Visitors wander through an illusory forest of layered wire mesh created by Seungmo Park. Visitors wander through an illusory forest of layered wire mesh created by Seungmo Park. 

 By MIKE NORTON

Sometimes you need a little nudge. For instance, if Gene Jenneman hadn't nudged me last week, I might have missed a couple of really great exhibits of East Asian art -- one by an iconoclastic Korean sculptor, the other a provocative photographic record of social change in modern China - at the Dennos Museum Center.

Both exhibits -- Seungmo Park: Meticulously Snipped and Wrapped and How to Return: an exhibition of Contemporary Chinese Photography  – will be on display at the Dennos until Sept. 7. Jenneman, who's the executive director at the Dennos, visited Seungmo at his studio outside of Seoul late last year -- and he’s been delighted with the public response to the work.

Park's "Maya 7624"

Park's "Maya 7624"

"This is not an exhibition for intellectuals," he said. "The average tourist who is just here for fun will come away talking about it. I watched throngs of people come through the Dennos on Barbecue Day here who are not our usual visitor types, telling me they had never seen anything like it - actively engaged with the work including photographing themselves with, and in one of the works that allows you to become part of the piece."

So I went and took a look. And he was right!

 

 

Park's "Maya 1316"

Park's "Maya 1316"

 

The Dennos show is Seungmo Park’s first solo museum exhibition in the U.S. and features his meticulously cut MAYA imagery, in which the sculptor uses layers of wire mesh to create deep images that combine an ethereal, spiritual depth with nearly photographic realism.

Park’s other sculptural works are drawn from models found around him - a person, a piano or a motorcycle – which he transforms into oddly disturbing shapes wrapped in aluminum wire.

“How to Return” is a showcase exhibition organized with Shanghai’s M97 Gallery, whose owner  Steven Harris is a Michigan native who summered in nearby Northport as a young man. Harris chose the work of seven contemporary Chinese photographers who reflect the contrasts and collisions between tradition and change.

Harris believes current art in China reflects a growing disenchantment with “the veil of glittery consumerism and all it promised,” and a search for ways to find what’s left of their roots. Each of the seven artists included in the Dennos exhibition conducts that search differently.

Wang Ningde's  "Some Days 60"

Wang Ningde's "Some Days 60"

Adou and Luo Dan are perhaps most recognized for their work documenting  ethnic minority groups in China like the Yi of Sichuan and the rural villagers of Yunnan. Song Chao emerged on the international stage with a series of portraits of his fellow coal miners, while painter turned photographer Liang Weizhou depicts the industrialization and post-industrialization of the water towns and countryside around his native Shanghai. Huang Xiaoliang and Lu Yanpeng present composed and landscape images of delicate and dreamlike quality, while Wang Ningde’s conceptual images explore the tension between today’s China and memories of the Cultural Revolution; his iconic series “Some Days” has  achieved international acclaim.

Since its opening in 1991, the Dennos has become northern Michigan’s most significant cultural center. In addition to a collection that includes over 1,100 catalogued works of artworks from the Inuit people of the Canadian Arctic, it has hosted several major traveling exhibits, from works by studio glass artist Dale Chihuly to artifacts of ancient Egypt and gold from Precolumbian Panama.

Located on the campus of Northwestern Michigan College, it is also the home of Milliken Auditorium, whose annual series of jazz, blues and world music is a hugely popular part of the state’s cultural mosaic.The museum is open Monday to Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm, Thursday until 8 pm and Sundays from 1-5 pm. Admission is $6 for adults and $4 for children. For more information on the Museum and its programs, go to www.dennosmuseum.org  or call 231-995-1055.