In conjunction with the Flint Youth Media Project, the FIA will exhibit the award winners of the 2021 Flint Youth Film Festival. The Flint Youth Media Project introduces the art of filmmaking to people ages 13–30 and college students regardless of age. In addition to a series of free filmmaking workshops, the program provides opportunities for participants to share their work with peers, professional filmmakers, screenwriters, and the public.
Warm Objects was produced by Peggy Ahwesh in close collaboration with the engineering research center MIRTHE (Mid-InfraRed Technologies for Health and the Environment), an organization dedicated to the development of optical trace gas sensing systems. Utilizing MIRTHE’s imaging technology, scenes of everyday incidents are transformed by infrared photography into glimpses of our world through an alien lens. Two insertions of on-screen text betray the artist’s ominous implications. The first is a meditation on Rudyard Kipling’s oft-quoted “Truth is the first casualty of war,” while the second takes the form of a hastily crafted e-mail, suggesting that its author has become withdrawn and pessimistic out of fear of some pending disaster. Warm Objects is a portrait of the world in uncertain and paranoid times.
Modeling Paranodal Space is part three of Zach Blas’s Contra-Internet Inversion Practice series. Contra-Internet Inversion Practice confronts the transformation of the internet into an instrument for state oppression and accelerated capitalism. Invoking a practice of utopian plagiarism, Contra-Internet Inversion Practice experiments with queer and feminist methods to speculate on internet futures and network alternatives. Blas is an artist, filmmaker, and writer whose practice spans technical investigation, theoretical research, conceptualism, performance, and science fiction. He is a Lecturer in the Department of Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths, University of London.
Although the method and final product may look different, the concept of the human form has been providing sculptors with inspiration for thousands of years. In Western art, the human form has evolved from ancient Greek mythology to religious subjects, to figures that are highly abstracted. As some sculptors in the 20th century opted to turn away from recognizable imagery to begin experimenting with new materials and more expressionistic representations. Traditionally artists worked in materials like metal, stone or clay; however, contemporary artists began to use a variety of materials like glass resin or found objects, as their primary medium. This exhibition explores the rich history of depicting the figure in three dimensions with sculptures spanning over five centuries.
At the turn of the 20th century, the concept of abstract art began to gain traction as artists explored making images that were not based on recognizable forms found in nature. Artists no longer felt the need to imitate the world but rather explored how they could express their emotions through abstract concepts and forms. The artists in this exhibition used a wide range of materials, techniques and concepts, moving away from realistic representation toward abstraction, embracing movements such as Minimalism, Abstract Expressionism, Constructivism, and Kinetic art.
Evoking stress, tension, anxiety, and amazement, the video performance Release pushes glass—and the viewer’s nerves—to extremes. Artist Leana Quade reveals the amazing proprieties of glass while mimicking feelings one may have when approaching a simple, yet terrifying task. Using a sheet of tempered glass, a ratchet strap, and nerves of steel to slowly bend a sheet of glass until it explodes, the process as well as the result was more intense and terrifying than she anticipated. Excitement turns to anxiety within the simple process of clicking a ratchet strap. The viewer shares the dread and nervousness of the artist, watching as she struggles every click of the way.
This exhibition features 24 works donated by Flint native Jack B. Pierson. Drawing on Pierson’s experience as a gay man, Political and Personal: Images of Gay Identity sheds light on the important role sexual identity played in informing his collecting habits. Highlighting the work of several well-known and lesser-known gay artists and works by heterosexual artists, this exhibition captures the multi-dimensional nature of gay identity in the 20th century.
Pierson was employed by General Motors following World War II and later moved to Long Island with his life-long partner, Robert Martin Purcell. In 1976, following Purcell’s death, Pierson began donating his print collection to the FIA and continued to collect and donate additional works until his death in 1997. Among the hundreds of prints that Pierson collected, several focused on public identity, social activism, as well as gay love and attraction.
Using ink, gouache, white-out, and even coffee, Jake Fried creates hallucinatory vistas by modifying and shooting the same image over and over again. The result is a mind-bending animation at a frenzied pace. Beginning his career as a painter, Jake Fried was drawn to the process of layering and modifying images, which led him to pursue animation. Fried is an instructor at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
In Binocular Menagerie, Thornton plays with vision, perception, and transformation. A series of images of animals—a virtual menagerie of birds, reptiles, and mammals—is framed within a format of two circular windows. Each animal's movements on the left are remapped into an elegant abstraction on the right, transforming the "real" into a digital kaleidoscope. In this unexpectedly profound meditation on the minutiae of perception, the smallest shift in the animal's movement ripples into resonant motion, multiplied, recast, and folded back upon itself. Thornton's manipulations intensify the viewer's focus, offering revelatory ways of seeing and perceiving the ordinary that is both strange and beautiful.
In the 1950s the Eskasizer belt machine came out as one of the first electric machines that promised to firm women’s bodies. In Eskasizer–Jennifer, Sally, Hillary, and Gabri, choreographers and video artists Andrea Lerner and Rosane Chamecki present four women, each with a different body shape, age, and background. They move in repetitive, and yet, unpredictable ways, reflecting the constant force of the machine that manipulates their bodies. The work is a collection of extreme slow-motion takes, in which the camera is zoomed in to the point that the women’s identity gradually blurs into abstraction. Their bodies are not acting on their own impulses and desires. Instead, they are passive—with their hips, knees, and legs yielding to the external forces.
Posing Beauty in African American Culture explores the contested ways in which African and African American beauty have been represented in historical and contemporary contexts. The exhibition does this by presenting a diverse range of media including photography, video, fashion, advertising, and other forms of popular culture. The first of three thematic sections, “Constructing a Pose,” considers the interplay between the historical and the contemporary, between self-representation and imposed representation, and the relationship between subject and photographer. The second section, “Body and Image,” questions the ways in which our contemporary understanding of beauty has been constructed and framed through the body. The last section, “Modeling Beauty & Beauty Contests,” invites us to reflect upon the ambiguities of beauty, its impact on mass culture and individuals, and how the display of beauty affects the ways in which we see and interpret the world and ourselves.
Jack Willson Thompson Fund and the Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation Program Fund of the Community Foundation of Greater Flint
At first glance, what looks like chaotic and abstract brushstrokes and pencil marks are actually meaningful images—all part of Purvis Young’s rich visual lexicon. Boats, horses, warriors, and prisoners fill his canvases (wood panels, discarded receipts, and pages ripped from books)exploring themes of both freedom and imprisonment. Although he was considered the unofficial historian of his neighborhood of Overtown, Miami, the themes in his work are universal to the Black experience. Young’s paintings and drawings became his voice of protest for the injustices he and his community experienced. On his bicycle, he circled his neighborhood, gathering materials, supplies, and inspiration for his works. In 1964, while serving three years in prison for breaking and entering, Young studied art books and pored over Old Masters such as Rembrandt and El Greco. It was during this period that he experienced a shift in consciousness in which he realized that he could use his art to express himself and his grievances with the world. After his release and move to Miami’s neighborhood of Overtown, he began painting and never stopped until his death in 2010.
In Mound, Allison Schulnik creates an alternate world where over 100 hand-sculpted and sewn figures morph with fluid movements. Their bodies dance and sway in a melancholic fashion to the haunting 1969 recording of It’s Raining Today by Scott Walker. The artist uses traditional stop-motion techniques, shooting each image frame by frame, without the use of special effects or digital manipulation. Comprising over 6,000 frames, the film took nearly eight months to create. Schulnik received a BFA in experimental animation from the California Institute of the Arts. In addition to art making, she has a background in dance and music.
Thinking Hurts Too Much is a moving collage of internet-mined, pop culture footage. The glut of disparate, disconnected, and disembodied figures, some real (like former California governor and actor Arnold Schwarzenegger and pop star Mariah Carey) and some imaginary (Peanuts cartoon character Charlie Brown and DC Comics’ Batman), perform on layered keyhole stages, serving as a reminder of our profound knowledge of images aimed at the edge of acceptability and decency. The thousands of images pieced together become a provocative and poignant portrait of American excess and the constant desire for new and more extreme visual stimulation. Featured on the cover of ARTNews in 2013, Cameron Gray was presented as an example of an artist working in “The New Collage.” Gray describes this new approach “as a reaction to the culture that’s already there” and the inherent patchwork nature of the internet. Art blogger Adam Tetzloff describes Gray’s work in this way: “Like the culture that inspired it, the work is an eye-melting overload of images and ideas, as if the Internet suddenly ruptured and spewed forth into the black light din of Spencer’s Gifts. At once whimsical and menacing, the overlapping, ever-shifting, neon barrage of sights and sound seems at first to border on satire, skewering pop culture and the tropes of contemporary art.”
While we live in a three-dimensional world and our brains are trained to see height, width, and depth—mathematicians, physicists, and artists have long considered the fourth dimension and its possibilities for alternative realities. Although authors and scientists have sought to describe the concept, it is inherently intangible and invisible. Einstein defined it as “spacetime,” a mathematical model that fuses the three dimensions of space and the one dimension of time into four dimensions. Philosophers consider a metaphysical meaning, seeing it as the connection between the mind and reality. Artists, since the early 20th century, tried to represent the fourth dimension, moving beyond realistic representations of the world toward abstraction. The plasticity of glass in its molten form has enticed many artists to explore non-objective, or abstract, forms since the beginning of the Studio Glass movement in the 1960s. Whether it is an intentional optical illusion or just the natural properties of glass, each artwork in this exhibition implies something beyond height, width, and depth. In this exhibition, you are encouraged to look at the object from multiple angles to allow for different viewing experiences.
The Dark, Krystle features a montage of Linda Evans and Joan Collins from the 1980s evening soap opera Dynasty. The film rekindles issues of identity, consumption, and excess in 1980s pop culture. Michael Robinson reconfigures the rivals’ melodrama in repetition—theatrical breakdowns, nasty glares, excessive drinking—allowing viewers to feel the clichés recharged with new emotional power.
The photographs in Field of Vision show how landscape continues to be a subject artists turn to when contem-plating the world around us—from the places we live, where we travel, and what we aspire to see. Since the medium was invented in the 19th century, photographers have approached landscape in many different ways. Early examples generally mimicked landscape paintings in terms of composition and theme but artists quickly realized the unending potential for creative expression. While some focus on land unaltered by the human element, others see this interaction between humans and nature as a fundamental part of their narrative. Photographers also consider if they want to capture the scene in a realistic, or objective manner or if they want to manipulate the composition to create abstraction. This exhibition includes sixteen photographs that illustrate the diverse ways artists approach the subject of landscape.
Beginning at the turn of the 20th century, artists began exploring the effects of creating purely abstract images where any likeness to a narrative would be coincidental. By composing expressive applications of color, line, and form, that intentionally had no subject, artists found that viewers would experience sensations and feelings not unlike those they have when listening to music. The movement evolved, taking on many forms and leading up to its zenith in mid-century when artists were characterized by powerfully expressive techniques of heavy gestural applications. Artists of the late 20th century through today sought new approaches and methods to maximize the medium’s emotional and expressive potential.
Alex Hubbard’s videos involve carefully choreographed and dynamically composed studio experiments with objects, paint, construction, and deconstruction. Hubbard is a Los Angeles- based artist whose work encompasses video art and painting, exploring the boundaries of each via a cross-examination that invigorated both media in new and inventive ways. Avoiding a single point of focus, Hubbard constructs his videos in layers, engulfing the viewer with bold colors, performative gestures, and evolving compositions in which movement is multi-directional and time appears to be non-linear. Often described as “moving painting,” the videos are a record of physical creation and destruction, with the hand of the artist tangible, and sometimes visible, in the frame.
In Untitled (Pink Dot), Takeshi Murata transforms footage from the 1982 Sylvester Stallone film Rambo: First Blood into a swamp of seething electronic abstraction. Subjected to Murata’s meticulous digital reprocessing, the action scenes decompose and are subsumed into an almost palpable, cascading digital sludge, presided over by a hypnotically pulsating pink dot. Murata produces digital works that refigure the experience of animation. Whether altering appropriated footage from cinema, or creating fields of seething color, he produces astonishing visions that appear at once organic and digital.