“Art in a living context” could be the subtitle of every show at 4731 Gallery on Grand River in Detroit. The street-level exhibition space and warehouse full of artists’ studios is so far west of the Cultural Center that it can’t rightfully be thought of as a “culture outpost.” Instead, in the tradition of Alley Culture and detroit contemporary, the two alternative galleries remotely near it, 4731 puts art “made in Detroit” back into the environment that spawns it.
The gallery’s current offering, “The Full Moon Show,” pairs Dave Krieger (a photographer who has spent decades forging a path into international publishing only to return to his Motor City roots) with Jerome Ferretti (a sculptor, painter and mainstay of the downtown scene). But much more than Krieger’s soulful black-and-white portrait of Ferretti brings these two artists together. In their images of urban folks and spatial relationships, these two prolific citizens capture a sense of beauty reinvented (Thelonious Monk called it “Ugly Beauty”) in the streets around them.
Krieger’s phenomenal photo output — whether in black and white or color — is represented here by 36 prints. In part, his half of the show is a hipster’s catalog of people who make artistic things happen: Our Majesty Andy Warhol, poet Jim Carroll looking worn and forlorn, Detroit DJ the Blackman in stark profile, Ozzy Osbourne acting almost human on a bench. Then, at the end of a row of media celebs, is a hysterical shot of Craig Kilborn (of “The Late Late Show”) reading a New York Times in a men’s-room stall.
Krieger’s documentation of pro sports figures includes a stunning color portrait of Michael Curry of the Detroit Pistons, a steely black and white of boxing champ Roy Jones Jr. and an ominously intimate close-up of Junior Jones, another champion boxer. Then, depending on where you start, the whole sequence begins or ends with a set of seven Washington, D.C., prints that, without digital manipulation, distorts the monuments of our nation’s capitol as if they were toys skwooshed by a very large toddler.
Ferretti, on the other hand, delivers a whole range of paintings in his latest report from the frontlines: a wonderful series of pastel-on-paper portraits of women, a generous helping of his devil-may-care, graffiti-esque panoramas and some larger and smaller works (including a theater-sized skyline of downtown Detroit that could serve as the backdrop for some playwright’s hopeful dream for our future, and a beautifully nostalgic watercolor of Tiger Stadium).
Known for his irrepressible color sense and sensuous-to-the-brink-of-madness drawing, Ferretti reaches a pinnacle with these pastel portraits (though, with this artist, it’s just the latest peak of many). Each image plays with the female form, both lovingly and rudely — and the ladies’ eyes, in particular, get a liberal interpretation. In one simple likeness, we’re drawn to naked shoulders against a dark background, but one of the eyes is an enormous blue globe, while the other is a tiny marble. And upon close examination, the “playfulness” idea gets thematically underlined, in each of the nine portraits, by references to golf, video gaming, chess or pool, etc.
Krieger and Ferretti make the city seem like the only place anyone could ever have eyes for.
“The Full Moon Show” featuring Jerome Ferretti and Dave Krieger is at 4731 Gallery (4731 Grand River, Detroit) through June 21. Call 313-894-4731.George Tysh is the arts editor of Metro Times. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org