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Hanging out at Detroit’s Red Bull House of Art

Detroit has become an artist’s destination in recent years, attracting creatives who are tired of New York and LA and allured by Detroit’s cheap rent, vacant historic architecture, and a world of possibilities. The cityscape itself serves as an incredibly inspirational backdrop, feeling like a surreal postcard from another era, with a skyline unmarred by the modern glass towers that are invading major cities across the United States. Along with the mix of transplants, new galleries and arts organizations are popping up downtown and in the Eastern Market District, including a unique program run by Red Bull House of Art.

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Located in the cavernous barreled rooms of an old brewery, Red Bull House of Art offers not only a sprawling gallery exhibition space, but also a new live-in residency program geared toward emerging and mid-career artists. Under the program which is led by director Matt Eaton, the program ran for four years geared strictly toward local Detroit artists, hosting over 100 in programs and exhibitions. Now, the program has expanded to artists outside of the area, each cycle now selects three artists from around the country, which are provided with a space to live, work, a budget for supplies and a stipend for living expenses, taking place over three months in Detroit. Here, artists are free to create without bounds, free from worry about rent or the chaos of home life, with the focus on creating new work to be shown at Red Bull House of Art, or elsewhere. Once completed, Red Bull helps to facilitate sales, but does not take a percentage like a gallery would, and artists are free to take the work with them when they leave. Sound too good to be true? Whats it in for them? Well, the energy drink company is committed to enriching the community in Detroit, inviting locals to exhibitions, artist talks, workshops and other educational programming.

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The residency’s second cycle ended last week, with an exhibition by Drew Merritt, Michael Reeder, and my long time friend Ian Kuali’I, which included a range of works by each artist that filled the huge underground gallery. Each artist approaches portraiture from completely different perspectives, but also worked together to make collaboration pieces that fused their unique styles.

Michael Reeder

Michael Reeder

Michael Reeder’s paintings feel like a mix of old and new, a influence of collage, a mesh of detailed portraits with graphic backgrounds, a hint of George Grosz and Girogio de Chirico, all unified with bold colors.

Drew Merritt

Drew Merritt

Drew Merritt

Drew Merritt

On the other hand, Drew Merritt’s approach stems from historic oil painting, with soft, photorealistic details pulled from traditional oil portraiture. Merritt’s pieces are oddly beautiful and sometimes unsettlingly emotional- his portraits coming to life with looks of distress , worry, and graceful movement. Merritt painted several site-specific murals for Red Bull House of Art, of haunting figures pulled from an undefinable time, that float along the walls.

Ian Kuali'i

Ian Kuali’i

Ian Kuali'i

Ian Kuali’i

I met Ian Kuali’I years ago when he was assisting for painter Doze Green. He has since gone off on his own, and perfected his style of mixing abstract painting, with fine paper cutting, accentuating negative space to create bold portraits. This residency allowed Kuali’I the time (and space) to create his largest paper cut portrait to date, which stretched ten feet tall. The thematic residency cycle produced a cohesive show that explored the ideals of portraiture, despite each artist’s differing method.

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The next cycle of artists includes Lala Abaddon, Coby Kennedy and Beau Stanton- three artists who I’ve not only worked with, but are close to my heart. Their residency will culminate with an exhibition in November.

Comments
One Response to “Hanging out at Detroit’s Red Bull House of Art”
  1. Alan Stamm Alan Stamm says:

    Deadline Detroit shares a linked summary with a mini-quibble at the end that we hope isn’t (too) nitpicky, Lori: http://bit.ly/2aAJOPK

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