Alison Wong is the Director of Wasserman Projects and a pretty great person.
The latter may or may not be relevant in a discussion of the most recent show she curated, Parallel Visions.
Neither does the fact that I ran into her at the Ceramics School show this weekend, and it was a genuinely pleasant experience. In fact, every time I run into Alison it is a good time. This was an especially good time because she showed me the planter she made with maybe dogs and definitely palm plants.
I enjoy art, but I can never remember it.
Unlike Alison. She is an artist and teacher and is always sharing other people’s work. Like all the times I’ve visited the gallery and she’s taken an hour plus to walk me through an entire show and is patient with my onslaught of, sometimes fair and many dumb, questions—yes, there are dumb questions!
Without Alison I would not know of the artist Marela Zacarias or her have been able to see the city of Detroit in her paintings—a discovery I classify as a profound secret revealed.
All of this has everything to do with the group show of Kresge Arts fellows, Parallel Visions.
Scott Hocking is a Kresge Arts Fellow, but he is not in this show, but that doesn’t matter.
He was also at the Ceramics School Pop-Up at Popps Packing and, like Alison, is a generous human who once invited me into his studio on a wintry day to walk me through years of work, excavations, and adventures—journeys to South America and the building of a Detroit Pyramid.
There is an hour plus of recordings on my phone of Scott giving smart answers to so-so questions for an interview that will one day happen because the best ones I sit on for months. When people are so much, it overwhelms me, and I can’t write. So I don’t.
This sentence is devoted to Scott Hocking.
My first reaction to Parallel Visions was “That’s formulaic.” Two entities join up during the slow gallery season to do some branding.
But then Chris Schanck has work in it. Chris—his through-the-looking-glass furniture I have come to admire along the factory where he makes it in Hamtramck and all the people who work for him and the big tree in the back, where they gather, between foiling and design. Chris and his drawings of dragon inspiration and the type of imagination that rarely survives past adolescence but when it’s does it’s powerful. Which explains his career and why people from all over the world are drawn to his art. Like, for instance, Rihanna.
Then there’s Oksana Mirzoyan, the filmmaker who splits her time between Detroit and Armenia. I am glad Alison chose Oksana for this show not because I have any curatorial expertise but because I enjoy experiencing her work and like the fact that we can talk astrology when we run into each other. Which makes me sad I missed the opening.
These are important things, but the most important piece of Parallel Visions is that it includes new work by Chido Johnson, who I first met through another Kresge fellow one summer afternoon at his house on the edge of Detroit, bordering Hamtramck. He his house is also known as the Zimbawbe Cultural Centre of Detroit.
Chido is an artist and professor at College for Creative Studies in Detroit, who made his home into a cultural institution. On the day we met he was hosting several artists from Zimbabwe, on their way to the Venice Biennale. It felt like something everyone should be talking about, these distinguished artists and their stopover in Detroit—specifically galleries and museums. Who doesn’t love a good visiting lecture?
Clearly I’m art dumb, but I won’t let that stop me from talking about “Heads of David and Goliath” — Chido’s contribution to the show. To call this work new is a bit of a misconception. For this piece, Chido revisited a work by his father, Morgan Johnson, a puppet head he carved as part of a set with another artist in Zimbabwe.
Chido reached out to the son of his father’s friend, also a childhood friend, and they set off to create a pair of hands to match their father’s heads. The result is two puppets, created by two sets of fathers and sons, over sixty-seven years.
And thus the full title: Pictured above—“Heads of David and Goliath” carved by the fathers Barnabas Ndvdzo and Morgan Johnson (1952), hands carved by their sons, Shepherd Ndudzo and Chido Johnson (2019).
It’s a beautiful piece with a story I’m sure I botched. No matter. Stop by Wasserman and ask Alison to tell you all about it, including whether the arms count as part of the hands because I really want to know.