A wine exhibit—even one confined to Americana—would hardly be complete without the French. Besides the American obsession with European wine that creeps its way into many of the books and the heavily French wine list of the London Chop House in 1969 Detroit (a must-see for wine buffs), the exhibit also includes two French drawings. An 1878 Harper’s Weekly wood engraving of a California vineyard, created from a drawing by a French artist, depicts Chinese and American workers. Wild West cowboy hats mingle with Chinese conical straw hats in a tableau that wouldn’t be out of place on an episode of Kung Fu. In the other drawing, a French artist depicts America during Prohibition as a giant menacing gangster towering over a nondescript but utterly American city. His two pistol-holding fists pop starkly out of his massive silhouette. Both images seem equally fabled—America through the eyes of foreigners. Although in this room, I’m a foreigner, too, using these little treasures to piece together a picture of America and filling in the gaps with my own fables.
New exhibits this month:
Ann Arbor Art Center, 117 W. Liberty. Jewelry + Object (May 15–June 21). Reception 29 Fri., time TBA. 994–8004.