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Loving Al — Detroit-born artist Al Loving, who recently died from cancer at 69, has been described as one of the first African-American artists on the national scene whose work was not about the black experience. But it may be more appropriate to say it was not received that way. Loving was influenced by his mother’s and grandmother’s quilts. Looking vaguely like a log cabin or mapped land, the asymmetrical geometric patterns that comprise early African-American quilts were abstract art before the New York scene took it on. Some of Loving’s paintings look a lot like the craft.

Al Loving’s art is at the Detroit Institute of Arts, where the African-American Art Department holds five pieces. Although not currently on view (works on paper are sensitive to light), his art would hang alongside pieces by Jacob Lawrence, Henry Ossawa Tanner and Lorna Simpson, among others. Upon a visit there, look around at the department’s vast selection, featuring some works about race and some not, and consider this: Does Loving’s work belong in a room qualifying him as black first, artist second? Here’s a tougher question curators deal with all the time: Is it still necessary for such a department to exist?

Art Beat beaten? — Since local gallery owner Robert Maniscalco packed up and moved his family to South Carolina, art enthusiasts have wondered what will become of Art Beat, the locally produced public television program Maniscalco hosted. Recently, Mansicalco told friends that Art Beat will not make the upcoming fall lineup due to lack of $25,000 funding. To help, send a financial contribution to Detroit Public Television, 7441 Second Ave., Detroit 48202.

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