"Big Paintings @ The Factory," a triumph of massive proportions

arts / Article

"Andrea," by Robert Sestok.

The effect upon entering The Factory—a warehouse painstakingly converted into a three-day opening extravaganza due to efforts martialed by Cass Corridor artist and art scene mainstay Robert Sestok—is perhaps best considered as admission into a total experience of large works, rather than a dissection of each individual contribution from the more than 40 participating artists. The opening weekend was the major expo for the work on display, which can still be viewed by appointment through August 31st.

"I Remember When This Was All Houses," by Chris Zagacki. "I Remember When This Was All Houses," by Chris Zagacki.

Does art imitate life, or does life imitate art? Does art imitate life, or does life imitate art?

In part, this is because the three-day run isn’t nearly enough time to consider each of the works, that operate on the grandiose scale promised in the show’s simple title, “Big Paintings @ The Factory.” In part, the festive atmosphere of the Thursday, June 19th opening created a carnival effect, with an Airstream foodtruck, live music, and friends of the Detroit art scene flocking in every expanse of the 20,000-foot ex-industrial site. But mostly because there is a specific advantage to work on a massive scale, perhaps the reason for its longstanding appeal in the fine art realm: the ability to create an ambient environment for the viewer.

"Untitled," by Jonathan Rajewski, master of the alternative canvas. "Untitled," by Jonathan Rajewski, master of the alternative canvas.

Delicious bahn mi sandwiches, served up fresh! Delicious bahn mi sandwiches, served up fresh!

"Twin Tornados," by Gilda Snowden. "Twin Tornadoes," by Gilda Snowden.

Though other types of media do this well—cinema and light-based installations spring instantly to mind—large paintings give you the rich expressiveness of the paint medium on a theatrical scale, enabling the viewer to have an interaction with the work without even looking directly at it. There is the experience of seeing it from across the room, and the revelation of greater detail throughout the approach. There is the simple awe in standing at the foot of something large, representing a great deal of effort on the part of its creator.

"Ava," by Andrew Kreiger, whose work instigates instant pangs of nostalgia at any scale. "Ava," by Andrew Kreiger, whose work instigates instant pangs of nostalgia at any scale.

The true prize for Herculean effort is due to Robert Sestok. Perhaps better known for his welded steel sculptures, in recent years he has broken out into 2-D paintings and drawings, many on a larger-than-life scale. His 18-foot piece, “Andrea,” is a triumph, but even that monolithic portrait pales in comparison to the greater effort exerted to clean the massive space, recruit artists and organize the installation. As usual, the man in question is too modest to take much credit for the work, here in a big flash, and gone again too soon. Let’s hope his forthcoming City Sculpture project is a big idea that lasts in perpetuity!

The man with the plan, Robert Sestok. The man with the plan, Robert Sestok.

The work can still be seen by appointment, through August 31st.

The Factory: 333 Midland, Highland Park; 248-722-3550

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