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Big-Picture Minimalism at Gallery Project. 'Minimal Maximum' Features Strong Work from Local Artists

By John Carlos Cantu

Ann Arbor News Special Writer, Sunday, April 09, 2006

It wouldn't be entirely incorrect to say the Gallery Project's "Minimal Maximum'' is much ado about almost nothing.


The artists involved in this show seem quite proud of the fact that their cutting-edge creativity is quite nearly as minimal as one can get.


The exhibit's curators are local artists Beili Liu, Jennifer Locke and Graceann Warn. Other Ann Arbor artists on display are Larry Cressman, Deanna Krueger and Anne Rubin. Cynthia Randolph, Andrew Simsak and Amanda Thatch represent Detroit. And other Midwesterners are Gretchen Goss (Cleveland), Brad McCombs (Cincinnati), Jack McLean (Chicago) and Gary Setzer (Bowling Green, Ohio); while representing the West Coast are Emily de Araujo (Los Angeles) and Jonathan Stevens (Pasadena, Calif.).


What each artist brings to the display is a post-modernist riff on the minimalist style of art championed by such diverse talents as Carl Andre, Dan Falvin, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Donald Judd, Sol Lewitt and Robert Morris.


As the exhibit's gallery statement says, borrowing from Judd's 1965 "Specific Objects'' essay, "It isn't necessary for a work to have a lot of things to look at, to compare, to analyze one by one - to contemplate. The thing as a whole, its quality as a whole, is what is interesting.''


This isn't a deliberate hometown bias, but Ann Arbor's contingent has contributed some of the best art in this display. Cressman's "Fieldwork I'' and "Fieldwork II'' (using graphite, sticks and pins in a horizontal pattern) as well as Liu's "273 Min'' (a serial set of waxed papers burnt at the center with concentrated fire) are intriguing applications of minimalism.

Likewise, two Washtenaw Community College-affiliated artists, Rubin and Krueger, have contributed memorable artworks to the display. Rubin's hydrocal and graphite homage to Wallace Stevens, "At evening casual flocks ... make Ambiguous undulations as they sink, Downward to darkness on extended wings,'' are panels darkly reflective of the mysterious Paleolithic-tinged art she's been producing for roughly a decade now. And Krueger's magnificently shimmering graphite and acrylic in polymer emulsion "Day for Night'' is a prime example of the prize-winning minimalist art that took last year's Chelsea River Gallery "Lure of the Local'' invitational by storm.


This local focus is not to take anything away from the other artists participating in the show. In particular, McCombs' "Elemental'' mixed-media installation and video is quite interesting in his single-minded devotion to the solitary line. And Simsak's vinyl tubing, zip tie, electric pump and water "Sleeping Bag (personal space)'' is a thought-provoking installation piece.


Maybe the lesson of this intriguing display is that our region is a hotbed of minimalist talent. These minimalist connections may have been difficult to see in the absence of a group show.


"Minimal Maximum'' will continue through May 7 at Gallery Project, 215 S. Fourth Ave. Exhibit hours are noon-9 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and noon-4 p.m. Sunday. For information, call 734-997-7012.