With No Vacancy, the current exhibition at The Butcher’s Daughter Gallery in Ferndale MI, there is no fear of disconnecting from the ever-surrounding buzz of the mega-stimulating noise of the current cultural environment. The exhibit unveils clips of contemporary realities shown in works widely varied in material and process, and in some cases flavored with ironic social commentary.
Many of the pieces reflect the complex visual landscape of urban life. Michael Anderson takes the viewer on a pop cultural tour with his high contrast graffiti collages created from colorful images of street posters, where Valaire Van Slyck’s painting, “Untitled, 2009”, gives a sense of the pulse of the city from the perspective of an above-street level window, mixing visual metaphors, playfully exploring the geometry, colors and lettering of retail and product signage as well as exhibiting an artful use of mixed media. Guy Overfelt literally brings the street inside the gallery with his innovative and surprisingly aesthetic “Trans AM burnout no. 03 and no. 06”, by burning rubber on Belgian linen and Arches paper.
A few of the artists take on deeper issues but Michael St. John’s “Negros with Guns Series” hits the hardest with its dramatic expression of uncomfortable political realities. Each of the four canvases has a black and white print image of a murdered civil rights leader against a backdrop of empty white space and ominous phrasing, punctuated by a broad shock of hot pink, a cathartic use of color to express the ironic interconnectedness of blood and passion, violence and devotion, fear and hope.
For viewers interested in explorations with different media, No Vacancy does not disappoint. There are works with feathers, cigars, embroidery and silicone calking. You can find sculpture, video, photography and even pastel painting on paper towel. By bringing many artists together in a small gallery, Valaire Van Slyck, the curator of the exhibit, presents a dynamic community with a multitude of perspectives and ways of relating to the world we live in, leaving “no vacancy in art.”