Volume 10 Number 1
Ted Lee Hadfield, Maps & Mazes, steel, wood, paint, glass, 36"x48"xl5", 1988, (Vincent A. Carducci's review is on page 8)
Detroit Focus Quarterly
A Visual Arts Publication
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The Alternative Worksite/Bemis Foundation offers a Residency Program for Visual Artists. Studio and living accommodations plus monthly stipends provided for residencies of three to six months. Applications are now being accepted for the period of September, 1992 through August, 1993. Deadline for submission: March 1,1992. For application forms or further information to Alternative Worksite/Bemis Foundation, 614 South 11th Street, Omaha, NE 68102, (402) 341-7130.
Local artist Jerome Ferretti is a recipient of a Bemis Foundation Award.
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BY LOWELL BOILLEAU
If the art communit expects continued support from 1 it is time to think of wap to give tangible returns to the tax-paying
The recent debate over the state funding of the arts has underlined the fragile and marginal status of the arts within the entire framework of needs the state addresses Contrasted to demands for feeding children, providing law enforcement, or caring for the disabled, arguments for support of the arts pale in comparison. The intangible benefits of supporting the arts, which create a positive quality of life and thereby indirectly but significantly address the above problems, are less easy to see or understand. And artists, as a whole, are both aware and concerned with the above problems - quite possibly because they are often situated within the lower economic strata of our society,
The present granting system of the Michigan Council for the Arts has left the arts granting system open to the charge of "'artists' welfare." This stems from the stipulations of the grant contracts which essentially grant money to artists and institutions with few or no requirements of return to the state If the art community expects continued support from the state, it is time to think of ways to give tangible returns to the tax-paying public.
To this end, I propose that the role of the grant system be changed from one of the flat grant, with little demand of return to the state, to a “commissioning grant” system. Here is how it would work. Applications for grants would continue as before, where the applicant applies for a sum of money in exchange for a quantifiable activity to be undertaken during the grant period. In return, the state arts commission could claim ownership of any works of art created under terms of the grant period up to the amount of the grant as established by the market value of the work. These works of art, performances, etc., would then form a pool of artworks made available to state institutions,
schools, and offices who then could apply for these works through a voucher system to beautify their places and edify those who pass through them.
For instance, let us suppose that a painter has been awarded a $10,000 grant to create ten large paintings during his or her commissioning grant period. The visual documentation of these works would then be filed in an art “pool” for a period of perhaps two years. Let us also suppose that the large paintings by this artist have been selling for $2,500 a piece in galleries and elsewhere, and this has been stated as part of the grant application. In this case any four (4 X $2,500 = $10,000) of those painting could be claimed from the pool by applying State institutions. If any works are unclaimed after the two-year period, they would revert to the artist. Artists should be allowed to sell any works they have made during the grant period. After all, part of the aim of arts support should be to help establish artists’ economic viability in the “real” world. Obviously, notification of sale of a work must be made to the arts council prior to the sale, and replacement into the pool of another comparable work presented. Works under consideration for claim from the pool by state institutions could not be sold by the artist provided notification to the artist has been issued.
The result of such an approach could be uplifting for the state and the arts. Those lines at the Secretary of State offices (sure to be lengthened by budget cuts) would be
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In the letters column of the NY Times “Arts & Leisure” section (June 9), following a heated exchange between the authors of last year’s Jackson Pollack bio and Francis O’Connor, Pollack expert & “Catalogue Raissone” co-editor, came a third correspondence. One Norman Wasserman addressed O’Connor on the subject of a Pollack painting that the former owned and the latter (perhaps erroneously) deemed a fake. This painting had been examined by experts, including Lee Krasner, for several days - and even then, the woman who so prominently figured into Pollack’s
Being an artist in these post-modern can be like asking for permission to be a culturally irrelemt sonant.
creative life needed a second look, which her death ultimately prevented, to determine its authenticity. Here are the questions that asserted themselves in my mind: If the painting looks like a Pollack, walks like a Pollack, quacks like a Pollack, and EXPERTS think it may be a Pollack... If they tell us that Pollack made great works of art and this painting could be one of his own: Why, then, is this painting not a great work of art? How, then, could it be deemed virtually worthless? The answer is that Pollack’s paintings have no intrinsic value. That their value lies in the myth of Pollack, and the myth of art. A myth, I feel, we should take a closer look at. An instructor I studied with used to quote Paul Klee: “My work speaks for itself.” In this case, I don’t think it was the work that was doing the talking.
I was asked to write on why I am no longer an artist (arts-careerist). Truth is, I don’t know that I’ve stopped making art forever. But I don’t care to be involved in ‘arts culture,’ and feel that its importance is misunderstood, even
quite often by arts-careerists who fail to acknowledge that being an artist’ in these post-modern times can be like asking for permission to be a culturally irrelevant
savant, for the privilege of entry into what some feel is this country’s last temple of insider trading.
In essence, I swapped conceptual art for songwriting, though not by design at first. I thought I might do both. But as life went on, art became less relevant to me, and harder to get back to. Largely, I suspect, because I was dealing less and less with the ‘art world,’ and its attendant microculture. Also, because maybe, just maybe, I don’t gotta have art.
I felt I had specific ideas to communicate, and had done pieces dealing in social and political content. Back then in Detroit the prevailing attitude seemed to be that art and politics don’t mix., and in general agreement with Larry Rivers’ assessment that “Any art communicates what you're in the mood to receive.”
Meanwhile, The Clash was making international waves. The combination of a larger audience and a more accessible form were very attractive to me. And I didn’t feel one iota less creative. Still don’t, in spite of the fact that pop songwriting could be seen as a “commercial” endeavor, even for Tracy Chapman. No big deal. You work for the “man,” you might as well know it. Now, after five years in a ‘straight job,’ I freelance copy to finance the freedom to give songwriting a serious shot. When I write ad copy I know I”m working in the service of commerce, and maybe once in a while can make a slight difference, if only by challenging gender terms. The income will allow me to write and record, and then I work in the service of what Bertolt Brecht called “Lebenkunst — the art of getting through life.”
I still see an intrinsic value in the act of making ‘art,’ but I don’t think that it's in synch with the values propounded by art’s ringmasters. Let’s face it: folks have
smelled a rat for years (remember ‘R. Mutt’s’ urinal?). And, here in '91, how any artist can watch Jeff Koons address the wayward nature of the art market, and not give the whole enterprise a serious rethink is as mysterious to me as 'art' remains to most of the public (a condition which, I guess, is fine on art’s commercial level. But why then tell them “you gotta have art”?).
As Sussex philosophy lecturer Roger L Taylor puts it in “Art; An Enemy of the People:” “Art is a fetish...so mystification becomes part of the concept of art. ...one can say art is nothing over and above what the bourgeoisie classifies as art, ...but, from inside (art), such a thought is intolerable because it dismantles the beliefs that go with entering into (art) activities The beliefs posit the objective superiority of those things singled out as art and, thereby, the superiority of the form of life which celebrates them...It is out of this sort of logical mystification that the category of art emerged in the first place, that is, as an attempt on the part of the old order in society to make out its life was somehow committed to a superior form of knowledge.”1 (Itals., parens., & boldface mine.) Mr. Taylor would have enjoyed that NY Times column. I know that it’s difficult for some to consider that their actions in the service of “art” are not really for the “people” at all, and they are often inextricably bound to concepts like commerce and maintaining the “status quo.” That the “outlaw” and/or “transcendental” nature of being an artist quickly reduces to myth when seen in that light. That much art may not be as “universal” as we may suspect (How often do other artists say much beyond “uh...nice piece” when viewing your work?). What is “good” or “worthy” art, the kind you 'gotta have”? Well, if you wanna get in on process of definition, begin by asking “why” when you’re juried out of shows. Say you want to learn.
So where, then, is the intrinsic value in making art? Luis Bunuel said “artists cannot change the world. But they can keep an essential margin or non-conformity alive.” I think that one of the most valuable elements of making art is keeping that essential margin of non-conformity alive -in yourself as well as the world. But I don’t think you have to be an artist to do that And you needn't expect others to feel blessed by art’s presence.
The late Andy Kauffman once had an audience queue up to touch a boil on his neck. Yes, they did it, and that act says something about our culture in as impacting a manner as Nathaniel West’s “Day of the Locust.”
There are other ways to live and think creatively.
And, Gods know, we need them today.
l. Roger L. Taylor, “Art, An Enemy Of The People”, Humanities Press “Philosophy Now” Series, 1978
When not walking his dog, Jake, Tom Bloomer is now trying to change a different part of the world, in Minnesota.
G.R. N’Namdi Gallery Birmingham, Michigan May 31, 1991 - July 6, 1991
Bill Hutson’s new paintings, recently on display at the G.R. N’Namdi gallery, are abstractions that give the visual equivalent of biting into a York Peppermint patty. The cool, frosty quality of the color is invigorating and volatile. Gradually the temperature changes to an icy hotness, like that confusing skin cream sold on late night television. Rub it on cool, and as it slowly permeates it tantalizes, then warms, then burns. The sensations change so effortlessly that you are unaware of the metamorphosis. The initial feeling is one of being conscious of a quiet calm that gradually becomes an urgency of execution - not necessarily painted quickly, but intensely... with great gusto.
The backgrounds of the paintings are similar to the surface treatments found in Sam Gilliam’s early drape paintings. This drop-cloth quality, with semi-accidental splashes, splatters, and soaking, creates a rich foundation for Hutson to build upon. He then places a formal structure on top of this foundation: the architectural super-structure on a base of abstract expressionism.
In constructing the image, the acrylic paint he prefers is pushed as far as it can go - scraped, layered, soaked, blended, masked off. By working in this manner he successfully combines a
physical painterliness with an almost surrealistic illusionism and the improvisational nature of the underlying surface. This is an abstraction that is also related to the work of Al Loving and Ed Clark. All three of these painters have stretched the boundaries of abstraction to the breaking point, using everything and anything that passes before their eyes or into their consciousness as subject matter. Hutson’s jagged formations of paint, and layer upon layer of rich value and line become reflections of the natural world observed and jazz music absorbed. All of the paintings have an interplay between shape and ground, creating an effect of depth, spatial illusion, and movement. In Lancaster Series #7, a bright red strip is the obvious eye catcher, but it is just the beginning of a visual journey around the picture plane. The open door to the composition leads from the crimson strip on the right side of the painting to a centrally located stand of verticals that have Stonehenge formality...the same architecture, with all of its ritualistic potential intact. Acid greens, cold green blues, and the red make this a picture impossible to overlook. Lancaster Series #5 seems to be a lunar landscape, with a very high horizon. Striated shapes descend from the top of the picture plane and emerge from the bottom, distorting perspective, keeping the spectator off balance. With this outer-space feel - the ground being slightly tipped, the atmosphere chilly and foreign - there seems to be a great deal of distance between the scene depicted and the implied observer. On first
glance the pastel-colored ribbony strips in Voyage to Basra bring to mind the gaiety and frivolity of a carnival. Seen in contrast to a cloudy greyish-black mottled ground, they flitter, twist, and soar in an almost palpable wind.
DAVID FLUDD Faces of the Soul Paintings and Collages
Sherry Washington Gallery Detroit, Michigan May 16 - July 14,1991
David Fludd's one-person exhibit at the Sherry Washington Gallery, 1274 Liberty St., is powerful and challenging. This is one of the strongest shows that Ms. Washington has displayed in her two year old gallery in the L.B. King building in downtown Detroit.
The artworks seem to be portraits, but the opportunity to review them and spend time with each piece can change one’s perspective, as intimacy whispers secrets that a hasty first viewing might miss. Textures and
With added study, though, the colors lose their impact, and the emphasis shifts to the somber expanses between them. In the orchestration of this most recent body of work, Hutson proves himself to be a deft conductor, reinforcing the importance of the silences and subtle nuances of visual temperature that give substance and meaning to the silhouettes.
Gilda Snowden is a Detroit artist
layers draw the viewer beyond the obvious and into the realm of the psyche of the spirit/person that projects from within.
The artworks are not comfortable, settled images, but images that project hurt, weariness and the weight of time. Upon first viewing this series, I really believed that I had met or seen these image/spirits in faces I had known. The confrontational pose forces the viewer to address the spirit and secrets that are wanting to be heard. All the work is powerful, and has enough variety to project many interpretations. To help abstract the realism of the portraits, they are chronologically coded in Roman numerals.
The strongest works aggressively whisper their message to the viewer in several tones. Untitled I is a painted wash brown surface with the head scratched in, to expose a white line form of a horrified skeletal face. The mouth is ripped out - incapable of speaking at what it sees. The stare conveys a shock unable to be contained. This work speaks to the emotional, visual, and gut level. The gestural lines of the head are rhythmically well formed. In Untitled VI the texture, color, and surface embellishment pull the viewer in, recognizing the complex soul locked in a dark world. The subtlety of dark tones on dark tones discloses a disquieting form. The gray/white surround, with an under wash of pink, adds to the mystery. The transcendent glaze of sad, dark eyes, and dark coloring plead with the viewer for recognition and
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Ted Lee Hadfield. Reader's Prop, Steel, wood, bees wax, glass, 18"x96"xl0", 1989
Unlike many of the other portrait images, Untitled XVI shows an image of a person who is wearing a white robe (choir robe?) with hands folded in front on a ledge, with a white rectangle across the top of the hair, off balance and leaning in. This passive person belies a need to express the anguish within, but resting so as not to disturb the white shape above. The attitude reminds me of that of a church elder. The white scepter leans in precariously above, emitting a strong sense of power over her. Returning to the portrait form in Untitled XIX, the face takes on a new element. The eyes are set lower than normal, creating a disquieting look. A clump of real hair hangs from the left side of one eyebrow, while tracings of green, red, and yellow paint create an aura around the figure. Religious overtones? Across the surface of the painting are short peices of (the artist’s?) cut hair, sprinkled as a sub-layer within the paint. The placement of the eyes allows the soul/image to confront and stare through the viewwer. With the altered facial features, color lines, and
clips of hair across the face and backgroumd, this special work moves into the realm of spiritual alchemy.
Unlike Untitled XIX, Untitled XXIV portrays a mournful portrait minus the clipped hair texture, although the white washed inner background surrounding the trapped spirit has the textural clipping soft hair within the paint again. A staple placed across her lips stops her from speaking her pain — contained, with eyes that express years of anguish. David Fludd’s approach to this series is pushing the barriers of what a face can speak within a context of simple and silent forms: each a new frontier of exploration, all with the common bond of fear, degradation, and loss of self worth. The installation is beautifully hung by Shirley Woodson and Fredrick Washington. This is Mr. Fludd’s second show with Sherry Washington. The first was in 1989. He gradutated with a Master of Fine Arts in Painting and Print-making in 1991 from Yale University School of Art. He possesses a maturity of style and form that can only be more intriguing in years to come. His silent figures speak to the depths of the soul. James R. Gilbert a is Detroit Area artist
Feigenson/Preston Gallery Birmingham. Michigan April 29, 1990 - May 26,1990
Through his work, Ted Lee Hadfield endeavors to repair the fissures that separate the aesthetic, the cognitive, and the moral in Modernist thought. Specifically, Hadfield melds the discourses of art and science to an ethical imperative, demanding a holistic approach to objectmaking. As a visual artist, he works in the shadow of the pragmatism that has historically informed American consciousness, ironically caught in the situation of being an image maker in an iconoclastic culture. There is an artlessness to Hadfield's work in that it is not so much beautiful as it is precise and well-crafted.
The artist juxtaposes springs, bubble levels, ballcocks, and other counter-weighted materials with text and diagrammatic illustrations, creating balance within each work’s range of concerns. Hadfield’s larger peices are
I ■ I
Guy Goodwin. Giant Steps, oil on linen, 68"x95". 1991
reminiscent of the sculpture of Jon Kessler; but, where Kessler directly engages kitsch in his Rube Goldberg-like constructions, Hadfield aspires to the purity traditionally ascribed to rationalist thought. This show concentrated on a selection of smaller works (all 1990), each of which employs the image of an open book as its central motif.
The “book” that serves as the source for Hadfield's work is the codex of natural reason, which asserts a discernible order as operative in the universe, and defines right living as existing in harmony with that order. In Fear of the Tablet, the figure of the book is carved of stone, its otherwise blank sheets inscribed with the work's title. A gold pencil lays on a small stand before the book and a magnifying glass provides a detailed view of a portion of the stone. The work memorializes Hadfield’s inablity to maintain a sketchbook - the diary of the visual artist. It is also a conundrum on the artist’s deeper diffidence toward representation per se.
In Hadfield’s work, bits of the material world are presented in and of themselves, not represented; moreover, words are proffered empirically as the “things” of thought. As a visual trace of the voice, however, the written word functions perforce as an image -indeed, Jacques Derrida has pointed out that language itself is an exercise in metaphor - and the artifact, used symbolically as a metonym of the experiential, begets a proto-linguistic referentiality. This paradox exposes a mythical aspect to the truth-value Hadfield would seek to construct within the realm of signification.
Vincent A. Carducci is a Michigan editor of the New Art Examiner and Detroit correspondent for Artforum.
Susanne Hilberry Gallery Birmingham, Michigan April 19-June 8,1991
Guy Goodwin’s paintings grab you by the collar and say “hey, you!” before gently setting you back down, dusting
The surface textures in these works are flattened, scraped and manipulated -the paint assert itself as substance, but as :
you off, and inviting you to discover the subtleties hidden within.
The works on display at the Hilberry Gallery included recently completed oil paintings and a sculpture and painting from 1979. There is a gutsy muscularity in all of the work that at first may seem crude but not unsophisticated, if that is an anomaly that can be accepted. The basic format of the latest paintings is mazes of forms crowded in on one another like overinflated puzzles, with one dominant color scheme in each picture visually linking these forms. The earlier work has this same labyrinthine quality but one that is much less compact, and paint layers that are much thicker.
Color and tight compostion are
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used to create varying moods and sensations. Standing in front of the latest works one may initially see a path to explore, or a shape faintly reminiscent of a punctuation mark. Eventually these sparks of recognition give way to a certain strange headiness, as if the air were slowly being siphoned out. Only the residue (the color, surface texture, and the tightly linked designs) is left behind to offer any clue. The resultant visual atmosphere is intriguing, relective, and enigmatic. The surface textures in these works are flattened, scraped and manipulted - the paint doesn’t assert itself as substance, but as metaphor. The uniformity of the frontal planes of these large canvases requires a patient eye. This patience allows the visual relationship to become a more contemplative experience, after the initial assault of rock ’em sock ’em color. The footprint in several of the paintings becomes a motif to hang your hat on, but these are not pictures to be merely glanced at in a perfunctory manner. I am reminded of Ad Reinhardt’s black paintings, even though there is no physical similarity. They, too, demand that the observer become involved with the emotion on several levels, spending time on each one, because it is only then that the subtleties of shape, texture and value reveal themselves. In Giant Steps relating to the painting first by color makes one kind of sense until different spatial relationships begin to emerge.
Tart yellow-greens and blended blacks become interlaced forms with a decidedly visceral quality. The inclusion of a piercing shape in the lower left corner of the painting’s rectangle establishes a dynamic that the entire composition rests on. This thrusting form is almost comic in its simplicity as it fits neatly in (or on)a greenish yellow octogon. You come to the realization that if this one element were removed the whole thing would systematically fall, like a row of dominoes. Couple is both a noun and a verb. It describes both the fact of the union and the procedure involved in bringing them to-gether. The red skin of this painting is stretched over forms that grab opposite sides of the rectangle with one hand while reaching toward their mate with the other. They are separated by a dark brownish gulf that functions in form and in fact as the teeth of a zipper do, in their ability' to link up the two sides.
A number of years ago I had an opportunity to visit Guy Goodwin in his New York studio. Among the many works scattered around were a number of dense, black oil-stick drawings that were pinned to the wall. These viscous drawings of clenched fists were depictions of his own hand, holding a stone. The stone represented an inner core of power, strength, and also a dependable inner peace. The clasped fingers around it became a symbol for tenacity'. Fist, a small oil on masonite sculpture, is the hinge piece linking the paintings in the current exhibition with those oilstick drawings of years ago.
The overlapping curves of paint-covered wood in Fist are as tense and pent up as stubby fingers clad in brass knuckles. It has a vigorous, powerful presence despite its size, and is the icon without which the current paintings could not exist. In Them, the physical gives way to the illusion. Economy is the key - of stroke, of substance, and of story. What once was obvious is now opaque, and thought provoking in a much different manner.
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more tolerable with works of art to rest one’s eyes upon. Imagine the impact upon the powerful and well-heeled visitors at the International Terminal at Metro Airport exiting customs into the terminal to be surrounded by an array of paintings, sculptures and perhaps to be entertained by a jazz trio. Simultaneously, charges of “artists’ welfare” could be answered. Likewise, the works would be given exposure and could easily lead to further support of the artist by private sector art lovers to the benefit of the state economy and the artists, not to mention to the overall image of the state to outsiders.
This plan would require little change in the current granting structure of the MCA other than making provision for the art “pool” and the distribution of vouchers. The basis for such a system already exists within the Art in Public Places program. In return for this added effort,the state would be acquiring millions of dollars of art in comparison to the present system where very little is acquired. The money that the state already spends enlivening its offices could be saved when “free” work from such an art pool becomes available.
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It is important to retain the current application system to ensure that distribution of the commissioning grants would address geographic, minority, and gender considerations. Retaining the current granting structure would also guarantee that art forms that may be experimental or not enjoy broad public understanding would be supported. It may be that such art when placed in the pool would not be taken under the voucher system. If that is so, so be it. It is important that such efforts be supported just as certain theoretical physics projects with no tangible returns be supported, for often from these meanderings unforeseen returns become possible.
In short, the commissioning grant does not tell an artist what he or she has to make (unlike a straightforward commission) thereby creating “official art.” It would only state that what she or he makes must be acquirable and available to the public who, after all, is paying for it. For its efforts the state would be gaining millions of dollars of art beyond that which the present grant system returns.
The concept for changing the state's role in the arts from one of grantor to one of patron could have other applications. A state art pool file could be opened to include works of nongranted artists that in effect would provide a catalog for private sector buyers. Another idea might allow vouchers to be used by state institutions to acquire works by non-granted state artists on a matching basis up to a set amount. For instance, any state artist in the extended pool may have up to $2,000 of vouched work, provided the purchasing institution pay a matching amount. Possibilities for expanding this into the private sector could be made providing that the works were to be displayed only in areas of their businesses that are always open to the public. While all these formulas are open to adjustment, the basic idea remains that the state can support the arts and gain tangible returns at the same time.
The aim of this proposal is to give the arts a viable role in the betterment of the spirit and economy of our state. It is essential for Michigan, in this age of increasing internationalization and sophistication of our economy, to pay close attention to the image enhancing aspects that only the arts can provide. Other regions have
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Portraits; painters singers mothers daughters writers workers feminists
■ This exhibition is dedicated to the memory of Mimi Markiewicz ■
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Interrogating the Nude, by Doug Wright, is a fantastical mystery exploring the genesis of Marcel Duchamp's notorious painting, Nude Descending a Staircase.
Running Oct. 18 through Dec. 12, in rotating repertory
Incorporating multiple settings, the play disregards biographical aspects of Duchamp's life. It reorders them and invents others to create a thriller filled with shocking confessions, action and intrigue.
Wayne State University
(continued from page 11)
grasped this reality and now enjoy multimillion dollar economies that also make their cities and states attractive to businesses and tourists. What could be better for industrial Michigan than the development of such a high profile, low pollution industry?
Lowell Boileau is a Detroit Artist.
Shangri-la: an Installation by Kurt Novak September 13 • October 27, 1991
FOCUS On Faculty: Bernard, Johnson, Molyneaux November 1 - December 22,1991
Opening Reception: Friday, November 1,5:00-7:00 PM
Organic Sensibilities; Barbaa Cooper and Joan Livingstone January 10-February 21,1992
Opening Reception: Friday, January 10.500-7:00 PM
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• For the past 13 years Detroit Focus has served our community as the premiere alternative exhibition space for the arts in Michigan.
• At Detroit Focus hundreds of artists have taken part in shows and programs that have covered a full range of artistic expression.
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Recent cuts in Federal, State, and City funding threaten Detroit Focus Gallery's ability to fulfill its mission of providing options for creative expression in this region.
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Oct. 11 - Nov. 9: Flanders Revisited, Jeff Bloomer, Jeff Covieo, Tom Humes, Clynis Sweeny, curated by Sergio De Giusti and Jo Powers. A Studio Visit Program.
Nov. 15 - Dec. 20: Members, Old & New Invitational, Limit: 1'xl'xT size, $250.00 price, 2 works, hung by the Exhibition Committee.
New Ideas - Open Proposals, The Exhibition Committee invites proposal submissions for two shows (1992). Send proposals by December 1,1991 to the Exhibition Committee, Detroit Focus Gallery, 743 Beaubien, Detroit, MI 48226.
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