American Spectacle: Paintings from the Manoogian Collection of American Art

February 14 through April 28, 2019

Theodore and Joan Operhall Gallery

American Spectacle: Paintings from the Manoogian Collection of American Art features eleven carefully selected American Paintings from The Detroit Institute of Arts from its 2018 – 2019 Statewide touring exhibition program. Organized by the DIA, this exhibition focuses on “the world of American painters of the late nineteenth century as they explored competing visions of American culture and identity in works of art that remain relevant today.”

Thomas Moran, American, 1837-1926
The Great Cave, Pictured Rocks, Lake Superior, Michigan; 1873; oil on canvas. Manoogian Collection

The selected paintings offer aspirational landscapes, genre scenes, historical events, and still life that convey a sense of America, either by celebrating the uniqueness of the land or revealing scenes of American life and culture.

The Artists

Two painting represent Thomas Moran; one is a tribute to the discovery of the New World by European explorers, the other is a majestic interpretation of the Painted Rocks of Michigan’s Lake Superior shoreline. George Loring Brown and Frederic Arthur Bridgman spent much of their careers in Europe and share here quintessential views of an America that appealed to the popular imagination of European audiences, depicting the great Niagara Falls and the spectacle of the American circus. Edward Lamson Henry looks back to a preindustrial and pre-Civil War era in Election Day, while Wisconsin artist Franz Biberstein captures the wonder and modernism of Chicago’s 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. Trompe l’oeil paintings, seascapes, and images of public celebrations round out the exhibition.

These paintings represent the ability of artists to both inform and capture the popular imagination. In an era where travel was limited and photography still an emerging technology, painters were able to bring the world to their viewers, and in so doing, shape their impressions.


Frederic Arthur Bridgman (American, 1847-1928)
American Circus in Brittany
Oil on canvas, 1869/70
Manoogian Collection

George Loring Brown (American, 1814-1889)
Niagara Falls at Sunset
Oil on canvas, circa 1861
Manoogian Collection


Edward Lamson Henry (American, 1841-1919)
Election Day 1844
Oil on canvas, 1913
Manoogian Collection

This exhibition is underwritten by DTE Energy Foundation.

Generous support for this project  is provided by Art Bridges.

In Pieces: The Art of Vintage Puzzles

February 14 through April 21, 2019

Michael and Kay Olthoff/Thelma and Paul Wiener Gallery

Jigsaw puzzles are an international pastime tailored to a myriad range of interests and skill levels. The premise of the jigsaw puzzle is simple: an image, applied to a rigid surface such as cardboard or wood, is cut into interlocking pieces that, when reassembled, display the original picture. Puzzles have evolved through changes in technology and to match the interests of each new generation. As a result, physical jigsaw puzzles and online versions are available for today’s users. In Pieces: The of Vintage Puzzles looks back to the late 19th and early 20th century heyday of the puzzle, when manufacturers across Europe and the United States brought their products to market – as toys for children and adults, teaching aides, advertisements, and promotional gimmicks.

This collection of vintage puzzles comes to us through the estate of André Aerne, a passionate collector not only of puzzles, but also stamps, ceramics, and art. The Muskegon Museum of Art hosted an exhibition of Aerne’s Clarice Cliff ceramics in 2010, and is pleased to present his puzzles to the public for the first time. This collection presents an intriguing look into the past and an opportunity to see history through the visual objects that informed peoples’ everyday experience and understanding of their contemporary world.

LEARN MORE: History of Jigsaw Puzzles, Wikipedia

View more examples of puzzles in the exhibition


Date Night: Pizza & Puzzles
Friday, February 15
6:00 – 8:00 pm
Ticket per person:$20/MMA Member $15
Bring your sweetheart, friend, or just yourself for relaxed night of pizza and puzzles in our galleries. Tickets include puzzle building activity, pizza, and one free drink ticket. Cash bar. Call 231.720.2580 for tickets.


Puzzles featuring artworks from the MMA collection are now available for purchase in the MMA Store.

Ad Man: Joseph Grey II

December 13 through March 10, 2019

L. C. and Margaret Walker Gallery B

Joseph E. Grey II is an artist, designer, art director, and writer. Now retired, he achieved an award winning career working with such notable clients as RCA, Elizabeth Arden, Noxzema, Esso (Exxon), General Motors, and Cover Girl. Beginning as a freelance illustrator and designer in the 1950s, he became one of the earliest, if not the first, African Americans to work professionally in the advertising business in New York City. Throughout his illustration and ad career he also pursued a body of independent works, first as an abstract artist, then later working representationally to depict various areas of interest including music, religion, family, Native American culture, and his time in Jamaica.

From musician to abstract painter to illustrator and graphic designer, this exhibition explores the course of Grey’s art through his earliest abstract paintings to his latest watercolors. The show also features numerous examples of his work as a professional illustrator and creative director, highlighting his pioneering presence in the New York advertising world.

Joseph Grey II was born in 1927, and grew up in Plain City, Ohio, a community of about 1,500 people and only four Black families. He enjoyed art as a child, especially drawing and map-making, but his biggest passion was for Jazz. When he graduated third in his class in 1944, he was an avid trumpet player and aspiring composer, so enrolled at Ohio State University to study music. During his finals, he flubbed his performance due to severe stage fright, forcing him to re-examine his pursuit of music. He chose art, and enrolled in the commercial art department at the Columbus College of Art and Design (then the Columbus Art School) in 1948.

After graduation, Grey worked briefly for an ad agency in Columbus, but tales of New York City proved irresistible, and he found work designing forms and pamphlets for the New York Housing Authority. Grey was able to gradually pick up freelance work, including at RCA Records, but as an African American, full-time employment in the ad business continued to elude him. His talent and drive soon broke barriers, and he moved from freelance to full-time work with some of the top firms in the city, including Hockaday and McCann Erickson.

By the close of his career, Joseph Grey II was an award winning artist, writer, and advertising director, a trail blazing professional whose work helped to break down racial barriers in one of the most influential cities in the world.

Gallery Talk with Artist Joseph Grey
Thursday, February 21
6:00 pm
Ad Man artist Joseph Grey will talk about his work in the exhibition gallery. Light refreshments. Cash bar. Free and open to the public.

A + for Educators: Illustrations by Patricia Polacco

January 31 through May 12, 2019

Alcoa Foundation/Ernest and Marjorie Cooper Gallery

Patricia Polacco is well known for her beautifully written and illustrated books that weave stories from her life into pages that have captured the imaginations of generations of readers. This exhibition highlights a selection of her books that celebrate and honor educators that made a difference in her life. Each book addresses a piece of Patricia’s childhood, from bullying, to learning difficulties, to teachers that pushed her to be her very best. Her books are honest and sometimes raw, exposing themes or issues that can be difficult to confront. This collection of stories is a striking reminder of the importance that good educators can play in a child’s life.

The exhibition features original art for Thank you, Mr. Falker, An A from Miss Keller, The Art of Miss Chew, The Lemonade Club, The Junkyard Wonders, Mr. Lincoln’s Way, and Mr. Wayne’s Masterpiece.

 Opening Reception

Thursday, January 31, 5:30 – 8:00 pm

Bring the kids to enjoy the opening of an exhibition of all original artwork by a family favorite illustrator. Patricia Polacco! A+ for Educators celebrates great teachers everywhere. The night will include remarks from our MMA Assistant Director Catherine Mott, followed by a reading of one of Polacco’s books on display. (Be sure to purchase a book in the Museum Store and bring it back to be signed by Patricia Polacoo herself in April!) Event is free and open to the public. Cookies and cocoa provided.

Underwritten by The Folkert Family Foundation



Conduct Becoming: A Survey of Distinction

December 13 through February 17, 2019

Robert D. and C. Corcoran Tuttle Gallery

Conduct Becoming: A Survey of Distinction is an ongoing photo essay project that captures and preserves the stories of United States military veterans. These powerful photographs depict former service men and women in their personal settings, contrasting the uniformity of the military with the myriad details of self-expression.

Conduct Becoming is the creation of professional photographer CJ Breil. His images take the viewer into the homes and personal surroundings of U.S. military veterans, offering a look at the personal and private, the complex individual in contrast to the uniformity of the soldier. When effective military service and performance requires self to be set aside in favor of discipline and conformity, what is lost and what is gained? And what happens to the individual when they return to the civilian world? Breil doesn’t provide the answers, instead allowing the subject’s life to reveal itself through the unveiling of visual cues brought about by observation and empathy.

In Breil’s photographs, veterans sit or stand within their own spaces, surrounded by the everyday objects of their lives. Typically, either in their hands or nearby, a photograph of the subject in service uniform rests. Separated by time and circumstance, the service image reveals a person that no longer exists, yet whose memories and experiences continue to impact the life of the contemporary sitter. As the project grew, it also began to encompass issues of sexual and gender identity, revealing the experiences of gay and transgender troops before, during, and after the era of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

Breil’s striking and compelling images of Conduct Becoming both serve and celebrate the men and women of the United States Armed Forces, and ask the viewer to not only remember their sacrifices, but invite them to witness and understand their personal narratives.

 C.J. Breil has been a fine art, editorial, and news photographer for over 19 years, a career that has taken him around the world. Breil graduated from the College of Creative Studies in Detroit with a B.F.A. in 1995, and lived in Korea, Turkey, and Greece before settling in Ann Arbor, Michigan. His award winning photography has appeared in books, magazines, newspapers, and in galleries and museums both locally and internationally.

Gallery Talk with Artist C.J. Breil
Thursday, January 10, 5:30 pm – 6:30 pm
Meet C.J. Breil, the artist behind Conduct Becoming, for a gallery talk around his photography exhibition. FREE and open to the public.