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REVIEW: "Gender Agenda" at Gallery Project

Posted by John Carlos Cantu | Ann Arbor News Special Writer

August 31, 2008


Ann Arbor's Gallery Project has tackled some of the prickliest issues in contemporary art over the last three years, making it the most compelling visual-arts forum in Washtenaw County.


This approach carries through the new "Gender Agenda." The gallery statement says the exhibit seeks to explore gender identity while broadening "the scope of the terms masculine and feminine, and seek to tear away (from such) binary descriptions."


The exhibitors are Heather Ault, MB, Debra Broz, Sarah Buckius, Steve Coy, Charles Fairbanks, Adrianne Fernandez, He-Bops, Patrick Hillman, Heidi Kumao, Robert Lendrum, Lauren McEntire, Marisa Miller, Cal Navin, Erik Peterson, Mike Richison, Joel Seah, Jada Schumacher, Jeff Schweitzer, Catherine Smith and Jack Summers. Buckius, Coy and Kumao have Ann Arbor connections.


The art, as is typical of Gallery Project, is all over the postmodern map: photography, video, posters, yarn, assemblage, drawings, toys and sculpture are on display.


Curator (and University of Michigan adjunct instructor of art) Andrew Thompson's He-Bops have even contributed a compact disc of Clash-styled Cyndi Lauper cover tunes that express the exhibit's theme.


Schumacher's "Target (in her own living room) Rug Dress" dominates the gallery with its sweeping skirt draping a considerable portion of the floor. Hillman's yarn "He Kisses Wdith a Fist" crochets itself across gender stereotypes. Navin's oil on canvas "1913 Martha Chase Doll" enlarges in scale the neutered anatomy of children's dolls.


There's always one artwork in each Gallery Project show that tops the exhibit through sheer bravado. And U-M Assistant Professor Kumao's interactive "Translator" certainly fits the bill.


The mixed-media installation - composed of video, sculpture and screen - mutters to itself as it meanders back and forth between two miniature sofas via a hand-cranked wheel. There are plenty of provocative artworks on hand in this decidedly mature exhibit, but none is as thought-provoking as this.


"Gender Agenda" continues through Sept. 14 at Gallery Project, 215 S. Fourth Ave. Exhibit hours are noon-9 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and noon-4 p.m. Sunday. For information, call 734-997-7012.