(DETROIT, MI) – Glittering skylines, quiet streets, raucous night clubs, and corner bars are just some of the images that appear in Detroit After Dark: Photographs from the DIA Collection, on view at the Detroit Institute of Arts from October 21 through to April 23, 2017.
The exhibition is free with museum admission, which is free for Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb county residents.
Detroit After Dark includes dramatic architectural studies, street scenes, graffiti, and otherworldly vignettes as well as some of Detroit’s famous night haunts, like the premier jazz club Baker’s Keyboard Lounge, the legendary Grande Ballroom, and punk and garage rock dens, such as Bookie’s Club and the Gold Dollar.
While most of the photographers are from Detroit, the exhibition also includes rare, after-hours views by Robert Frank, including his 1955 City Hall, Detroit.
A small supplement of work from Paris and New York, taken between 1920 and 1960, will also be on view in an area adjacent to the gallery, establishing Detroit’s part in a visual tradition and history shared with other great cities and the photographers who have shaped the genre of night photography.
“With this exhibition, our community will connect to our collection in a very personal way,” said Salvador Salort-Pons, the DIA director. “These photographs document times, people, and places that no longer exist in Detroit, or bring to light things we take for granted in the city. Visitors will experience Detroit in a new and surprising way.”
DIA Curator of Photography Nancy Barr came up with the idea for the exhibition after seeing work by several photographers who were creating series inspired by the night and the Detroit-area music scene.
“In 2011, the DIA received a large gift of black and white work by Russ Marshall, who had photographed Detroit, its auto workers, its architecture, and city streets,” said Barr. “Russ also had a great love for music and took photos of Detroit jazz greats at Baker’s Keyboard Lounge and the Vanity Ballroom in the 1980s and 1990s.”
At about the same time, the DIA acquired Scott Hocking’s industrial skylines and otherworldly imagery from his Detroit Nights series, and work by Ralph Jones, who photographed Detroit’s Carbon Arts collective during a nighttime foundry-pour performance.
“Ralph told me about Jon DeBoer, a young photographer who had developed a large body of night work,” said Barr. “The exhibition began to fall into place once I discovered his work, especially the architectural studies and city skylines; Imagery of Detroit that the DIA did not have represented in its collection. The exhibition continued to grow from there.”
In contrast to the quiet streets and dramatic buildings, Detroit After Dark includes a number of pictures of notable musicians and the legendary concert halls, night clubs, and even art galleries where the groups often got their start, or where they could perform for smaller, intimate audiences.
Among them are Patti Smith & Fred Sonic Smith, New Miami Bar by Sue Rynski, taken in 1980, Leni Sinclair’s MC5 at the Grande Ballroom, Zenta New Year, October 31, 1968, Jack White and Meg White by Doug Coombe, shot at the Gold Dollar in 1999, Steve Shaw’s 1989 The Gories, The Willis Gallery, and Marcus Belgrave at Baker’s Keyboard Lounge, Detroit, a 1992 photo by Marshall.
The exhibition also includes a new series of Detroit’s hip hop legends Awesome Dre, Guilty Simpson, and Nick Speed, among others, who collaborated with photographer Jenny Risher to create dynamic portraits set against some of Detroit’s famous landmarks.
Some of the photographs allude to the city’s recent gentrification.
For example, DeBoer’s 2014 Merchants Row shows a view of the empty lot where Hudson’s department store once stood, leaving Woodward Avenue’s Merchants Row fully visible.
DeBoer noted, “This view will change once the area is developed but for now we can see the stunning architectural details of these historic facades.”
Jordano’s series Detroit Nocturne features city views telling a story of Detroit’s ongoing challenges in the historic preservation of buildings, as seen in Michigan Train Depot with New Windows and Electric Lights, Southwest Side, Detroit from 2016.
The DIA is open 9:00am to 4:00pm Tuesdays and Thursdays, 9:00am to 10:00pm Fridays, and 10:00am to 5:00pm Saturdays and Sundays.
General admission, excluding ticketed exhibitions, is free for Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb county residents and DIA members. For all others, $12.50 for adults, $8 for seniors ages 62+, $6 for ages children and teens 6 to 17.
For membership information call 313-833-7971.
Image: “Patti Smith & Fred Sonic Smith, New Miami Bar, 1980,” Sue Rynski, 1980, gelatin silver print. Detroit Institute of Arts