The view from behind the stick at the Bronx Bar in Detroit’s Cass Corridor is colorful, amusing and often poignant, judging by an exhibit of paintings by bartender Thelonius (“T-Bone”) Bone.
He has “an excellent vantage point from which to observe . . . those for whom drinking is a source of trouble or preoccupation,” writes Sarah Rose Sharp at Hyperallergic, an art and culture news site based in Brooklyn.
In a new body of work, “Alcoholics Anonymous,” Bone juxtaposes surreal and vivid portraits of bar patrons with object studies of drinks and other bar ephemera. …
Each portrait is set in the impenetrable gloom of a dive, with the surrounding darkness punctuated by one- or two-word statements from neon bar signs in the background. …
A statement accompanying the exhibit characterizes its invocation of the concept of “Alcoholics Anonymous” as being about “wanting to be unknown and unseen, rather than about recovery.” (One might say, in that case, that a more fitting title might have been “Anonymous Alcoholics.”)
The works, mainly gouache on paper, are at Playground Detroit, an east-side gallery and event space at 2845 Gratiot Ave., south of Heidelberg Street. The pop-up exhibit was on view Sept. 28-29 at an opening reception and open house, and can be seen by appointment from noon-6 p.m. Friday and noon to 4 p.m. Saturday. Contact the gallery at firstname.lastname@example.org or (313) 649-7741.
Sharp, a Detroit writer, is a former Kresge Literary Arts Fellowship winner (2015) and the recipient of a visual arts journalism grant this year from the Rabkin Foundation of Portland, Maine. She describes Bone’s collection as “a potent body of work, presented with all the sincerity it is possible to muster in an environment fraught with demons and denial.”
The tension between recovery and revelry in self-destruction fairly radiates from Bone’s works, and many of his subjects appear to emit colorful smoke or steam — perhaps a literal take on the anachronistic nomenclature of alcohol as “spirits.”
The portraits bear poignant titles that hint at this friction between self-awareness and delusion, presumably restating quotes from their subjects: “Time for My Medicine” or “Thanks to Denial, I’m Immortal.”
— Alan Stamm
Thanks to Playground Detroit co-director Paulina Petkoski for letting us share photos.