Magazine article Sculpture

DETROIT: "Subverting Modernism: Cass Corridor Revisited 1966-1980"

Magazine article Sculpture

DETROIT: "Subverting Modernism: Cass Corridor Revisited 1966-1980"

Article excerpt

DETROIT

"Subverting Modernism: Cass Corridor Revisited 1966-1980"

Eastern Michigan University

Artists of the Cass Corridor movement, active in Detroit during the 1960s and '70s, are known to have been a hard-living, hard-drinking lot. Their provocative works, often created from industrial materials and detritus, have been popularly seen as reflecting Detroit's (and, by extension, America's) decline as an industrial superpower. But a recent, revisionist exhibition has effectively challenged entrenched ideas about the Cass Corridor movement, casting its aims and achievements in a new light. "Subverting Modernism: Cass Corridor Revisited 1966-1980"-the culmination of years of research by Julia Myers, who also wrote a comprehensive catalogue essay-interpreted representative works as combining Minimalism's self-contained formalism with references to the outside world-that is, as transitioning between modern and postmodern art.

Though painters were affiliated with the Cass Corridor group, Myers's show focused conspicuously on three-dimensional works. In its geometric simplicity, Stanley Dolega's welded steel Untitled (1967) appeared, at first, to mimic Donald Judd's self-referential Minimalism. Dolega, however, is quoted in the catalogue as saying that his sculptures aimed to ambiguously refer- ence actual, working machines. Like Dolega, other Cass Corridor sculptors drew inspiration from Detroit's automotive industry and culture. For example, Robert Sestok's Untitled (Cage) (c. 1975-76), a table-sized arrangement of wires and hole-punched particle board, is painted green, brown, and rust in imitation of corroded steel. What initially appears to be randomly assembled, even chaotic debris from an abandoned factory floor, soon coalesces into sensitive orchestration and balance. The unexpected aesthetic harmony can be understood as a bid to reconstruct beauty from decay, a notion supported by contemporary critical response. …

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