This Cass Corridor Bartender Paints Those Who Want ‘to Be Unknown and Unseen’ –  Deadline Detroit

“Alcoholics Anonymous” can be seen at Playground Detroit, 2845 Gratiot Ave., through Saturday by appointment.

(Photo from the gallery.

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.

Thelonius (“T-Bone”) Bone is an artistic mixologist.

(Facebook photo)

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.”)

“Time for My Medicine” is the title of this 44″ by 30″ gouache on paper portrait.

(Photo by Playground Detroit)

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 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.

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