2012 Press & Events

October 24, 2012

He Arrived Just In Time, by Robert del Valle, Real Detroit, October 24, 2012

James Johnson is a Philadelphia artist with an intriguing take on our relationship with the things we possess. No, he has no connection with the tv show Hoarders. He does, however, have a strong connection with the principal theme that supports I Come From a Serious Place. This solo exhibit that Johnson recently delivered to the Oakland University Art Gallery is imbued with a calculated mix of seriousness and bitter humor – the latter, in some respects, being a direct result of the former. Is the accumulated weight of our belongings a convincing or valid verdict on our self-worth and identity? And if it is, have we lost something irreplaceable in the process of “getting and spending?” Johnson posits that question in such a subtle way that it is virtually impossible not to answer it – even if the answer we give is an equally subtle lie. 208 Wilson Hall on the campus of Oakland University

Click here to read the full article.

October 21, 2012

The Four Horsemen of Detroit, by Lynn Crawford, hyperallergic.com

DETROIT — Detroit faces the best/worst of times. It teems with inventive artists and entrepreneurs whose work and presence generate solid philanthropy and investment. At the same time, increasingly severe budget cuts are hitting schools, police, firefighters and transportation systems hard; poverty and crime remain high. Understanding the city’s open land mass (roughly 143 square miles with a population of just over 700,000 — compare this to Manhattan with about 34 square miles and over 1,600,000 residents) helps to make sense of things. While extensive vacant lots and fields — outside of the densely populated mid and downtown — are problematic for establishing dependable infrastructure (grocery stores, bus lines and safety patrols), increasingly these sites provide locations for art, farming and neighborhood initiatives.

The works of sculptor Graem Whyte occupy the space between such inconsistencies. In 2009, Whyte and his wife, painter/dancer Faina Lerman, established Popps Packing, a community based, experimental art laboratory in their Hamtramck neighborhood on the edge of Detroit. Through this venue, they also produce land-based works that combine things surreal, conceptual and utilitarian. Among them: “Memory Field,” a radial grass formation in Detriot’s Calimera Park commemorating community members who have passed. Currently in production, “The Squash House,” a fire-damaged home the artists gutted and are rehabilitating into a multi-purpose space for racquet sports, gardening (yes, squash as a crop) and art shows/performances. Their project favorably recalls for me a Ghandi quote I’d previously found irritating (probably because it appeared on too many bumper stickers and Facebook posts), “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” Here it fits beautifully. Whyte and Lerman have a relationship with art and community that is intimate and transformative.

Whyte’s exhibition Remain Calm, in suburban Detroit, steps up his investigations of personal memory and public history. The works, at once astral and deeply grounded, read as a collaboration between the even-tempered, serious play of the late children’s TV show host Mr. Rogers, the risky, detailed voyages of novelist Jules Verne and pared down spinoffs of musician George Clinton’s Mothership. The word calm, for Whyte, may be defined as placid, but it’s the kind that brews before a really good idea or brainstorm.

The four large, playful, visually arresting sculptures (all 2012, all big enough to climb inside or on top of) revise the biblical story of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse by portraying each rider as exuding not doom but a tough, contrary optimism.

In “From One to Infinity,” Whyte turns the tale’s white horse, conquest, into enlightenment (or, as the artist elaborates, “conquest of self, not others”). It is a complex structure based on the Sedan, the ancient Egyptian chair used to convey royalty on the shoulders of slaves. It has a 9-sided footprint with 18 facets. Inside, mirrored walls insure that the one being transported cannot get away from a distorted reflection. The cube is tipped at a 42-degree angle (42 for both Detroit’s latitude and the artist’s age).

In “Make Love Not War,” the red horse, traditionally war, is transposed into a bizarre ping pong table in the shape of two 8-sided truncated cones joined at their tapered apexes. Visitors can pick up a paddle and volley, but not for more than a round or two before the ball falls to the ground. The interruption of the game, along with the chasing after and picking up of the ball before resuming, is part of the sculpture. The two transportable modules that make up the “table” can be taken apart and reconfigured to face each other, or they can be separated and set on the floor as silos.

In “The Mobile Ascetic,” the black horse, famine, becomes purification. The structure could be a tree house or deer blind. Visitors climb up steps and sit next to small sculptures (actual casts of ant colonies) and books ( among them, “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” in which the number 42 figures prominently) to read or hold while meditating or unburdening.

In “Every Death a Nap,” the pale horse, death, becomes sleep. A pillowy, translucent and cream-colored tent-like structure hangs from the ceiling. Part cradle, part bed, it holds two adults snugly (this piece perhaps gets the most use from viewers; by the end of the show it was lopsided) and appears to be ready for takeoff.

With Remain Calm, Whyte sets up a comforting yet complex environment to range, wonder, look, physically engage, think. Perhaps such thoughtful dreaming is required to somehow weave extreme things together. In any case, his project makes a fine case for Marcel Duchamp’s sentiment, “I don’t believe in art, I believe in artists.”

Remain Calm: Graem Whyte was presented at the Oakland University Art Gallery (208 Wilson Hall, Oakland University, Rochester, Michigan) September 8–October 7.


October 17, 2012

James Johnson's Artist's Talk: Forgetting is Really Important, noon Sunday, October 21

In conjunction with the exhibition
I come from a serious place
Curated by Cody VanderKaay

An Artist's Talk: Forgetting is Really Important

Noon, Sunday, October 21, 2012 (more…)

September 27, 2012

Announcing the 2012-2013 Season

Graem Whyte: Remain Calm

Curated by Dick Goody
September 8 – October 7, 2012
Opening reception: Saturday, September 8, 6 – 8 p.m.
This exhibition by Detroit artist Graem Whyte features four installations, which explore the dichotomies surrounding his paradoxical interpretations of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

James Johnson: I Come From a Serious Place
Curated by Cody VanderKaay
October 20 – November 18, 2012
Opening reception: Saturday, October 20, 6 – 8 p.m.
Philadelphia artist James Johnson explores the varied effects that possessions have on individual human consciousness and society as a whole. Singular sculptural objects coalesce with photographic images to form ever-changing constructs, ultimately allowing viewers to create highly individualized
narratives of ownership and identity.

Senior Thesis in Studio Art Exhibition I
November 30 – December 16, 2012
Opening reception: Friday, November 30, 5 – 7 p.m.

The Roving Eye: Aura and the Contemporary Portrait
Curated by Dick Goody
January 12 – March 31, 2013
Opening reception: Saturday, January 12, 6 – 8 p.m.
This exhibition of painting, drawing and video features the work of international artists: Michaël Borremans, Jeff Burton, Andrew Bush, Kent Dorn, Charlotte Dumas, Anh Duong, Pierre Gonnord, Debbie Grossman, Andrew Guenther,
Rosemary Laing, Loretta Lux, Scott Schuman — The Sartorialist, David Shrigley, Tereza Vlckova, Matthew Watson, Nicole Wittenberg and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye.

Senior Thesis in Studio Art Exhibition II
April 12 – May 19, 2013
Opening reception: Friday, April 12, 5 – 7 p.m.


Click here to view the press release from the event.

Graem Whyte Mixes Myth and Playfulness

From The Detroit News:

September 27, 2012

Graem Whyte Mixes Myth and Playfulness, by Michael H. Hodges

In the wrong hands, conceptual art is tedious or a snore.

Luckily, the opposite is true with almost anything Hamtramck artist Graem Whyte touches, as you can see in “Remain Calm: The Art of Graem Whyte” at the Oakland University Art Gallery in Rochester through Oct. 7.

“Graem is an extraordinarily intuitive fellow,” says show curator and OUAG director Dick Goody. “He’s just a force of nature.”

Whyte, who started in architecture but has morphed into an artist and sculptor, works in the foundry at the College for Creative Studies and runs Popp’s Packing, an ever-changing experimental art-scape around his home.

As Goody notes in the exhibition catalog, Whyte likes to work at a grand scale, repurposing materials and creating structures that mix myth and playfulness in equal measure.

“It’s a series of contradictions,” Goody says of the show. “There’s an element of bricolage,” or disparate elements thrown together, “as well as a magician’s-equipment aspect to it.”

All these are visible in the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse,” an ensemble work made up of four enormous, individually named constructions that dominate the Oakland show, and indeed, fill the entire gallery.

Two in particular bear mention. “Every Nap a Death,” which floats several feet off the floor, resembles a celestial bed chamber with an interior space that visitors can — and did, Goody says, at the opening — crawl into and lie down.

It’s a magic capsule, like something aliens with superior intelligence might use to zip from one end of the galaxy to another, an elegant transport with an ice-crystal exterior and a bed within of what looks white, pooled lava.

By contrast, with “From One to Infinity,” Whyte set a mirrored cabinet atop an amusingly big frame with wheels — all the better, apparently, to move around your living room till you find just the right spot. But be sure to look within. The interior is domed, and broken into multiple mirrored panes that create a dizzying kaleidoscope every bit as cool as the toys you peered through as a kid.

The show and its title both strike Goody as timely, given that we just had what he calls “the most rotten summer ever,” a reference to the drought and heat wave, and the climate-change fears they aroused. “So here you’ve got the Four Horsemen in a show called ‘Remain Calm.’ I don’t think Graem sees that as ironic,” he adds.


Click here to read the full article.

September 26, 2012

The Academy, the Student & the Artist: Panel Discussion, Sunday, October 7, 2PM

A panel discussion in conjunction with the Graem Whyte's exhibition

The Academy, the Student & the Artist

2PM, Sunday, October 7, 2012

Oakland University Art Gallery

Each year in the United States thousands of people graduate from university studio art degree programs. This panel discussion explores why and how the academy educates potential professional artists.   The statement, true or false, that artists are born and not made is an introductory part of the context for this discussion.  Also under scrutiny is the autodidactic artist; in the global contemporary art world, while they are in the minority, self-taught artists have proven to be a viable and resilient competitor for the academically trained artist.

The core issues under discussion are the viability of the academy as an incubator for professional artists, with specific conversations about academic best practices: objectives, labor, instruction and pedagogical philosophy.

66% of fine arts students are female. 67% of fine arts graduates find work in “the arts;” 10% of them as professional artists with a median income of $35K. Panelists will discuss the implications of such statistics and how they might shape a university degree program.  Lastly, panelists will look at the way the academy prepares students for the business of art or art as a business.

The Panelists:

Kevin Beasley received his MFA in sculpture from Yale University in 2012 and prior to this earned a BFA from the College for Creative Studies in Detroit. His work has been exhibited with The Butcher's Daughter in solo and group shows in Los Angeles, throughout Michigan and New York since 2009. Notable upcoming group exhibitions include “Some Sweet Day” at The Museum of Modern Art, New York (October 2012) and inclusion in “Fore,” the next installment of the Studio Museum in Harlem's historic “F” series (October-March 2012). Beasley currently lives and works in New York City.

Heather Darcy Bhandari is the Director of Artist Relations at Mixed Greens gallery where she has curated over sixty exhibitions. As a board member of Brooklyn-based NURTURE art, she is invested in fostering opportunities for emerging artists and curators. In 2009 she co-authored ART/WORK, a professional development book for artists published by Simon and Schuster.  She is also a member of the New Art Dealer's Alliance (NADA), and for the last two years she has co-chaired  programming for ArtTable.  Currently she is an adjunct lecturer in the Visual Arts Department at Brown University. Heather has an MFA in painting from Pennsylvania State University.

Gunalan Nadarajan, an art theorist and curator working at the intersections of art, science and technology, is Dean of the Penny W. Stamps School of Art and Design. Prior to joining University of Michigan, he was Vice Provost for Research and Graduate Studies at the Maryland Institute College of Art. His publications include Ambulations (2000), Construction Site (edited; 2004) and Contemporary Art in Singapore (co-authored; 2007), Place Studies in Art, Media, Science and Technology: Historical Investigations on the Sites and Migration of Knowledge (co-edited; 2009), The Handbook of Visual Culture (co-edited; 2012) and over 100 book chapters, catalogue essays, academic articles and reviews. His writings have also been translated into Mandarin, Indonesian, Korean, Japanese, French, German, Italian, Romanian, Serbian, Russian, Polish, Portuguese, Valencian and Spanish. He has curated twenty international exhibitions including Ambulations (Singapore, 1999), 180KG (Jogjakarta, 2002), media_city (Seoul, 2002), Negotiating Spaces (Auckland, 2004) and DenseLocal (Mexico City, 2009). He was contributing curator for Documenta XI (Kassel, Germany, 2002) and the Singapore Biennale (2006) and served on the jury of a number of international exhibitions, like ISEA2004 (Helsinki / Talinn), transmediale 05 (Berlin), ISEA2006 (San Jose) and FutureEverything Festival (Manchester, 2009). He was Artistic Co-Director of the Ogaki Biennale 2006, Japan and Artistic Director of ISEA2008 (International Symposium on Electronic Art) in Singapore. He was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Art in 2004.

Vagner M. Whitehead received his MFA in Creative Photography and Electronic Intermedia from The University of Florida. He is an Associate Professor of Art (New Media) at Oakland University. His work explores original, appropriated, and researched multi-lingual texts, found and created photo-based imagery, their translations and his interpretations, as allegorical devices that reframe transcultural experiences vis-a-vis mass media and communication technologies. He has exhibited his work nationally and internationally online, in group and solo exhibitions, as well as video and film festivals.

Graem Whyte studied architecture, but is essentially a self-taught artist. He has exhibited extensively in the metro Detroit area since 1998. Whyte and his wife, artist Faina Lerman, own Popps Packing, a former meat packing plant in Hamtramck, which they have renovated into their home, studio space, and an experimental art venue to host seasonal indoor/outdoor installations, exhibitions, and performances. Creator and curator of the weekly art showcase This Week In Art, at Motor City Brewing Works in Midtown Detroit, Whyte has also been involved in collaborations with a number of other American artists including Eddy Sykes and Mitch Cope. He was recently selected to show his work at the CUE Foundation in 2013, which will be his New York debut.

Moderated by Dick Goody.  Goody is Director of the Oakland University Art Gallery (OUAG) where he has organized over sixty curatorial projects, and written more than thirty exhibition catalogues.  These projects have been reviewed in national journals including Art in America and Sculpture Magazine.  An Associate Professor of Art, his most recent solo exhibition of paintings was The Decay of Lying at The Butcher’s Daughter, Ferndale, MI, in 2010.  In 2011, his work was featured in Painting Coast to Coast at the Elaine Jacob Gallery, Detroit, and in the exhibition Live from Detroit at Fred Torres Collaborations, New York.  He is currently chair of the Department of Art & Art History at Oakland University.  An active panelist and moderator, Goody’s recent appearances include: “Painting Coast to Coast,” Wayne State University, 2011, “Artist's Books: Multidisciplinary Approaches to Art Making,” OUAG, 2010; and “Detroit Breeding Ground,” Museum of New Art, Pontiac, 2009.  In 2009, along with Richard Tuttle and Lorna Simpson, Goody served as a review panelist for the inaugural Kresge Arts in Detroit Artist Fellowships.  His notable recent curatorial projects have included: Seminal Works from the N'Namdi Collection of African American Art, 2008, The Art of the Artist’s Book, 2010, Borders and Frontiers: Collage and Appropriation in the Contemporary Image, 2011, and Idealizing the Imaginary: Illusion and Invention in Contemporary Painting, 2012.

This event is made possible in part by the Oakland University, College of Arts and Sciences 2012-2013 Annual Theme: Creative & Critical Minds.


September 17, 2012

Stage & Canvas, Real Detroit Weekly, by Robert del Valle

September 12, 2012

Thematic Tango

Basing an art show on the gallop of the Four Horsemen of the non-Mayan Apocalypse is a project that would intimidate (if not defeat) the average artist anywhere, but Graem Whyte does not scare easily. Indeed, Whyte's ability to see the war, death, famine and pestilence derby as a multi-layered image of referential tangents is one of the chief reasons we're excited about Remain Calm, an ambitious solo exhibit he set in place at the Oakland University Art Gallery. Rather than depict the obvious effects or consequences of those menacing riders, Whyte has rendered up the inverse imagery of each one. This exercise in deliberate irony is not trite greeting card optimism, but a wise, philosophical and often humorous rejection of the overt nihilism of the present day. 208 Wilson Hall on the OU campus in Rochester. Also: We're also happy to note that Whyte plans to contribute The Ice Cave to the Detroit Art & Light Festival that's part of Art Detroit Now next month.


August 6, 2012

Remain Calm: Graem Whyte: Opening Reception, Saturday, Sept 8, 6-8PM

April 13, 2012

Opening Reception: AZIMUTH 23, Bachelor of Arts in Studio Art Senior Thesis Exhibition

Friday, April 13, 5-7:00PM

Click here to view the press release from the event.

March 30, 2012

thedetroiter.com | “Review: Idealizing the Imagery: Illusion and Invention in Contemporary Painting,” by Colin Darke

Great jazz musicians explode with individuality. You recognize the chords and the rhythm, but then the musician improvises and makes the song his or her own. The artist’s restlessness and spontaneity allows him or her to communicate truthfully with their audience, because the artist engages fully with his or her emotions and is not hampered by rules –yet the artist knows the rules. In my walk-through of Idealizing the Imagery: Illusion and Invention in Contemporary Painting, I felt that I was experiencing a great jazz ensemble.

Click here to read the full article.

Oakland University Art Gallery | 208 Wilson Hall | Rochester, MI 48309 | copyright 2019