MOCAD Is Showing Four Exhibits This Spring/Summer

See the work of filmmaker dream hampton, Detroit artist Sterling Toles, and more

The Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit has four exhibits in its spring/summer ’22 program season that aim to celebrate Black creative legacies in the city. The lineup includes Paradox of Harmonics from Toronto multidisciplinary artist Nep Sidhu, s(h)elves? from Detroit artist Sterling Tooles, Freshwater from award-winning director dream hampton, and Ground Up: Reflections on Black Abstraction, which includes a number of works from the collection of local arts patron James Dozier.

All the exhibits are now on display, and MOCAD is hosting a reception on April 22 to mark their opening. The event — which requires proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID test — will include access to each of the shows, an activation, and cocktails at the MOCAD Café that are inspired by the spring season. Ahead of the reception, we take a closer look at each exhibit below.


Sterling Toles MOCAD
Sterling Toles photograph by Ash Arder, courtesy the artist and MOCAD.

With s(h)elves?, Sterling Toles’ first solo museum exhibit, the artist uses community activations, found objects, original music, and images to, according to a release, explore “matter and spirit as constituent parts of identity construction.” A native Detroiter, Toles’ creative career began as a rapper in hip-hop groups and transitioned into music production in the late ’90s. He’s worked with rappers including Invincible, Boldy James, and Finale. The s(h)evles? exhibit is on display through June 12.

Paradox of Harmonics

Conceptualized as a “celebration of the creative legacy of Detroit sound,” artist Nep Sidhu’s Paradox of Harmonics includes mixed-media works, tapestries, paintings, sculptures, and videos. It also features a sculptural sound system that Sidhu created with Craig Huckaby, the brother of late DJ and producer Mike Huckaby. The exhibit is presented alongside a public art program series called Peoples Percussion Sessions, which will give local musicians the opportunity to respond to Sidhu’s work through music activations. Sidhu has previously shown his work at museums in Glasgow, Toronto, Phoenix, Seattle, and more. Paradox of Harmonics is on display through Sept. 11.   


dream hampton MOCAD
Freshwater (video still), 202, courtesy of the artist and MOCAD

An experimental short video shot and directed by dream hampton, Freshwater takes place in the filmmakers’ childhood neighborhood on the east side of Detroit. The film, which features music composed and produced by Toles, highlights the state of the city’s stormwater infrastructure and the resilience of local families by juxtaposing vignettes of a father and daughter as they travel through Belle Isle and images of a flooded Detroit. A member of the MOCAD Board of Directors since March of last year, dream hampton’s recent work includes Lifetime’s 2019 docuseries Surviving R. Kelly and the 2019 BET docuseries Finding Justice. Freshwater is on view through Aug. 14

Ground Up: Reflections on Black Abstraction

Pulled from the collection of arts patron James Dozier, this group exhibition includes work from Detroit-based artists such as Carol Harris, Shirley Woodson (one of this year’s Hour Detroiters), Allie McGhee (who recently showed at Cranbrook Art Museum), and Harold Allen. According to a press release, “Dozier’s collection is activated as a time capsule that highlights the creativity in our local landscape,” and the show spans multiple decades and mediums.  Ground Up: Reflections on Black Abstraction is on view through Aug. 15.

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