Detroit’s Museum of New Art started out as a sort of surrealist prank: in 1997 Jef Bourgeau opened a storefront space and “curated” some clippings he took from magazines. This bit of art-world satire did not go unnoticed by the Detroit Institute of Art, which invited Bourgeau to curate his own show. But that show was quickly shut down when the DIA realized what it was really about: a willful scandalizing of racial and religious sensitivities. Since then, the adversarial and combative spirit has abated, and Bourgeau’s MoNA has become an important venue for Michigan artists. The current show at ThreeWalls is part of an artist exchange brokered between Detroit MoNA and Chicago. Cyrus Karimipour’s exquisitely miniaturized photographic studies of inner city space deserve a show in their own right. Technical mastery is also displayed in the strange kitschy confections of Alison Wong. Hartmut Austen’s painterly abstraction is both academic and thought-provoking. The strange leather chimeras hanging from the ceiling are hand-sewn dolls by Mary Fortuna, and are beautiful and creepy, the fetishes of a private religion. And in the “Project Room” is Jef Bourgeau’s own work. Some time ago, these pictures were exhibited under the pseudonym Stig Eklund, a young “undiagnosed dyslexic” from Norway who dropped out of school to produce brooding, atmospheric photos redolent of Alvin Langdon Coburn. It was another one of Bourgeau’s pranks—but he sold a lot more of them when they were by Stig Eklund – which may say something about the art market. (David Mark Wise)
At ThreeWalls, 119 North Peoria, 2D, through March 22.