Curved Form with Rectangle and Space, 2000. Powder-coated stainless steel, 14 x 7 ft. Work installed in Detroit.

Private Voice, Public Benefit: Lois Teicher

Lois Teicher’s Curved Form with Rectangle and Space (2000) is just what its title describes, a gently bowed piece of sheet steel rising 14 feet from the ground, painted pure white, with a tall, narrow rectangular space cut out of it just to the right of center. Constructed of a seemingly simple abstract form, on closer inspection, the sculpture reveals the complex nature of individual perception as it responds to object and spatial environment.
Curved Form with Rectangle and Space sits on a small Detroit garden plot surrounded by a circular walkway. It is sited next to the modest Cotswold-style, red brick building of the Scarab Club, a century-old artist’s association, and across the street from the recently completed Michael Graves renovation of the Detroit Institute of Arts. Walking around the sculpture, the space of its title frames an inner-city panorama that moves from the grandeur (some might say pretension) of DIA’s white, marble-clad exterior to the banality of a parking lot. Each view provides an opportunity to consider questions of the civic ideal and one’s place within the built environment. The potential for art to be a channel through which private thoughts enter the public domain has been a major theme of Teicher’s work from the beginning. A recent retrospective at the Saginaw Art Museum in Michigan offered an occasion for taking stock of her evolution.

Teicher says that her nearly three decades as an artist have been about the process of discovering her own artistic language. Entering art school in Detroit as an adult in the mid-1970s, after having raised three children, she found herself negotiating specific imperatives of time and place. On the one hand, there was the broad cultural current of second-wave feminism and, on the other, the more local concerns of a solidifying “Detroit” canon that came to be known as the Cass Corridor style. Teicher’s development can be seen as a kind of personal and aesthetic “coming out.”

The multi-part Celebration of Women (1979) consists of a rough-finished lathwork wall serving as a backdrop for a wooden assemblage that alternately reads like an easel, a stick figure behind a table or countertop (or perhaps an ironing board?), or a cross. The piece pays homage to generations of women whose socially defined positions (as in Teicher’s own experience) both inspired and restricted creative enterprise. Constructed from recycled materials, Celebration also engaged the prevailing Detroit-style practice of incorporating castoffs into assemblages that reflected the city’s post-industrial environment.