REVIEW: Figment/Fragment: 2023 Stamps Senior Exhibition

The annual Stamps senior exhibition, Figment/Fragment, is a showcase of the year-long work of seniors at the Stamps School of Art & Design— “Art & Design” encompassing just about anything and everything you could imagine within those spheres, from 4D installations to traditional painting to wood-cut prints to dirt collections. The exhibition is arranged within a massive maze of large cubicles, each cubicle holding the work of one student, arranged neatly and creatively within a few square feet. As you could imagine, the experience of the exhibition is just as diverse as it is impressive. The work is symbolic and experimental, often exploring aspects of the artist’s identity in an unconventional process and molding together multiple mediums. The space echoes with the sounds, lights, and moods of each work, waiting to be explored.

I was particularly captured by the work of Alyss Munson, titled Dreams Ashore. Their surreal work draws together the concepts of the human experience and technology, through overlapping mediums of printmaking, weaving, and oil painting. The multimedia work explores the complications of modern identity through oceanography and marine life motifs, situating the subject in vast open water and ocean-floor ecosystems. It may sound like a lot, but like the work of countless other Stamps seniors, Alyss Munson has a way of expertly tying together far-reaching concepts, forming a beautiful and comprehensive mosaic of their artistic identity.

Another work that struck me was Multifaceted by William Mizer. He explores trauma and healing through these layered, transparent film photographs, portraying black-and-white portraiture and abstract scenes as narratives building on each other. I found this medium to be completely new to me, and I was intrigued by the way the layers of film interacted with each other, forming a narrative— and also intrigued by how he had reached this medium as the most ideal mode of expression. I was blown away by the creativity within each space.

Michelle Knappe’s Will You Sleep With Me? took the form of a life-like bedroom, complete with a bed, nightstand, and miscellaneous objects. The artist encourages the audience to walk through the space and interact with the bed and hand-made quilt; themes of isolation and human connection are communicated through the audience’s interaction with and perception of the quilt, which reveals delicate motifs sewn into its underside. I found that exhibitions like this, which encourage the audience to immerse themselves and explore, caught my attention the most.

Figment/Fragment was a beautiful display of the diversity within Stamps— the diversity of stories, of identities, but also of creative modes. I left the exhibition feeling more inspired to experiment and express myself without the bounds of genre or medium.

The exhibition is free to attend and easily accessible within the Stamps building! Figment/Fragment runs through the end of the month, so be sure to stop by and browse the student work if only for a few minutes! I especially encourage U-M students who haven’t seen Stamps artwork in person to attend— there is so much talent within this school, and it gives me so much pride to see it on display. 

Featured image: I’m Home Here by Caitlin Martens

PREVIEW: Figment/Fragment: The 2023 Stamps School Senior Exhibition

Last year at this time, I attended the 2022 Stamps Senior Exhibition. The range of mediums, subjects, and talents was astounding— there was every kind of artwork imaginable, from paintings to animation to interactive 4D exhibits. The Stamps school, in my personal opinion, does a subpar job of promoting student work; the walls and display cases are often empty, and the senior exhibition feels hidden away and not adequately promoted despite being held in the largest room in the middle of the Stamps building. As a Stamps student, too, I’m excited to attend student work exhibitions, but fellow students often either don’t attend or aren’t aware of the exhibition.

Last year’s exhibition blew me away— the exhibition space was an endless maze of large cubicles, each displaying the refined and deeply personal work of Stamps seniors. I loved how each student presented wildly different ideas, in wildly different forms— from found-object sculptures, to video game designs, to walls covered with curated images and sketches, sometimes incorporating sound or touch, or video. It was inspiring to see each personality shine through the work.

This year’s exhibition, titled Figment/Fragment, is bound to be just as exciting! It’s open from 11am-5pm on weekdays, and it runs through the end of April. There is also a closing ceremony at the end of the month— but, really, if you could stop by any time before it closes, it’s sure to be a worthwhile experience. It’s also a great way to connect with fellow U-M students and appreciate the endless talent of our campus community, which deserves a spotlight.

REVIEW: Survivors Saving Survivors: Photographing the Ukrainian Refugee Experience in Poland

Chuck Fishman’s recent exhibition of work, titled Survivors Saving Survivors: Photographing the Ukrainian Refugee Experience in Poland, is a portrait of love and not war. Fishman is incredibly talented at capturing this; his portfolio is full of waving public figures and energetic jazz musicians, exposing the subtle attitudes and tender moments behind distinct lifestyles rather than the suffering that plagues so much of the world. His work has been featured on the cover of many magazines like Time and Life, earning him a reputation as a recognizable and exceptional photographer.

This series of photographs was taken in mid-2022 in Poland, particularly in and around the JCC Krakow— the Jewish Community Center of Krakow in Poland, which provided endless support and resources to the influx of Ukrainians in the city— food, dinners, events, beds, et cetera. Because there was no wall reading to introduce the context of the exhibition, I gathered information about JCC Krakow’s central role in this crisis by reading the plaques beside the pictures. That is how I pieced together the meaning of Survivors Saving Survivors— Fishman is referencing the historical suffering of the Jewish community in Poland and their empathetic support for another group in crisis.

The portraits themselves weren’t very telling about the context of the situation, but they are intricately emotional; one image shows a mother with a tired expression gently comforting her children while they wait their turn outside the JCC distribution center, and another depicts heartwarming smiles between Ukrainians at a community dinner. Each moment is tender, disconnected from the chaos, but still subtly pulled by it— children playing joyfully in a too-empty playground and smiles dampened by a dissociative gaze. Every image frozen in time, although captured in an age of war and instability, represents the indomitability of the human spirit. Chuck Fishman doesn’t attempt to draw distinct lines between the Jewish and Ukrainian communities but rather depicts them as one entity in mutual solidarity— existing together through a shared experience and drive to repair.

The gallery space itself is small, just a single room with art on all 4 walls. It was manageable, though, allowing me to linger on each image longer rather than feeling rushed through it, especially taking in the differences between the photographs. All subjects were different, and locations were different too, meaning the context of one image didn’t necessarily carry over into another. This complex and human-focused approach to photojournalism is refreshing because it does not paint survivors of war as mere subjects of pity— instead, they are multi-faceted, ordinary people, attempting to build some semblance of normal life under strange circumstances. Strange is what Fishman seems to be getting at, yet in a more optimistic than pessimistic way. It is strange, he seems to be saying, that people will persist through anything, and especially persist with each other. It’s a beautiful strangeness.

The exhibition is running through the end of April! It is showing on the fifth floor of Weiser Hall in room 547. It’s right next to the Central Campus Transit Center, free, and open to the public, so make sure to stop by and see some talented work before the end of the semester!

 

 

PREVIEW: Survivors Saving Survivors: Photographing the Ukrainian Refugee Experience in Poland

In 2022, photographer Chuck Fishman traveled to Poland to photograph the influx of refugees from Ukraine. He wasn’t capturing the devastation and agony of the war, but rather something optimistic: the power of humanity in healing and uplifting communities and the ability for different groups to band together in times of exhaustion and pain. The Copernicus Center for Polish Studies, or CCPS, is holding an exhibition of Fishman’s work, titled Survivors Saving Survivors: Photographing the Ukrainian Refugee Experience in Poland. Surprisingly accessible at 547 Weiser Hall, which is right next to the Central Campus Transit Center, this exhibition is a great opportunity for students to learn about global current events, empathize with victims of crisis and war, and view the extraordinary work of an acclaimed photographer.

As a traditional artist, photography hasn’t been within my range of intense interests, but recent coursework and experimentation has led me deeper into the realm of reportage photography. I find photojournalism that has an empathetic and humanitarian approach fascinating— when the photographer strives to portray the complicated humanity within global crises, the audience is shown something emotionally important that is not typically portrayed through unbiased journalism. Chuck Fishman is noted— and has received awards— for his often black-and-white portrait photography of social and political issues in particular. He initially photographed Jewish life in Poland since 1975, and has traveled around the world to capture everything from the energy of political figures to joyous cultural moments in jazz clubs. His photographs have appeared on the covers of Time, Life, Fortune, Newsweek, The London Sunday Times, The Economist, and many others. I am intrigued to see how Fishman has portrayed the current crisis. and what kind of narratives can be brought to the surface.

The exhibition runs through April 28th, and it’s smack in the middle of central campus, tucked where you wouldn’t even notice it. Head to the International Institute Gallery at 547 Weiser anytime between 8am and 5pm to see some incredible work from an experienced artist and learn more about the Ukrainian refugee experience in Poland.

REVIEW: 27th Annual Exhibition of Artists in Michigan Prisons

Each year, the Prison Creative Arts Project (PCAP) at the University of Michigan organizes an annual exhibition to celebrate the 2D and 3D artwork of incarcerated individuals across the state. This year, the exhibition features works from 360 artists from 25 prisons, forming a stunning mosaic of 625 works— all with different stories to tell and drastically different mediums, but sharing a common passion for art as a mode of self-expression.

The work in the gallery is as diverse as you could imagine within a single gallery space, and far more diverse than you would expect from within prison walls. In terms of incarcerated artists’ resources, few are available; their small budget, when it fails, must be supplemented by any disposable material or item allotted to prisoners, such as toothpicks, tissue paper, ramen, and even blood, which are all used as mediums within this exhibition. The fragility of their resources doesn’t dampen the quality of the artwork but  rather imbues it with tenacity as well as a sense of masterful resourcefulness. This exhibition feels alive and buzzing with deep tension, each piece attesting to an emotionality that begs to be expressed even within despair and scarcity.

Condemned by M.J. Van Meter

When I stepped closer to a painting of a skeletal figure, one of many finely detailed works on a gallery wall, I realized that it was not a painting, but delicately carved bar soap with a layer of acrylic paint on top. I imagined all of the hours put into the construction of its curves, likely with a subpar or illegitimate carving tool. This painstaking work stands as evidence of the indomitable desire to create, and its transcendence beyond physical restraints; for incarcerated artists, art is both a beacon of hope and a weapon to break down the dehumanizing stereotypes surrounding imprisonment, rarely just a hobby.

Institutional Lobotomy by LIAM

Much of the art depicts the cruelties of the prison system— the separation of families, the bitter absence of human necessities, and the burden of emotional trauma. Many of the artists work in paint on canvas, although the two-dimensional art ranges from pen drawings to multimedia collages. The pieces most directly confronting incarceration are particularly colorful in their variety of expressions. Some artists took a surreal or even abstract route, inventing grotesque characters to represent their psyche; others pulled striking scenes straight out of reality, painting haunting memories with vivid oils. By contrast, a large portion of the works present placid and euphoric scenes— flowers pressed into ornate designs, loved ones with the sun beaming on their faces, three-dimensional log cabins made from scavenged materials— also expertly crafted. The passion poured into the more joyful work is just as evident as the passion put into the grim work, because, as a typical human response, hope is an essential component of resistance. By depicting some simple yet so out of reach, artists are reminiscing, or dreaming, or simply reclaiming their happiness from the oppressive grip of incarceration. Their labor-intensive work, done purely for the sake of it, is a slap in the face to a system that promotes and thrives off of the squashing of the human spirit. Art is resistance.


A Patient Man by Albert Krakosky

Much of the art is for sale, and some pieces cost as little as $10! The proceeds for sales will return to the artists so they may be used to purchase higher quality art materials. To learn more about PCAP, their mission, and to see (or buy!) the beautiful works of art in the exhibition, visit the gallery in the Duderstadt sometime before April 4th! The gallery is open Tuesday to Saturday from 10am to 7pm, and Saturday to Monday from 12pm to 6pm.

Featured Image: Portrait of Kamilla by Willie Anderson

REVIEW: Yves Tumor – Praise A Lord Who Chews But Which Does Not Consume

On March 17th, Yves Tumor released the anticipated follow-up to his 2021 EP The Asymptotic World. The full-length album, titled Praise A Lord Who Chews But Which Does Not Consume (Or Simply, Hot Between Worlds), features singles released over the past year, as well as fresh new tracks that carry Yves’ signature sounds— a mesh of rock, pop, psychedelia, and darkly ambiguous lyrics hinting at Heaven, Hell, and everything in between.

I approached this project with a bit of apprehension; Yves’ 2020 album Heaven to a Tortured Mind reinvented my understanding of genre, combining ethereal vocals with experimental instrumentation to evoke the awe-inducing experience of watching the finale of a firework show. I wondered how— or if— this kind of collage of genres could be improved upon without losing its dazzling freshness. Praise A Lord Who Chews But Which Does Not Consume absolutely did not disappoint. Despite dialing down the erratic theatrics of previous albums, Yves Tumor has re-emerged as an artist who is confident in his artistic strengths and knows how to show them off. With the help of Grammy award-winning producer Noah Goldstein (Kanye’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy), Yves’ signature sound is smoother than ever.

Praise A Lord notably conforms to genre, or at least a consistent voice, more than any of their previous projects. Yves finds the delicate intersection of theatrical pop and distortion-heavy rock, altering catchy pop melodies with thick and fuzzy guitar, layered instrumentation, and airy vocals that preach existential philosophies and poetic metaphor. The opening track, “God is a Circle”was released as a single in November and remains my favorite on the album. It opens with a scream and heavy breathing that melts into the melody, establishing a tone of darkness and obsession as Yves drawls “Sometimes, it feels like, there’s places in my mind that I can’t go”. The rest of the tracks fall into a consistent formula; Tumor’s delicate vocals, evocative of Prince’s versatile emotionality, float over sonic atmospheres packed with erratic chord progressions and synths that feel alive. “Meteroa Blues” builds on its drums and guitar slowly, bringing the song to an energetic climax of intense noise. The hazy interlude in “Parody” feels like crossing a liminal space between worlds. “Echolalia” is the most danceable track on the album, with fast-paced drums ushering in a catchy vocal melody. The last track, “Ebony Eye”, reminds me the most of the dramatic crescendo and electronic sparkle of Heaven to a Tortured Mind which initially drew me to his musicDramatic instrumentation, dreamy synths, and continually layered vocals create a landscape of sparkling colors and excitement. It’s the perfect ending to the album, encapsulating Yves’ willingness to try anything— and everything— at the same time.

Although Praise a Lord isn’t my favorite album (Heaven to a Tortured Mind always takes the cake), Yves has proven his maturity as an experimental artist. The album carries his ambiguous voice and imaginative style, but contains it within a more palatable (and radio-playable) format, balancing pop and rock song structures with contemporary instrumentation. Each track feels alive, having a mind of its own, almost always ending in a completely different spot and with a different attitude than where it started. It’s truly an immersive listening experience that is worth the time. Even if his unique approach isn’t something you are drawn to, it sparks thought about what genre is— or what it can be in the future, and what the pioneers of contemporary genres will sound like. Yves Tumor has, in my opinion, cemented his spot as a trailblazer of the future.

Praise A Lord Who Chews But Which Does Not Consume is available on popular streaming platforms. Yves Tumor is coming to the Majestic Theatre in Detroit on May 10th. Get your tickets while they’re still available for a unique live music experience.