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When you’re just out of Georgetown University with a graduate degree in art history and the financial world has imploded, what do you do? Monica Bowman opened a gallery, The Butcher’s Daughter, in a suburb of Detroit and started selling art to a local market. Between 2009 and 2012, Bowman spent several years learning the ropes before moving her gallery to the up and coming midtown section of Detroit where it flourished. Selecting top Detroit artists and a few Yale MFA grads whose work attracted national reviews, during the summer of 2014 Bowman transplanted her gallery to the Sugar Hill area of Harlem, NY. It was an exhaustive renovation before she opened her first exhibition, A Rose is a Rose, which features her stable of Detroit artists. Playing off Gertrude Stein’s famous musing in her 1913 poem “Sacred Emily,” A Rose is a Rose brings together romantic if archetypical works that set the stage for things to come at Bowman’s gallery.
In this exhibition, Adrian Hatfield, Assistant Professor of Art at Wayne State University, offers us two relatively small canvases with realistically rendered images set in a solid field of thick, heavy oil paint. Hatfield’s A Death Blow is a Life Blow to Some depicts muscular arms prying open a lion’s mouth while releasing a flood of pink roses that float in space towards the viewer. The tension in the allegory provides an attraction that gives the viewer pause to dissect its meaning. While Hatfield’s previous work has included perched dinosaurs, birds in flight and sharks in a sea of design, these new paintings are simpler and spatially rich.
Born in London, Robert Platt, who teaches at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, has made Detroit his home and the center of his studio practice. His oil-based paintings are colorful abstractions comprised of latent images that combine oil pigment, pure powder pigment and spray paint, which causes a variety of chemical reactions that create, visually, something akin to a solarized experience. In Platt’s work, the high gloss surface reinforces a cacophony of patterned shapes. One of the few visual artists to complete a Ph.D. in painting at the Kyoto City University of Arts in Kyoto, Japan, Platt studied the chemistry of various oil and acrylic compounds. The fluid structure in his work blurs the boundaries between foreground and background, a technique that results in imagery that could be mistaken for a super-nova photograph taken by the Hubble telescope. Ultimately, Platt’s cerebral and coalesced abstractions challenge our cognitive processes.
Next time you are in New York, nestle into Harlem’s Sugar Hill community at the corner of Edgecombe and 142nd Street where The Butcher’s Daughter seems to be making an early start for a new visual arts renaissance right in the epicenter of New York’s African American experience.
The group exhibition A Rose is a Rose features work by Kevin Baker, Adrian Hatfield, Laith Karmo, Bill Kellebrew, Mario Moore, Jennifer Packer, and Robert Platt. The exhibition is on view through December 20, 2014. For more information, see www.thebutchersdaughtergallery.com.
Ron Scott is a pseudonym for a writer based in the Detroit area. View more articles by Ron Scott.