Publication Corresponds with Joseph Bellows Gallery ongoing Exhibition
Thorough December 21, 2013
In this the artist's second show a the Joseph Bellows Gallery we pause to look back. In spring of 2012 Bellows exhibited new explorations by Enrico Natali, but these early images of Detroit have acted like a fine wine that has developed character with age. These works have had time to accumulate history and develop intrigue. In Detroit 1968
we enjoy both the perspective of a foundational moment in the artist's career, but also engage layers of history around a city that today is again making headlines.
These works predate the financial collapse of the Motor City, but still trace back to difficult past. Taken just one year after the race riots these images are potent and revealing. There seems to be both tension and calm in the black and white prints, and looking at them over 40 years later we still find a freshness to the frames, the figures, and the socio-cultural climate revealed. So much has changed, so much has stayed the same. The normal goings on of any metropolis are recorded by Natali in images of sporting events, workers, executives, and students. All of the work has an immediacy and an intimacy that connect us to the work and the subjects. We feel rooted and take note of the open exchange between ourselves and the subjects. It is what the work reveals as a whole that gives it the most strength. Images of high-schoolers on their way to prom or ladies decked out in gowns and firs on their way to the Shriner's Convention make us think that times are good and living is easy, while a conflicting story is told in works like East side Detroit family
of parents and four children overcrowding their living room couch or Spectators at a public demonstration
of three men in suits with what we presume to be a going out of business discount sign hung in the storefront window behind them. The whole body of work moves together to reveal layers of lifestyle, and the promise of the American Dream seems disparate in a city that once promised so much hope for industry and growth of a middle class.
Today these images strike some of the same chords but with deeper resonance as we know what time has brought to Detroit. Perhaps, as we see these works and the city anew, we may start to think on an even bigger scale and envision Detroit as parallel to a greater national experience.
For more information on the exhibition, please visit Joseph Bellows Gallery