John Gargano: Le Détroit In Dust Ree

Mar 19, 2021 — Sep 11, 2021

In the broadest sense, John Gargano’s installation Le Détroit In Dust Ree honors working people and the tools they use. While Gargano’s ceramic objects projecting from the wall in the Hilliard’s atrium have the playful appearance of a Rube Goldberg machine, his recreations of industrial machinery do a great deal of symbolic heavy lifting.

Le Détroit In Dust Ree is based on several sections of Diego Rivera’s Detroit Industry frescoes at the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA). The mural is famously tied to the Ford Motor Company because Edsel Ford, the son of Henry Ford, was an important advocate for the project. This connection is strengthened by the fact that many of the factory scenes found in Rivera’s finished work are based on Ford plants. Although briefly associated with communism after it was unveiled in 1933, Rivera’s frescoes, with the public support of Edsel Ford, came to represent a historical continuum in Detroit and America reaching back through history to honor Indigenous Americans, the earth from which we harvest natural resources, science, industry, and especially workers. John Gargano, a Michigan native, feels connected to Rivera’s triumphant depiction of this history on a personal level. As a student at the Center for Creative Studies in the early 1990s, he frequented the DIA, often spending hours drawing masterworks in the permanent collection and sometimes dozing in the then sleepy galleries. His most beloved work of art to visit was Rivera’s seminal fresco cycle. It symbolized American industrial might and spoke to the centrality of labor and the creation of objects to the American mythos, even after years of economic decline at the end of the twentieth century.

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