Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Report from 3Oaks

Recently some friends and myself went on a weekend retreat to Michigan. It just so happened that we were right in the vicinity of 3Oaks, Michigan, and so we went to check out an art scene being compared to Saugatuck. (?)

It is a mixture of "Main Street America," folksy kitschy art, and some of the highbrow stuff. What lends the most credibility to the scene is the arrival of Aron Packer’s satellite gallery. It is a beautiful space, with more room than the Chicago locale. Packer has brought out some items not strictly confined to the “Art” realm-vintage objects. He had shown them in the past, but has stopped doing so in Chicago. They work well in the Three Oaks space. What bridged the gap between the genres was an installation of crime photos. They were displayed in a former walk-in freezer that closely resembles a jail cell. And upon entering there was a wire-shelving unit that had the feel of prison bunk beds.

I particularly liked the tiny and precise interiors by Nicholas Sister. They bring to mind Peter Halley and Al Held. The highlight, though, was the text piece by an artist whom I’m gonna go ahead and categorize as “outsider,” Jesse Howard. His painting of black text with a white ground on plywood, in the standard outsider mode is called The Masses Are Asses, and reads thusly:

Hilarious, because it can either be read as a joke, or as a serious old bitty style of moral outrage, which you can also laugh at, but from the platform of superior and worldly intellect.

We headed down the main street, lined with American flags, and filled with cute shops, and the half dozen or so galleries. There was also a run down gun club shop. I crossed paths with two women debating something. One said to the other, “no, I thought Flag Day was earlier in the year.” Could you get anymore quaint? Being buzzed on gallery wine, my worlds were colliding. The revelry of an evening of art openings was mixing with postcard perfect Americana. It seems almost unbelievable. Flag Day is June 14th, by the way.

The other galleries had a few nice things here or there, but nothing great. I did like two small paintings that I think were called “Something On my Mind 1 & 2.” They were loose, funny cute little pictures. Each a portrait, with a limp bunny draped across the person’s head. They were completely unpretentious and uncutesy and executed in a clever style like British artist Martin Maloney, except without all the pompous bollocks.

I noticed a lot of artists were touted as being from not-Michigan. And most were based in Chicago. It made me feel good to be based in Chicago. But it also made me think of the Chicago complaint about how lots of spaces “don’t show enough Chicago art.” I immediately came up with some Onion-like story about
    “Local Artists Up In Arms Over Lack of Representation in Area Galleries.” There would be a quote from a grizzled Three Oaks bohemian talking about how there are too many Chicago artists in the galleries. There would be a bunch of towny artists planning on starting a Three Oaks art foundation to examine, chronicle, exhibit and advance the art and culture of Three Oaks.

Aside from Aron Packer, the other solid space which lends credo to the area is the Judith Racht Gallery. Here the vibe of high art colliding quaint Anytown, USA really is prevalent. The gallery is a former two-room schoolhouse that has been nicely converted to an art space complete with white walls and blonde wood floors. When we arrived there, on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, it was closed. But like typical art-whores, we walked around the building peeking in every window to get a good look at what was inside. The show was Modern Prints of the ‘60s ‘70s ‘80s and featured excellent examples of work by Josef Albers, Jim Dine, David Hockney, Jasper Jones, Donald Judd, Ellsworth Kelly, Sol LeWitt and others. After we finished snooping, we hopped in the car and headed home.
-E. Wenzel

Visit Aron Packer

Visit Judith Racht

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