Cranbrook Art Museum exhibits highlight alumni and staff

Cranbrook Art Museum is hosting three separate but linked exhibitions that showcase work by alumni and an artist in residence Cranbrook Academy of Art who have made their mark in the art world.

The show, “Annabeth Rosen, Fired Broken Heaped”; “Binion/Saarinen, A McArthur and Binion Project”; and “Danielle Dean: A Portrait in True Red,” will be on display at the Cranbrook Museum until March. It is curated to draw attention to Cranbrook’s broad influence on contemporary art. The exhibits opened before Thanksgiving and run until March.

“Our hope with this series of exhibitions is to shine a light on the contributions of both the students that study at the academy and the notable artists who mentor them,” says Andrew Blauvelt, director of the Cranbrook Art Museum. “The work emanating out of the academy has in many ways shaped the world of art and design, and these exhibitions will show how relevant and contemporary that work continues to be.”

“Cranbrook Academy of Art’s legacy is known worldwide, but is often overlooked in the Metro Detroit area,” he says.

A Chinese collector paid $450,000 for a McArthur Binion that was displayed at Art Basel’s Unlimited sector this past summer, and his minimalist, gridlike work has become steadily more popular.

“He is probably our most successful alumnus,” said Laura Mott, the Cranbrook Museum’s curator of contemporary art and design, who added that Binion is the first African-American to obtain a MFA from Cranbrook Art Academy in 1973.

“McArthur admired Eliel Saarinen very much,” Mott says. “For him growing up in Detroit, Cranbrook was another world. He was very influenced by the architecture by walking the grounds.”

Also like Saarinen, who came to Michigan from his native Finland for work, Binion, whose work dwells on personal history, moved to Detroit with his family from a cotton farm in Mississippi, Mott says.

The exhibition includes a selection of objects created by Saarinen from Cranbrook’s permanent collection.


Close up detail of painting in the “Binion-Saarninen” exhibition on display at Cranbrook Museum of Art.

Photo by Joseph Szczesny

Binion’s work appears as monochrome from far away, but as you get close it has the specific detail of an architect’s drawing or blueprints. After graduating from Cranbrook, Binion moved to Chicago for a teaching job, but he’s always been connected to Detroit and its artists, actively promoting their work


“Annabeth Rosen: Fired, Broken, Gathered, Heaped” at Cranbrook Art Museum.

Courtesy Cranbrook

Annabeth Rosen, who received her MFA in ceramics from Cranbrook in 1981 and is now a professor at the University of California-Davis, is another successful graduate of the academy in Bloomfield Hills, Mott says.

Rosen’s work is widely collected, especially on the West Coast, she says.

“Each of her sculptures is an amalgamation of fragments, fired and then joined to the mass, the whole accumulating gradually,” Art In America magazine observed in 2017.

“We are honored and delighted to present Annabeth Rosen’s work at Cranbrook,” Blauvelt says. “It is a homecoming of sorts for one of the most important contemporary sculptors working in the medium of clay. Rosen’s monumental and expressive works are a testament to her formidable skills and expressive vision.”

The third artist with work on display is Danielle Dean, who in August was appointed Cranbrook’s artist in residence.

On display in the museum is work by Dean that features a “first-person narrative” — a fictional character who merges in a pair of Nike’s “True Red Vampire” sneakers. Dean’s story examines issues of race, gender, age and class while blending fiction with reality and blurring subject and object.


Danielle Dean: A Portrait of True Red” runs Nov. 17-Jan. 6. 

Courtesy Cranbrook Art Museum

Dean also is head of the photography department at Cranbrook Academy. Her work has been displayed at various museums in the United States, including the Studio Museum in New York City, the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Museum of Contemporary Art.

“We think Danielle’s work develops dialogues to investigate and question social narratives, such as race and gender, that are thoughtful and topical conversations,” says Amy Green Deines, the dean of Cranbrook Academy of Art.