Cass Tech High School, the Society of Arts and Crafts (now the College for Creative Studies) and, it is believed, at Cranbrook Academy of Art.
Foster embodied his moniker “the Michelangelo of Detroit,” drawing inspiration from the drama of High Renaissance paintings. This passion also led him to study overseas in London and Rome, growing his deft skills in figuration. Conceived as a companion to the concurrent contemporary-art-focused exhibition, Skilled Labor: Black Realism in Detroit, LeRoy Foster exemplifies the rich local history of Black realism.
Foster was openly gay during a time of hostility and oppression towards the LGBTQ+ community and was championed by other legendary Detroiters, such as queer activist Ruth Ellis, artist Charles McGhee, and philanthropist Charles Wright. Foster was uncompromising in his artistic vision, which didn’t always fit with the larger art world’s expectations and stylistic trends, leaving him essentially unrepresented in twentieth-century art history and underrepresented in scholarship on Black artists. The exhibition’s title, Solo Show, is a nod to the fact this is his first significant recognition from a museum, but also a testament to the freedom in which he conducted his life—quite literally living and working in a former theater adorned with gold lame—like a “solo show.”
LeRoy Foster: Solo Show is organized by Cranbrook Art Museum and curated by artist Mario Moore and Laura Mott, Chief Curator, Cranbrook Art Museum. 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.
Skilled Labor: Black Realism in Detroit focuses on a local community of artists that have developed expert skills in drawing and painting, and, through deft hands, explore the representation of the Black body in both personal and cultural contexts. Rejecting the monolithic nature under which the Black body is frequently conceived and popularly imagined, Skilled Labor illustrates the range, depth, nuance, and variety of Black life through each artist’s unique approach to figuration. The exhibition features a spectrum of lived experiences—joy, intimacy, reverie, danger, tension—through this artistic lens. Collectively, these artists are undertaking the laborious task of art historical and cultural rethinking through acts of representation.
“Skilled labor” refers to highly trained, experienced individuals who complete complex mental or physical tasks with expertise. The term poetically speaks to these Detroit artists that perform a durational and technically proficient approach to artmaking. Skilled labor is also a rigorous intellectual process that these artists materialize through technical prowess. They are a result of generations of skilled Black labor workers, who bestowed upon the city a legacy of extraordinary innovation. The exhibition evinces the unique sense of place, community, and networks of support found in Detroit.
This landmark exhibition will feature 20 contemporary artists who have worked in Detroit over the last decade and demonstrate this exceptional skill.
These artists include Christopher Batten, Taurus Burns, Cydney Camp, Ijania Cortez, Cailyn Dawson, Bakpak Durden, Conrad Egyir, Jonathan Harris, Sydney James, Gregory Johnson, Richard Lewis, Hubert Massey, Mario Moore, Sabrina Nelson, Patrick Quarm, Joshua Rainer, Jamea Richmond-Edwards, Senghor Reid, Rashaun Rucker, and Tylonn J. Sawyer.
The exhibition is co-curated with Detroit artist Mario Moore, whose internationally acclaimed work exemplifies this expertise.
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. 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.
Sonya Clark: We Are Each Other is a mid-career survey of the artist’s work with a focus on her community-centered and participatory projects. Over her twenty-five-year career, Clark has been committed to issues of history, race, and reconciliation. Clark often undertakes this exploration through everyday fiber materials—hair, flags, found fabric—and craft practices. In Clark’s work, craft and community are intertwined, and the resulting projects facilitate new collective encounters across racial, gender, and socioeconomic divisions. The ethos of her participatory work is embedded in the title We Are Each Other. It is inspired by the poem about civil rights activist Paul Robeson (1971) by Gwendolyn Brooks, which ends with the phrase: “we are each other’s harvest: we are each other’s business: we are each other’s magnitude and bond.”
In the Hair Craft Project, for example, Clark collaborated with hairstylists to use the hair on her own head as a canvas to highlight their skills, carefully documenting each creation over the course of a year. In works such as the Kente Flag Project, Unraveling, and Monumental Cloth, The Flag We Should Know Clark explores the varied and often conflicted social and cultural histories that flags can represent. In other projects such as Beaded Prayers, which formed the basis of Clark’s Healing Memorial project in Detroit for losses suffered during the COVID-19 pandemic, or Finding Freedom, a meditation on the plight of individuals fleeing slavery along the Underground Railroad, contributions made by numerous participants from the artwork itself.
At Cranbrook, the exhibition aims to highlight Sonya’s community-based work and make connections with visitors through making and activations. Visitors can:
Clark received her MFA in Fiber from Cranbrook Academy of Art in 1995 and has since achieved acclaim for her innovative practice. Her work has been exhibited in more than 350 museums and galleries in the Americas, Africa, Asia, Europe, and Australia. Clark is the recipient of a United States Artists Fellowship, a Pollock Krasner Award, an 1858 Prize, an Art Prize Grand Jurors Award, and an Anonymous Was a Woman Award. Clark is a Professor of Art at Amherst College in Massachusetts and previously served as Chair of the Craft/Material Studies Department at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond.
The exhibition is a three-institution partnership between Cranbrook Art Museum in Metro Detroit, the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, and the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City. The collaboration is rooted in both audience and context as all three cities have substantial populations of residents with a lineage to the African diaspora, and each institution has a dedicated mission to contemporary art and craft traditions.
Sonya Clark: We Are Each Other is co-curated by Laura Mott, Chief Curator at Cranbrook Art Museum; Elissa Auther, Deputy Director of Curatorial Affairs and William and Mildred Lasdon Chief Curator at The Museum of Art and Design; and Monica Obniski, Curator of Decorative Arts and Design at the High Museum.
The Cranbrook Art Museum presentation of Sonya Clark: We Are Each Other is supported by the Gilbert Family Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Ellsworth Kelly Foundation and the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, the Art Dealers Association of America Foundation, Waymaker Media, and the Modern Ancient Brown Foundation.
Public programs associated with the exhibition at Cranbrook Art Museum are supported by the Michigan Arts and Culture Council, and the National Endowment for the Arts.
This project is also generously supported by The Henry Luce Foundation.
The innovative work from the next generation of architects, artists, and designers will be on display at the 2023 Graduate Degree Exhibition of Cranbrook Academy of Art. The Degree Exhibition showcases pieces that are the culmination of two years of studio work from a diverse group of graduates as they launch their careers.
The show opens to the public on Sunday, April 9, with a special ArtMembers’ Preview Day on Saturday, April 8.
Click for more information about 2023 Graduate Degree Exhibition of Cranbrook Academy of Art.
Bakpak Durden is a self-taught artist born and raised in Detroit. Durden’s hyperrealistic work draws upon diverse inspirations, including dramatic cinema and Dutch Baroque painting.
The Eye of Horus is Durden’s first solo museum exhibition and the inaugural show of the Cranbrook Art Museum’s Fresh Paint series, which highlights new work from Detroit-based artists. The Eye of Horus is an ancient Egyptian symbol and concept thought to have healing and protective powers. In addition to its appearance in ceremonial rituals and mythology, the icon was also used in ancient mathematical and neurological contexts. For this exhibition, Durden explores the physiological and psychological functions relating to vision and the mind. Their new installation of paintings and sculpture poetically dissect the physical processes of vision, therein presenting the anatomical magic that goes into shaping emotion and identity. Surrounding the installation are selections of Durden’s paintings that primarily feature the artist in moments of reverie and introspection in their daily life.
In addition to their studio practice, Durden is known for their large-scale murals throughout Detroit. As part of this project, Cranbrook Art Museum has partnered with the Ruth Ellis Center, a non-profit that creates a supportive community and provides trauma-informed services for LGBTQ+ youth and young adults of color. In collaboration with the organization, Durden will create a permanent mural for the new Ruth Ellis Clairmount Center in Detroit.
Bakpak Durden: The Eye of Horus is the inaugural show of Cranbrook Art Museum’s Fresh Paint series, which highlights new work from Detroit-based artists.
Bakpak Durden: The Eye of Horus is organized by Cranbrook Art Museum and curated by Kat Goffnett, Assistant Curator of Collections, and Laura Mott, Chief Curator at Cranbrook Art Museum. This exhibition is generously supported by the George Francoeur Art Museum Exhibition Fund and the Gilbert Family Foundation, with additional assistance from the Ruth Ellis Center and Playground Detroit.
The permanent collection of Cranbrook Art Museum has undergone many evolutions over its nearly 100-year existence. However, one facet of our holdings has remained consistent: the Cranbrook Collection, which is dedicated to works by artists, alumni, and artists-in-residence affiliated with our sister institution, Cranbrook Academy of Art.
Constellations & Affinities: Selections from the Cranbrook Collection gathers a broad and eclectic sampling of objects made by artists, architects, and designers associated with the Academy of Art. Arranged like a contemporary curiosity cabinet, the works on view span numerous media and represent a broad range of practices taught at the Academy. Works have been arranged in various constellations to compare and contrast certain affinities in materials, processes, and approaches among the artists while acknowledging the singular artistic vision of each maker. A spotlight has been shown on a few of the many diverse and fascinating artists that have called Cranbrook home over the decades.
Constellations & Affinities: Selections from the Cranbrook Collection is organized by Cranbrook Art Museum and curated by Kat Goffnett, Assistant Curator of Collections. Exhibition design by Jon Geiger, Head Preparator and Exhibition Coordinator, and Andrew Satake Blauvelt, Director.
The exhibition is made possible by the generous support of the Clannad Foundation.
**The Healing Memorial is currently on view at Cranbrook Art Museum through September 24, 2023, as part of Sonya Clark: We Are Each Other. Visitors are able to participate in memorial pouch-making right in our Main gallery.
Cranbrook Art Museum, The City of Detroit, the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy and Huntington Place have organized a large-scale memorial art installation to help our community heal from loss during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Healing Memorial is a site-specific adaptation of the Beaded Prayers Project by world-renowned artist Sonya Clark (CAA, MFA Fiber ’95), which has traveled the world for more than two decades. For this project, metro area Detroit residents have created small memorial pouches using fabric from their loved ones or donated material and folded inside a written commemoration, intention, wish, or prayer. The pouches were then sewn shut with decorative beads—each one a unique handmade object.
To date, more than 4,000 regional residents created personal pieces of art in honor of their losses. The Healing Memorial installation is open to the public:
Huntington Place (formerly TCF Center)
1 Washington Blvd, Detroit, MI, Level 3
(Enter at the corner of Washington and Congress)
Monday – Saturday from 12- 5pm
The project remains open for submissions by all regional residents who have experienced physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, social, occupational, or environmental loss. To learn more about participation, please visit https://detroitriverfront.org/thehealingmemorial
The Healing Memorial is curated by Laura Mott, Chief Curator, Cranbrook Art Museum in collaboration with Rochelle Riley, Director of Arts and Culture for the City of Detroit, and Rachel Frierson, Director of Public Programming for the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy. The project is made possible by the generous support of the Ford Fund, Huntington Bank, the City of Detroit, the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, and Cranbrook Art Museum.
Flint-based artist Tunde Olaniran and Cranbrook Art Museum have partnered with MW Gallery to present a selection of works from the preeminent Mott-Warsh Collection, which focuses on art by artists of the African diaspora and those who reflect on it. This exhibition is an extension of a similarly titled show on view through August 20, 2022 at MW Gallery in downtown Flint. This selection of artwork shares themes with Tunde Olaniran’s newly-commissioned film and installation Made A Universe, which is concurrently on view at the museum.
The exhibition investigates how societal challenges, such as systemic disenfranchisement, racism, xenophobia, and isolation, can become pressing personal struggles about our health, wellness, economic stability, and more. Amid these personal and shared trials, myriad questions arise: How do we cope? Where do we go to seek relief? Who or what makes us feel better? How do we heal?
At Cranbrook Art Museum, the exhibition includes work by artists Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons, Nick Cave, Titus Kaphar, Glenn Ligon, Pope.L, Carrie Mae Weems, Kehinde Wiley, and others.
This presentation of Whatever Gets You Through the Night: Selections from the Mott-Warsh Collection is curated by Tunde Olaniran; Stephanie James, Director, Curator, and Collection Educator, Mott-Warsh Collection; and Laura Mott, Chief Curator, Cranbrook Art Museum
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