by Liz DiDonna
When you drive by the corner of Cass and Michigan in Detroit, do you ever stop to look at the big, orange funky thing in front of the Ameritech building? Did you know its creator is the world famous sculptor Alexander Calder? Ever enjoy sitting in the cool grass underneath the huge, brooding, insectlike steel structure on the grounds of the DIA? What is that thing anyway?
Answers of grand artistry and historical sustenance will be found in the revised edition of Art in Detroit Public Places by Dennis Alan Nawrocki. Nawrocki, professor of art history at the Center for Creative Studies, has added 40 more works to this revised edition for a total of 120, all of which can be found in a 20-mile radius of downtown Detroit. Although this book can be appreciated as a historical document of public art and artists – as well as of Detroit as a whole – its compact size and included maps allow it to be used as a guidebook for sightseers.
Many of these pieces are not justly served by the black-and-white photography, such as Tyree Guyton’s colorful polka-dot world called the Heidelberg Project – "Partially demolished in 1991 and 1999 by unsympathetic city administrations," writes Nawrocki. However, this lack entices the reader to go beyond the book and fully experience these wonders in person.
Public art is a treasure to embrace, since it has no time schedule and no admission price. This book reminds us all that Detroit has a rich history of great public art that is to be appreciated, enjoyed and supported.
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