How to Blur a Line, the current exhibit at Detroit’s Motor City Movie House explores questions of identity relating to the quality of our consciousness of the duality basic to our construct of meaning. This ambitious multimedia exhibit challenges the viewer not to take a singular position on what is perceived to be real and consider existence within the world of opposites, embracing its complexities without the need or urge to be polarized.
The gallery space is a welcomed contributor tothe rich cultural community of the Russell Industrial Center in downtown Detroit. Curators Marianne Audrey Burrows and Amanda Faye Cain take advantage of this ideal space for showcasing an impressively diverse selection of two and three-dimensional works of art, dedicating the open central area for live performance.
Dave Sanders set the tone at the opening reception with his solo live performance, breathing new life and intention into the words used to name the exhibit. He began by taking off his shoes and rolling out a 20-foot expanse of white paper and then meditatively proceeded to paint a black line down the middle, smudging its edges. Upon its completion, he lit the line aflame with devotional and ceremonial attention, causing a trail of smoking fire to travel in a graceful rhythm alongits entire length, eventually rendering the line ashen, blurred and indeterminate.
Alongside the remains of Sander’s piece lies an enigmatic sculptural form created by Tom Pyrzewski. The feeling of the form is organic yet it is composed of a combination of natural and unnatural elements, exposed and seemingly vulnerable, entertaining the possibility of a strange evolution or comingling of the products and bi-products of material consumption and our current understanding of the genetic seeds of life.
Ian Swanson resonates with this idea with his sculpture, “$$”, a graceful and somewhat etherealwave of molded plastic leaves cascading onto a mass of concrete andunnatural materials. The piece evokes a call or hunger for life and self-expression amidst the alienatingand dehumanizing fabric of the current urban landscape. Swanson “aims to understand different notions of personal and cultural identity” trying to define the moment of his experience and the experience of his generation at this particular time, embracing improvisational energies in his work “hovering in space between the slickness of mass production and the intimacy of labor and chance”.
Some of the artists grapple with this issue in more personal ways. Marianne Audrey Burrows’ “Self Portrait and Whip and Lover” is a bold mixed-media patchwork painting, representational, expressive and abstract all at the same time. The piece exudes personal conflict with its violent and aggressive strokes of darkness, yet the face of the protagonist, who is carrying a whip, maintains an openness and soulfulness, allowing a bird, her “lover”, to rest by her shoulder, showing a desire for love and intimacy as well as a desperate need to keep personal boundaries safe and protected.
Bill McLeod explores questions of self-identity with “Chrome Collage A12.psd”. He reveals a hybrid figure floating in an unidentifiable space. The figure’s legs are shackled together, each leg oriented in opposite directions, exhibiting wide differences in gender identification. The location seems unreal yet familiar with hints of darkness and blue sky, with both interior and exterior elements of the urban landscape.
Amanda Faye Cain’s “Seeds 5” also plays with notions of self-identity in the context of relationship. The photo shows two naked figures taking a bath together, communing with tenderness and intimacy. The scene is clearly loving but not necessarily sexual, although it could be. Creating particular scenes for improvisation, Cain“paralyzes” a moment on camera to allow for the possibility of breaking down barriers of self-conception in order to be stripped naked, and just see what happens, hopefully creating an environment for getting closer and spiritually interacting with one another, raw material against raw material.
How to Blur a Line features 15 artists, all from the Detroit area, calling out in a voice unique to their time and place, of their craving and intense need for new and more humane ways of defining ourselves and connecting with one another, hoping to break though the material elements and cultural complexities that create borders between us. They dare to blur that line.
~ Gabrielle Pescador, ArtSlant contributor from Michigan
(Images: Amanda Faye Cain, Seed #1, Digital Photography, 16 x 20; Ian Swanson, $$, sculpture; Amanda Faye Cain, Seed #5, Digital Photography, 16 x 20; Courtesy of the artists and Motor City Movie House)