Exhibition Description


Cass Corridor: Connecting Times

April 21 – August 19, 2017

Image: Michael Luchs’ studio, Lewiston, Michigan, January 2017


Simone DeSousa Gallery is pleased to present Cass Corridor: Connecting Times, a series of exhibitions of past Cass Corridor artists curated by Nancy Mitchnick. The project opened on Friday, April 21, 2017, with a solo exhibition of works by Michael Luchs, including paintings, works on paper, and models, from 1989 to 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 upcoming 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 series of exhibitions is curated by Nancy Mitchnick, an artist who was part of the Cass Corridor art community from its beginning. She gives us a very personal glimpse of that time, reminding us of some of its central figures, its diverse aesthetics, and its dynamic cultural engagement. Mitchnick left Detroit in 1973, at the height of its energy.  Since her return, she is again a very active artist in the city. She brings us her knowledge of both the then and the now of Detroit art, giving us a perspective on how that earlier Cass Corridor speaks to us today.

2017 Exhibitions:

April 21 – May 28:

Michael Luchs

June 10 – July 8:

Jim Chatelain and John Egner

July 15 – August 19:

Steve Foust, Greg Murphy, Nancy Pletos

PANEL DISCUSSION: Saturday, May 13, 4-6 pm

Nancy Mitchnick in conversation with Detroit art writers and critics from the Cass Corridor time

PUBLICATION LAUNCH: Saturday, July 29, 4-6 pm

Fall 2018 Exhibition:  Women of Cass Corridor Group Exhibition



When Simone DeSousa asked if I was interested in curating a show about the Cass Corridor from my perspective, I could not imagine it.  I had left Detroit at the end of the summer in 1973.

Still the Cass Corridor was my painting heart’s birthplace. And I began to think of Greggi Murphy whom no one remembers, and Michael Luchs who has been a recluse for thirty years, and how important to me it all was, so I figured I would take it on. 

My version of the Cass Corridor started before we invented the Willis Gallery, I was there in the beginning.  I left when it was still hot.  My perspective is very limited.  I made paintings that were not abstract, and I was not wrestling down modernism.  I don’t think the guys and Ellen Phelan knew they were wrestling down Modernism either, but they were on the cutting edge. I have always been an outsider, on the inside, sort of.

Detroit was alive.  The neighborhoods were dangerous.  We did not notice. Cobb’s Corner was a great bar.  The art department at Wayne State had a cool painting teacher from Yale, John Egner.  Michael Luchs was inventing a kind of matrix that influenced many of the wilder artists deeply.  And Sam Wagstaff turned up at the DIA. 

I remember sitting in the Kresge court, (it was austere and magical then.) We would turn up for lunch or coffee and hang out for hours. One afternoon Greggi shocked me to the marrow, “oooowwwweeee there is a new curator, we should meet him.”  “Greggi, we can’t meet him, what are you talking about?”  “Sure we can, his office is right down that hall.  He would like us.”

Then he got up, scuffled down the hall, and introduced himself to Sam Wagstaff. He told Sam there were a lot of good artists around.” 

Sam made a date to meet up at the Bar.  And a different version of our scene began. 

It never occurred to me that we would ever have an audience.  And frankly before we did, it was less competitive and wilder.  We were just a bunch of young, intense, talented, almost artists trying to figure it out.

They took risks.  They drank and smoked a lot of pot.  They played drums in the middle of the night and carried on with the kind of intensity that was real and rare. And they talked, and argued, and disagreed, and pissed each other off.  It was great.  The late sixties was a time of innocence really.  We still believed the world was going to get better and more interesting. Detroit was producing steel and cars. And young people were inventing themselves.  We were not imitating anyone.  After all, Rock and Roll was new.

– Nancy Mitchnick