arts & entertainment
At Birmingham's Wasserman Projects, former Detroiter artist Ken Aptekar
uses the history of art to create a dialogue with contemporary viewers.
ary Wasserman and Ken Aptekar
went to Winship Elementary School
in Detroit just a semester apart,
long before they shared artistic interests and
Although they got to know each other
slightly while attending the University of
Michigan, Wasserman was moving toward
the world of business as Aptekar was prepar-
ing for the world of paintings.
The close connections happened some
30 years later, after Wasserman spotted an
Aptekar artwork at the home of friends and
inquired about making a purchase for his
Getting to know one another through
acquisitions has led to a new Aptekar exhibit
running through June 21 at the newly estab-
lished Wasserman Projects in Birmingham.
"Don't Stop:' showcasing a specific series
of Aptekar's work, also brings attention to
the gallery opened in February as a special
avocation for Wasserman, the CEO of Allied
Metals, based in Troy.
"The show is mostly a suite of digital
archival prints based on historic images of
paintings capturing French royalty:' explains
Aptekar, 63, in a phone call from his part-
year home in France.
"I photographed the paintings in muse-
ums in Paris and New York, and they carry
texts from disco hits that I've superimposed
over the images. The title 'Don't Stop' is taken
from Michael Jackson's hit song 'Don't Stop
'Til You Get Enough.'
"The show is an attempt to reconcile two
very different lives that I lead — one in France
and the other in the United States. I'm try-
ing to tease out the essential differences and
parts of commonality in these two cultures7
Aptekar, who spends part of the year in
New York, recognizes the French origins
of the Motor City through elements of the
exhibit. The text, although made up of disco
lyrics, relates to the development of the
urban music scene.
"Won't You Take Me Down to Funky
Town?" captures an image of Louis XVI
in costume as painted by Joseph-Siffrede
Duplessis; the lyrics are from Steven
The image "Works Hard for the Money"
is based on a Francois Boucher painting of
Madame de Pompadour, mistress of King
Louis XIV; the words are from lyrics popu-
larized by Donna Summer.
The exhibit features 15 digital projects,
each produced as an edition of five by
Aptekar, who decided to focus on art during
his senior year at U-M.
He continued with his Michigan schooling
for an extra year and a half to get his degree
before moving to New York and attending
graduate school at the Pratt Institute.
Graphic design preceded his adaptive
approach. New York galleries and museums
started to show his work in 1979.
"There are aspects of my work in general
that I take to be Jewish, and that permeates
everything I do as an artist:' says Aptekar,
active with Congregation Shaarey Zedek
while growing up in Michigan. "Specifically,
the notion of taking paintings from the histo-
ry of art and imposing texts that spin under-
standing of those paintings in a particular,
contemporary way is really talmudic.
"I think the impulse to understand and
interpret ceaselessly is one of the greatest
strengths of Jewish identity and culture. The
Talmud has created a living philosophy of life
that changes as people and life change:'
Aptekar, who defines this exhibit as his
most upbeat, also thinks that the humorous
elements relate to the humor that is found in
the Jewish community.
Wasserman describes the works as bring-
ing "brilliant insight and articulate expres-
sion of ideas" to the gallery.
"By taking images of French royalty and
superimposing irreverent text on top of
them, Ken has come up with a fantastic syn-
thesis of something new," Wasserman says.
"The images themselves are amusing and
beautiful, and ifs the first time Ken has done
multiples. He's well known for paintings
covered with glass that has text etched into it.
This time, he was successful with prints:'
Wasserman explains that this exhibit is a
strong representation of gallery intent.
"We're trying to present an international
roster of artists as well as support local art-
ists, and in many cases, we'll be commis-
sioning artists to respond to Detroit and
its future," says Wasserman, now based in
Florida but long active with Temple Israel
and the Jewish National Fund.
"In this exhibition, we've covered all those
objectives. Ken is, without question, an inter-
national artist reflecting on Detroit with his
work. He also has local roots:'
Wasserman got the idea to start the gallery
last summer, when he was spending more
time in the area.
Top left: Ken Aptekar: Lookin' for Some Hot Stuff,
40 x 40 inches, after Jean Clouet (1480-1540/41),
Portrait de Francois I, roi de France, circa 1530,
Paris, Louvre; TEXT: from "Hot Stuff," Pete
Bellotte, Harold Faltermeyer, Keith Forsley, 1979, on
Donna Summer album Bad Girls.
Center: Ken Aptekar: Shake Your Groove Thing, 30
x 60 inches, diptych, after anonymous French art-
ist, XVI century, Bal a la cour d'Henri il (Ball at
the court of Henry II), Paris, Louvre; TEXT: "Shake
Your Groove Thing," Dino and Freddie Perren, 1978,
on Peaches and Herb album 2 Hot.
"I was excited to see the actual manifesta-
tions of this creative class effort that is devel-
oping in Detroit with artists, musicians and
writers:' explains the gallery owner.
"They are coming to Detroit because they
are so interested in what this very singular
place means for the future and creating work
Wasserman, who plans an actual pres-
ence in the city of Detroit through instal-
lations or projects, used to get some of his
artwork through Ferndale's Lemberg Gallery,
now closed with the retirement of Corrine
Lemberg, and sees himself as the successor
to those operations.
"Don't Stop" continues through
June 21 at Wasserman Projects,
2163 Cole St., Birmingham. Hours
are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays-Fridays
and by appointment on Saturdays.
Information: (248) 220-4628;