THIS MUST NOT BE THE PLACE YOU WERE LOOKING FOR at WSU’s Art Department Gallery @ Hyperallergic
DETROIT — Greeting viewers upon entrance to Ryan Standfest’s solo exhibition at the Wayne State University Art Department Gallery is a framed map of Michigan, hand drawn in chalk, on a canvas treated 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 in the lobby of the Guardian Building downtown. Like most murals of the era that adorn halls of finance, Winter’s mural was designed to venerate the richness of Michigan’s industries and natural resources.
Standfest’s version, by contrast, is smeary, drippy, and annotated with dirty clippings that suggest an 1950s-style child’s encyclopedia. In the place where Detroit should be, there is a pile of charred and desiccated wood and stones, labeled “CITY” from afar with a long chalk arrow, and populated by a handful of dead yellow jackets (presumably the result of an exterminated nest). A billowing form of what appears to be glossy black insulation foam rises from the nest and obscures a large swath of the state in an approximation of a toxic smoke cloud. The adjacent label identifies “automobiles,” and helpfully elucidates the concept with an etching of a Packard-style car and the caption: “We ride in our automobiles.”
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