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Art X Artist Profile: Cedric Tai

The Art X events in Midtown start later this week. Art X is a showcase for local writers, performers and visual artists who are Kresge Foundation fellows to share their talents with the community. Today, WDET’s Rob St. Mary introduces us to young Kresge fellow using his opportunities as an artist to not only push himself further in his own work but assist his fellow artists in Detroit.

(click the audio link above to hear the story)

Inside the Russell Industrial Center lofts on Detroit’s east side… is the studio of Northville native Cedric Tai.

“Oh, I had this really good poem I wrote out… it’s part of what I consider… it’s part of artist statement… actually, I got really excited when I realized that no one can see me checking my iPhone for things I’ve pre-written…”

After a few swipes of his finger Tai pulls up what he considers a look at his process…

“Find a blank canvas… I mean so blank that it’s clear. Take everything you got… and mix it all together. Not like your matting batter… but make sure everything comes in contact with everything else. Let it sit for a day, who knows… it might take a week to dry. Flip it over and see what you’ve got. Hopefully, there is a problem. Look it directly, then indirectly… because the hardest part is knowing if it’s done. If you get stuck, just destroy your favorite part and keep going. Find what you are looking for… even if you don’t remember what you were looking for in the first place.”

Working in the abstract, with layers and colors, Tai says his art is less about answers… and more about questions.

“And I feel I even take this from my dad… being very practical… he was always saying… it’s not exactly what you set up or what happens, it’s how you react to things that matters. And so, I’m think about how there’s always thing going on… tragedies, disasters, things are getting cut, there are circumstances and consequences you didn’t expect… but how do you deal with it? When people say that you gain character is when you meet an obstacle… and I think that art is interesting to me because it has everything to do with problem creating as opposed to problem solving.”

One of the people who enjoy Tai’s problems is Detroiter Elliot Broom. He has purchased two of Tai’s pieces over the past two years.

“They are very abstract and it’s open to interpretation… the viewer can read into the work of art whatever he or she choices… and again, I love that.”

Broom says spending time with Tai’s work allows the viewer to open up to his art which enriches the experience.

“On the surface, immediately you may just see color and then when you examine it a little closer you begin to see that that color has been applied in layers and then when you look at it even more closely, you’ll see that he has tooled some of the work behind… kind of the backside… in the case of his Plexiglas works… I’ve kind of gone up and walked around and peeked around the back of the work of art and you’ll see where he’s used some machine, tooled the Plexiglas and then lays the layer of paint into this cutout and so it really makes it so interesting.”

Broom says Tai first caught his attention during a show at Re:View Contemporary Gallery in Midtown. Simone DeSousa is owner of the gallery. She says Tai continues to push himself beyond simple canvases.

“I think that’s what makes his work so interesting is that he’s not even confided to the medium of painting. Of course, his work is evolving into instillation and he’s just exploring in a very fresh way… and the work has the level, has the quality… and for a young artist to have that level of accomplishment and also be so open to investigate… that’s really the spirit that we are looking for.”

DeSousa says she became interested in Tai’s work in 2009 and offered him the opportunity to display and sell his works at her gallery. She says beyond his art… the 25-year-old is very involved locally.

“He’s also very engaged in the community. He’s an educator. He definitely has an influence in what’s going on in the art community in Detroit now.”

Tai also works as an instructor at the College for Creative Studies, the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit and the Detroit Institute of Arts. Within the arts community, he has been curating art shows around Detroit and has been running the area arts website “The Detroiter” for the past year or so.

In 2009, Tai was awarded a fellowship by the Kresege Foundation. He says the award has added to his conviction that art can be profession.

“Getting the Kresege fellowship made me so keenly aware that I really do love making work and it’s coming through by people appreciating and being reward for it that I thought… there’s not much of a risk then if I really go all in on this thing. I’m already having accolades, I’m already getting attention for it, it’s actually easier for me to make art than it is to figure out how to do any other type of job. This is something I can keep going to as a skill that I do.”

As part of the Kresege fellowship, Tai was given money to pursue an art concept. He’s working on public art pieces called “Brixels” – which is a mash up for the words brick and pixels. “Brixels” is an internet based design project which will move from on-line to the real world during the Art X events in Midtown.

“For me the epitome of this project would be if some 8 year old kid makes some design and has some fun with it but doesn’t think too much about it… then the next thing he knows he’ll get an e-mail from me and it will be the photo of a wall… and like, hey look… we did your design it’s on the side of this gigantic building in Midtown.”

For Tai, he says this is just one more concept within the creative sphere of a young artist.

“I kind of love that I can do whatever I want… mostly because I feel like I’m not of the age where anyone would ever expect me to know what my ideal medium would be or my ideal content. So, I get to play and try as many things as I can because I think that’s what everyone should do before their 30.”

Tai says before he hits that age, in about five years time, he’d like to attend graduate school. There Tai says he’d like to dive into his passions and inspirations in order to find what can only come from his unique perspective as an individual and an artist.

I’m Rob St. Mary – WDET News

To learn more about Cedric Tai’s “Brixels” project log-on to www.makebrixels.com .