Special exhibition at EMU University Gallery: Subverting Modernism; Cass Corridor Revisited 1966-1980

Exhibit displays the individual styles and broad meanings of Cass Corridor artists during this time

by Geoff Larcom, Published February 20, 2013

The Art Department at Eastern Michigan University, in partnership with Central Michigan University and Wayne State University Art Collection, presents "Subverting Modernism: Cass Corridor Revisited 1966-1980." The show runs from March 11 through April 28, 2013 at the University Gallery in the EMU Student Center (900 Oakwood).

Visit the Art Department website for more information about the show.

University Gallery hours are Monday and Thursday from 10 am. to 5 p.m.; Tuesday and Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; and Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

An opening reception will be held on March 20 from 4-7 p.m., featuring a lecture, "Envisioning Real Utopias in Detroit," by Vince Carducci at 6:30 p.m. in the EMU Student Center, Room 310 A and B.    

A film screening of "'Images' from Detroit's Cass Corridor" will take place on March 27at 5:30 p.m. in the Halle Library Auditorium.

About the Show: In the late 1960s, revolution was in the air in Detroit, with radical leftist activity focused in the Cass Corridor, a run down area near Wayne State University. Feeling the revolutionary spirit, local artists also broke with tradition by overthrowing Modernism, the dominant New York art critical theory of the post-WWII era, and ushering in the Post-Modernism pluralism seen throughout American art in the 1970s.

Conventional wisdom has held that these Cass Corridor artists, as they have come to be called, were essentially "urban expressionists," responding to the decay and danger of post-industrial Detroit, a thesis most thoroughly set forth in Kick Out the Jams, a 1980 exhibition at the Detroit Institute of Arts.  Subverting Modernism: Cass Corridor Revisited, a much-needed scholarly reappraisal of this art movement, debunks this notion, positing instead that each Cass Corridor artist created his or her own individual styles and meanings, cross-fertilized at times by the work of his/her fellows.

While early pieces in the show push hard at the boundaries of Modernism/Minimalism, other works break forth from these limitations to create meanings of great universality, such as our need for shelter or the persistence of the life force, both human and otherwise. Many of the works speak of Detroit, both in its industrial and post-industrial stages, but they also encompass and transcend the specifics of time and place and address issues that have significance for all humans, such as violence and vulnerability, the presence or absence of order and structure in nature and human life, and our millennial old desire to make music and dance. Thus the exhibition has been divided into eight thematic sections:  "The Critique of Pure Painting and Sculpture," "Minimalism/Industry," "Complexity," "Violence, Destruction, Decay... and Renewal," "Vulnerability," "Shelter," "Music/Dance/Industry," and "Nature/Geometry."

Subverting Modernism is a multi-year collaboration between Eastern Michigan University, the Wayne State University Art Collection, which is lending most of the works in the exhibition, and Central Michigan University, where the show will open on January 10, 2013.

The exhibition and accompanying 100-page catalogue will allow art lovers to see important Detroit art that is not usually accessible to the public. EMU art history professor Dr. Julia R. Myers's extensive research, which included interviewing the artists, consulting hundreds of newspaper articles from the late 1960s and 1970s, and using archival materials in both Washington, D.C. and Detroit, makes for a thoroughly new look at the exciting work of these important Detroit artists. This flourishing of artistic expression in a city not traditionally viewed as an "art center" should be recognized, valued, and prized, as this exhibition will do.

For more information or high resolution, printable images of works in the show, contact:

Julia R. Myers, Professor of Art History, EMU, jmyers@emich.edu, 734-487-1268

Greg Tom, Gallery Program Director, EMU, gtom@emich.edu, 734-615-0624

About the EMU Art Galleries:
The mission of the art gallery program at Eastern Michigan University is to present innovative exhibitions that complement the University's academic offerings; support faculty research through the provision of exhibition space; provide a viable resource for arts management training; educate the university and greater Southeast Michigan communities about the forms and issues of contemporary and historic art from all cultures; and fill a unique niche in the region as a venue for exhibitions that enhance the reputation of the Eastern Michigan University Art Department.

Geoff Larcom



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