DETROIT — Greeting viewers upon entrance to Ryan Standfest’s solo exhibition on the Wayne State College Artwork Division Gallery is a framed map of Michigan, hand drawn in chalk, on a canvas handled with and dripping blackboard paint. The map is labeled with commodities and industries —cherries, butter, fishing, and lake tourism — suggesting a messy tribute to the Michigan Mural by Ezra Winter within the foyer of the Guardian Constructing downtown. Like most murals of the period that adorn halls of finance, Winter’s mural was designed to venerate the richness of Michigan’s industries and pure sources.
Standfest’s model, in contrast, is smeary, drippy, and annotated with soiled clippings that counsel an 1950s-style little one’s encyclopedia. Within the place the place Detroit needs to be, there’s a pile of charred and desiccated wooden and stones, labeled “CITY” from afar with a protracted chalk arrow, and populated by a handful of lifeless yellow jackets (presumably the results of an exterminated nest). A billowing type of what seems to be shiny black insulation foam rises from the nest and obscures a big swath of the state in an approximation of a poisonous smoke cloud. The adjoining label identifies “vehicles,” and helpfully elucidates the idea with an etching of a Packard-style automotive and the caption: “We experience in our vehicles.”
Arresting all by itself, this map is so not like the work I’ve come to affiliate with Ryan Standfest, that I needed to backtrack and verify I had not mistaken a gaggle present for a solo by the artist higher recognized for his meticulous print work and darkish humor produced by his publishing venue, Rotland Press. However this exhibition, together with 3D sculpture, video and animation, and multimedia assemblage, is all Standfest, and titled THIS MUST NOT BE THE PLACE YOU THOUGHT IT WOULD BE — it’s, certainly, aside from I anticipated.
Alongside adjoining partitions of the exhibition area are a sequence of latest works extra within the vein of Standfest’s signature aesthetics, which are inclined to satirically leverage anachronistic media and promoting kinds for works that crackle with cynicism. These items make sly cultural references, and mix ostensibly upbeat slogans with crisp iconography to convey scathing social commentary. Rejecting the recto-linearity of standard canvases, this sequence resembles the form of shows one might need seen at an auto present within the 1950s, or as a print commercial in a black-and-white periodical, that includes extremely promotional language and graphic design that toes the road between energetic and unintelligible.
“YOUR MODERN DREAM HOUSE,” reads one, with 2D cabinets lined with Monopoly-style home cut-outs. “CHEAP à GET ONE WHILE YOU CAN! ß EASY. LAND PARCELS. YOURS. NOW. NOW.” exhorts one other. “DEAD DOGS OF THE CITY,” are marketed in one other show, lined with meticulously repeated tiny canine corpses in matte-black cardboard. “ACCIDENT / REMAINS / ABUSE” —these not solely current a few of the widespread tropes of “new” Detroit and a few of its lesser-told elements, however symbolize Standfest working by private themes. Simply this 12 months, the artist and his companion purchased a home of their very own within the metropolis, full with lifeless canine within the yard. Standfest’s cheery commercials, which repeatedly characterize these efforts as “low-cost” and “simple” have to be understood as his ironic commentary on a course of that — as anybody who has tried the American dream right here in new Detroit can let you know—is neither low-cost nor simple.
For Standfest to present off a morbid and defeatist vibe within the face of adversity is nothing new, however for him to sort out private points and current work that makes use of humor as a coping mechanism relatively than a distancing machine is refreshing. One wall in the principle gallery is devoted to a video work titled “The Dust Eater” (2018) and stars Standfest as a personality named Mister Ricky, carrying a comedically giant foot forged and utilizing an quaint TV dinner tray to assemble a snack for himself out of “Contemporary Dust! From Grammy’s Yard!” Standfest grew up within the adjoining Metro Detroit exurb of St. Clair Shores, and there’s each purpose to think about that the working class home, the snack tray, the girl enjoying “Grammy,” and the grime are all genuine items of his private historical past. Whereas Standfest has lived and labored in Detroit correct for lengthy sufficient to name town residence with out reservation, his inventive output (if not his precise worldview) extra precisely displays the working class and white-flight disillusionment of the encompassing metro space.
These are only a few standout moments in a present that represents a mid-career artist each accountable for his instruments and keen to interrupt harmful new emotional and materials floor. The antidote to cynicism is curiosity, and whereas Standfest is probably predisposed to a melancholic perspective, it’s heartening to see him shaking off outdated routines and utilizing his prodigious expertise to develop in new instructions. On the core of each cynic lies a damaged coronary heart. Humor is panacea for this situation, maybe, however as Detroiters can let you know, it takes actual sincerity, vulnerability, and exhausting work to heal it.
THIS MUST NOT BE THE PLACE YOU THOUGHT IT WOULD BE is on show on the Wayne State College Artwork Division Gallery (150 Artwork Constructing, Detroit, Michigan) by December 7.