Two exhibitions of abstract paintings by renowned local artists Ed Fraga and Sergio De Giusti are among the victims of the coronavirus lockdown.
The two galleries showing their work – the Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center for Fraga and the Camille Gallery in Detroit for De Giusti – are now closed, but each will let you in by appointment.
Artists with exhibitions in this uncertain time are among the millions who have suddenly seen their lives take a lousy turn – in this case, losing the coveted exposure and sales that exhibitions at well-known galleries can bring. Add to that the fact that artists often spend years assembling the material for a single exhibition, so closing it halfway through is truly a misfortune.
Both shows deserve a spotlight. Each in their own way creates a self-contained and very satisfying little world.
With “Rising”, whose broadcast has been extended until June 4, the Kresge Artist Fellow Ed Fraga offers us around 14 canvases, all painted with abstract and metaphorical images. And in the center of the room is an architectural construction called “The Table of the Architect / Buildings of the Sanctuary”.
The artist explains that the project started when a friend found some architectural plans in the trash and passed them on to Fraga. They turned out to be by local architect John Hilberry, a friend of the artist, and were plans for a combination church, synagogue, and entertainment center.
Fraga told Hilberry he wanted to paint over it and the architect encouraged him to go ahead.
But they are not completely painted in most cases. Fraga created a series of palimpsests, where a pre-existing work appears through the superimposed new one. You can also call them a form of repentance.
“I wanted to kind of honor the memory of what the works were like,” Fraga said, “and in some cases I let the paper and blueprint marks show through.”
Some paintings, like “In my father’s house” or “Temple”, are architecturally inspired. But many others have no direct connection to the plans – apart from Fraga inserting people here and there, because as he said, “Without people, it’s just buildings”.
Perhaps most striking is the marvelously named canvas, “Snow Globe for Van Gogh”, the final version of a piece that Fraga worked and reworked for years. In it, an abstract landscape is enclosed in a womb-shaped snow globe.
“It came out of nowhere and reminded me of a Van Gogh painting,” he said, “one of his thatched cottage landscapes.” And, he added, “I love the pun.”
If the atmosphere of “Rising” by Fraga is metaphorical and a little veiled in mystery, the landscapes of “Temporale” by De Giusti at the Camille Gallery in Detroit are imbued with a time that is both turbulent and threatening.
It’s fitting, because “Temporale” means “thunderstorm” in Italian.
De Giusti, who is best known as a sculptor whose works can be found at Wayne State University, Hart Plaza and many other sites, admits there is a certain consistency in his paintings.
“My watercolors have this kind of sadness,” he said, “a sense of impending doom. I don’t know why. I just like the darkness.”
These are not faded purple watercolors. They are aggressive and rugged, and in many cases quite moving in the style of grand historical landscapes. Indeed, in an artist’s note, De Giusti quotes the 19th century romantics, for whom nature was a substitute “for death and for the conditions and problems of the time”, as he put it.
There’s a bit of a message behind his angry landscapes related to climate change and the fury unleashed across the world.
For those who love De Giusti’s sculptures, rest assured – there are a limited number of very good works included in this show which, by the way, is all about watercolors.
Interestingly, De Giusti hadn’t picked up a brush in ages, until he started this series about four years ago.
“I haven’t done watercolor since I was at Wayne State University,” he said, “and that was a few years ago. But the medium has always fascinated me. .I guess I like it because it’s kind of spontaneous, like doing the patinas on my sculptures.”
“Temporale” is scheduled until April 4.
“Rising” by Ed Fraga
Until June 4 – open by appointment
Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center, 1516 S. Cranbrook, Birmingham
Temporale by Sergio De Giusti
Camille Gallery, 4130 Cass, Suite C, Detroit
Until April 4 – open by appointment