The two installations on display this month in Hamtramck couldn’t be more different from one another: Scott Hocking's chaotic Tartarus is a crowded and dirty underworld, while Marcelyn Bennett-Carpenter's elegant Turn is an ordered, minimalist paradise. But both invite you to explore and revel in the total environments they create, and as it turns out, Heaven and Hell are just a few streets from each other (and only open on Saturdays).
Scott Hocking is known for creating large-scale installations in some of Detroit’s vast, abandoned spaces, like the stunning Ziggurat, erected in the Fisher Body Plant in 2008. Tartarus is on view at the Public Pool Artspace, a 900-square foot storefront on Caniff (formerly occupied by Design 99 and now managed by writer and Kresge Fellow Steve Hughes). In Greek mythology, Tartarus is the lowest level of the underworld, and Hocking conjures this stygian realm by grounding it in contemporary Detroit grit. The space houses several fallen trees, their branches suffocated by innumerable, dirty plastic bags collected from the city’s streets. The dense arrangement of trees, refuse, and other objects (like sewer grates and a forlorn kids’ pool full of dirty water) creates an immersive, unfolding urban jungle that manages to feel at once heartbreaking and surprisingly playful.
A few streets away, at Steve Panton's 2739 Edwin gallery, Marcelyn Bennett-Carpenter has transformed a second-story loft space in a one-time mattress factory into a thing of startling, sublime beauty. Turn consists of hundreds of fine, translucent elastic bands that stretch from the floor to the 14-foot high ceiling. The tensile bands have been arranged to form elegant, curving shapes and intersecting lines. As you move through the white-walled room, you're enveloped in snug, yet airy, spaces defined only by the tall, taut, light-catching strands, and when you turn, they shimmer. The artist encourages you to touch them, to spread them apart, even to poke through the gaps you create. Some have snapped as a result and dangle, but Bennett-Carpenter doesn't mind; the piece evolves, and the dangling bands remind you that others have played there too.
Tartarus is on view on Saturdays from 1 - 6 pm until April 30 at the Public Pool, 3309 Caniff, Hamtramck; (313) 405-POOL; http://apublicpool.com/. Turn, on view until April 23, is also open on Saturdays from 1 - 6 (or by appointment) at 2739 Edwin, Hamtramck; http://www.2739edwin.com/. There is an artist's talk and gallery tour this Saturday, April 9, from 6 to 8 pm.