Exhibition Description


CASS CORRIDOR, CONNECTING TIMES: Brenda Goodman, Kathryn Brackett Luchs, Ann Mikolowski, Nancy Mitchnick, Ellen Phelan, and Nancy Pletos
September 7 – October 14, 2018

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Simone DeSousa Gallery is pleased to present the last exhibition of the series Cass Corridor: Connecting Times. The upcoming group exhibition brings together old and new works by six female artists: Brenda Goodman, Kathryn Brackett Luchs, Ann Mikolowski (d. 1999), Nancy Mitchnick, Ellen Phelan, and Nancy Pletos (d. 2016)

From the mid sixties through the late seventies, Cass Corridor was the home of an art community that at the time was regarded as Detroit’s avant-garde, a counter-culture art movement shaped by the anxieties of the city—poverty, race, the Viet Nam war, industrial decline—and the optimism of new life styles, protests, music, and art. Often described as “Urban Expressionism,” the art was usually tough and gritty, process-oriented, and personal, but in contrast with its general reputation, it could also be lyrical and delicate, systematic and elegant. It was art of resistance and survival.

This intense scene of cultural production was centered on the stretch of Cass from Warren south, and the block formed by Canfield and Willis was at its heart, a neighborhood occupied by Willis Gallery, bars (Cobb’s, Traffic Jam), and the artists’ studios of Common Ground. For the past nine years, Simone DeSousa Gallery has occupied a piece of this same block. With the series of exhibitions, Cass Corridor: Connecting Times, the gallery seeks to stimulate a conversation about what happened then and where we are now. How does this art speak to us today, as we engage our own social/political upheavals and conflicts?

This final exhbition of the Cass Corridor: Connecting Times series is curated by gallery director Simone DeSousa, and opens on Friday, September 7, with a reception from 6 – 8 pm.

Brenda Goodman (born 1943, Detroit) studied at the College of Creative Studies (then called the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts). In 1976 she moved to New York City and her work was included in the 1979 Whitney Biennial. She has had 38 solo exhibitions. In 2015 she had a 50-year retrospective at the Center Galleries, College for Creative Studies, Detroit, MI. Also in 2015 her work was included in the American Academy for the Arts and Letters annual invitational where she received the Award in Art. She received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York Foundation for the Arts. Her work is included in the collections of the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, PA; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, IL; the Santa Barbara Museum, CA; and the Detroit Institute of the Arts, MI. Since 2009, Goodman has lived and worked in the Catskill Mountains, New York.

Born in Detroit Michigan, Kathryn Brackett Luchs moved to the Cultural Center in Detroit at an early age and began living, painting and filming experimental artists also creating in studios along what is now called the Detroit Cass Corridor.  Luchs began her formal education late, after developing a personal studio practice and being in group shows at The Detroit Institute of Arts and Kick Out the Jams: Detroit’s Cass Corridor 1963-1977 at the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Chicago, Illinois. Her early works in painting were chosen to represent Michigan in 1986-87 in The Contemporary Arts Center Biennial that traveled to The Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, Ohio; Cleveland Institute of Art, Ohio; Herron Gallery, Indianapolis Center for Contemporary Art, Indiana; Cranbrook Academy of Art Museum, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. Her continuing interest in studio experiments and development of large-scale hybrid works have received recognition and many awards that include The Michigan Council for the Arts Individual Artist Fellowship, The Pollock-Krasner Foundation Award and The Ed Foundation Grant. Her knowledge, based in multiple studio approaches, has led to a rich teaching history at the University of Michigan Stamps School of Art & Design that began in 1992.

(b. Detroit, Michigan 1940, d. Ann Arbor, Michigan 1999)

Ann Mikolowski was associated with the Cass Corridor art movement in Detroit. While attending Wayne State University and Center for Creative Studies in the 1960’s, she and her husband, Ken Mikolowski, founded The Alternative Press. Their letterpress editions of contemporary poetry and art were celebrated in a thirty year retrospective exhibition and symposium at the Hatcher Graduate Library, The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1999 and a twenty year retrospective at The Detroit Institute of Arts. Light, clarity, and beauty infused her art. It was the collaboration between artists and writers that first inspired her miniature portraits, oil on linen, an intimate size for an intimate subject. These portraits were featured at the Gotham Book Mart in New York; Intersection for the Arts in San Francisco; The Saginaw Museum in Saginaw, Michigan; and a number of galleries. Solo exhibitions featured her work in New York, New York, San Francisco, California, Detroit, Michigan and Ann Arbor, Michigan. She was awarded the Michigan Arts Award from the Arts Foundation of Michigan and Individual Grants from the Michigan Council for the Arts. Her work is in private and public collections including The Detroit Institute of Arts. Between 1994 and 1997, Mikolowski collaborated with Stewart & Stewart on four screenprint editions.

Nancy Mitchnick started out in Detroit’s Cass Corridor. She moved to New York City in 1973, drove a taxi, worked in an after-hours joint, assisted Brice Marden, raised her daughter, taught at Bard College, and, after ten years, had a well-received exhibition at Hirschl & Adler Modern, and two years later another one. Mitchnick’s work is emotional and strong, often various and sometimes humorous. Museums own her work. Interesting people have collected it. She is an innovative teacher; she was a full-time member of the faculty at the California Institute of the Arts for ten years, and was the Rudolph Arnheim Lecturer on Studio Arts at Harvard University for 15 years. Mitchnick has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Pollock Krasner Foundation grant and a National Endowment for the Arts award. Most recently she was a recipient of the Phi Beta Kappa Teaching Award at Harvard College. Mitchnick is a 2015 Kresge Visual Arts Fellow, and her recent works were shown in the solo exhibition “Uncalibrated” at the Museum of Contemporary Detroit (MOCAD) in 2016.

Ellen Phelan was born in 1943 and raised in Detroit, Michigan. She received her B.A. and M.F.A. degrees from Wayne State University. Phelan worked as a substitute teacher in the Detroit public school system, and worked in the Detroit Museum of Art as an assistant to curator Sam Wagstaff. She also worked with a group of Detroit artists to establish the cooperative Willis Gallery. Phelan relocated to New York City in 1973. Ellen Phelan’s work is included in the collections of Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum. Her early work from the early 1970s and before contrasts greatly from her work from the mid-1970s going forward. Of this shift, Phong Bui notes, “during the mid-1970s, when she turned away from process art in favor of plein-air landscape painting, which she began in the Adirondacks in the summer of 1976, it was a decisive turn, and it enhanced her natural touch as a painter.”  New York Times art critic Ken Johnson wrote, “Ellen Phelan has painted her way through a number of phases over the last three decades, from formalist abstractions to psychologically fraught portraits of antique dolls to meditative still lifes to the pastoral landscapes that this show comprises. What has remained consistent, besides an always assiduous care for the craft of painting, has been the Modernist tension between material surface and illusory depth and a postmodernist play between romance and irony.”

(b. Detroit, Michigan 1950, d. Royal Oak, Michigan 2016)

Nancy Pletos entered Wayne State University as a mathematics major but soon transferred to the art department, where she received her B.A. in 1972. Although a graduate painting major at Wayne (M.F.A. 1974), where she studied with John Egner, Pletos began making small wood sculptures in 1973 (these were exhibited in a two-person show at the Willis Gallery that same year). In 1974, in a one-person exhibition at the Detroit Artists Market called “Oh Memory, Oh Memory, Oh Memory,” she showed several doll-house-like constructions built out of scraps of wood, and filled with furnishings made of bits of fabric, feathers, grass, shells, and mirrors. Pletos’ love of wood was particularly evident in a 1975 series of large, two-dimensional Logs–fantastic, organic shapes carved from sheets of plywood or Masonite. Beginning in 1976, in works she refers to as Furnishings, Pletos playfully embellished ordinary dressers, mirrors, and storage chest by adding various whimsical elements-flower-shaped drawer pulls, dayglo painted rosettes, rhinestones, or wooden beads. It was, however, after her move to New York in 1976, that Pletos created her intimate, hand-sized series, Small Wood Works. In these pieces, carefully assembled from small pieces of wood, colored glass, beads, and mirror fragments, then glazed with thick, glossy pigment or given a gritty texture with sand or sawdust, the artist sensitively transformed ordinary and cast-off materials into magical fantasy sculptures. This series was first exhibited in 1978 at the Feigenson-Rosenstein Gallery and at the N.A.M.E. Gallery in Chicago. Pletos’ wood constructions, the Standing Gardens, exhibited in a 1979 retrospective at the Detroit Institute of Arts, are intricate, vertical spirals, some left unglazed, others lushly and flamboyantly colored. In contrast to the intimate scale of the small wood works, some of the gardens are over five feet tall. Pletos moved to Chicago in 1979, and showed extensively in the Chicago area until she moved back to Michigan in 2004.