Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Rouge, Revisited

For those that love the industrial landscape, there are few places that evoke the awe of America's industrial might like Ford's River Rouge complex. First photographed by Charles Sheeler in the late 1920s, the Dystopian landscape of the Rouge complex is a fascinating conglomeration of steel, brick, smoke, and glass. More recently, the English photographer Michael Kenna spent a great deal of time over a decade ago photographing the Rouge complex during the twilight hours, evenings, cold weather, and gloomy days. The University of Michigan's Museum of Art (UMMA) is now presenting an awesome exhibit of about 75 of Kenna's Rouge photographs at their offsite gallery on South University.
The Rouge Exhibit banner

I went there last night with Adrienne and some of my local photography buddies, and it was an enjoyable hour looking over Kenna's images. The industrial landscapes, often abstract, sometimes grand, and sometimes peotic depictions of industry, are truly wonderful. Deep luminous blacks, great tonal scale, and intimate print sizes (I think no larger than 6 x8") invite the viewer to get close and examine the details, or to just step back and see the abstract shapes of the complex. Smokestacks with vaporous apparitions, repeating shapes, nocturnal ghostliness, and beautiful reflections on water provide an amazing array of superb photography. Most of the prints appear square, so of course, we photographers were wondering about the negative format, and we still are curious as to why they were all labelled as "Sepia toned" when at least to our eyes, they had the look of split-toned images or Selenium. I may just have to ask the curator.

Matt checks out his countryman's work.

I like the look of this off-site gallery. For one, it's a nice space for photographic exhibits, as showcased by this extensive showing of Kenna's Rouge series of images. It's intimate enough to feel like a small gallery, but large enough to really have a decent-sized show. It's also flexible in regards to partitions, so viewers don't feel like they are in a cavernous space like the main gallery in the UMMA.

Kenna Exhibit

If you have a chance to see the Kenna exhibit, you should go (it's also free). Not only is it of regional interest, but it's just wonderful photography that is well-presented. See the UMMA web site for times, but the exhibit runs from Dec. 2 to January 14.

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