As a purveyor of contemporary art, Project Art Lounge often highlights emergent artists of our time, with a focus on art that goes beyond the literal to a more abstract or conceptual narrative. Occasionally, however, we happen upon a museum or gallery with a more traditional focus that captures our interest. Sometimes it’s the juxtaposition of established and emerging artists, which calls us to attention. Such was the case during a Labor Day visit to the Dennos Museum Center at Northwestern Michigan College in Traverse City, Michigan.
Large scale works by contemporary Korean artist, Lee Sung Keun, were presented together with a smaller retrospective of works by master painter Armand Merizon, Michigan’s own “painter’s painter.”
Lee’s exhibition entitled “Interconnected” filled the main gallery with suspended structures of organic forms and color, some mounted on the walls and others hanging from the ceilings, casting shadows as integral to the visual experience as the artworks themselves. According to the museum’s literature, “building a bridge between man and nature, Lee’s work is a perfect illustration of the concept of vital energy (Qi), which is omnipresent in the artistic culture of Eastern Asia.” The exhibition, which originated at the Waterfall Mansion and Gallery in New York City, is on display at the Dennos Museum from June 9, 2019 through September 22, 2019.
Whether by intention or happenstance, Dennos curators juxtaposed a retrospective of Armand Merizon’s work directly adjacent to Lee’s “Interconnected” – creating an interesting interplay with Merizon’s nature filled landscapes and evocative portraits of man living in and shaping the natural world of Michigan’s farms and small towns. The exhibition “ARMAND MERIZON: HIS LIFE AND ART” pulls together a diverse cross section of paintings by the Michigan painter and teacher, who died in 2010. Influenced by Dutch masters and contemporary artists alike, the Merizon exhibition includes both classical rural landscapes, nostalgic period pieces and abstract compositions with the color and vibe that seemingly harness the energy of Lee’s neighboring exhibition.
For a museum located far from the bustling art scenes of New York and Seoul, it was a welcome and unexpected delight to see these two exhibitions of local and international acclaim together. Whether it is the vivid energy that each of these artists embody or the “symbiotic unity” that both exhibitions claim for themselves and with each other, the Dennos Museum presents a well of creative energy and “Qi” in the otherwise placid surrounds of Northwestern Michigan.