An artist and a photographer fell in love in Southwest Detroit. As their relationship blossomed, so did their dream of hosting exhibitions together in the neighborhood where they grew to know each other. That happened Friday night at the Atrium Project Space, a gallery run by the Southwest Detroit Business Association. "Las Fabricas/Life-Size Loteria," which runs through September 1, interprets Detroit's diverse, bustling, largely-Hispanic district through the eyes and experiences of Kenny Corbin "Karpov The Wrecked Train," and Alyssa Baron-Klask, "A.B.K."
Photographer Karpov's "Las Fábricas" is a series of portraits capturing the grit and toil of the district's factories and workers. Blown up and redesigned, the popular Spanish card game Loteria becomes an artistic tour de force in A.B.K.'s portrait series, "Life-Size Loteria."
"In the past week or so, we've had people call us a power art couple," Karpov and A.B.K. wrote in an email. "Ha!"
They opened up to The Huffington Post about their Southwest-inspired exhibition and love story.
HuffPost Detroit:How did you two meet, and how are your artistic styles similar?
Karpov: Alyssa and I met actually off of Facebook. We had never met before but had mutual friends. We met about a week later in person to chat about Detroit and the art scene here. 30 minutes into the conversation, I already knew I wanted to date her. I asked her an hour later if she would like to go on a date that night to see "Moonrise Kingdom." From that day on, we've been dating. We just had our one-year mark last month.
HuffPost Detroit: What makes you a good pair for a shared exhibition?
A.B.K.: We both really liked each others work and thought it would be a good idea to meet and talk about art. We both have the same passion for Detroit and art but our styles are so different. Kenny doing photography and me doing paintings makes our work the perfect combination for gallery exhibitions.
HuffPost Detroit: What's your relationship with the Southwest Detroit Business Association? How did you make this show come to life?
Karpov: I had a gallery exhibition at SDBA about a year and a half ago. I loved the space and had a great turnout, so when I met Alyssa we started talking about doing joint gallery shows in Detroit and calling our shows ABK vs KARPOV. This is our third gallery together in 7 months.
A.B.K: I was supposed to have a show at the SDBA for Day of the Dead last November, but it was canceled due to lack of funding. Kenny and I were really eager to show our work and told SDBA we'd fund it ourselves if we could just use their beautiful space.
Photo by Karpov The Wrecked Train.
HuffPost Detroit: Karpov, why did you choose to photograph factory workers? Had you been inside a lot of factories before?
Kenny: For the last three years I was living in Southwest Detroit, focusing on street photography. I'd walk for hours on end every day, photographing and interviewing the Latino population in that area. When came time to photograph for this show I wanted to put my focus on the factories in the area. I wanted to focus on Southwest for two reasons, it's a very blue-collar neighborhood, very hard-working people, and that area has the most factories of any part of Detroit. I've been in a couple Tortilla factories in the past year, so I contacted around 8-10 factories in the area, ranging from meat packing factories to bakeries and metal-iron factories.
"La Luna" painting by A.B.K.
A.B.K.: My project "Life-Size Lotería" came from a vision I had of an illustrated heart. I was researching different cultures and came across the image I had envisioned in the card game Lotería. For anyone who doesn't know, Loteria means Lottery in Spanish. The card game can be compared to Bingo, only it has really amazing imagery. I redesigned 10 cards on wood panels in a very dark and graphic style.
HuffPost Detroit: Karpov, Detroit was built on middle-class factory labor, but 50 years ago, people coming to Detroit to find a job and make a living were largely white or black. I thought your decision to photograph Latinos working in these factories was an interesting comment on Detroit's changing demographics.
Karpov: I really wanted to capture the juxtaposition of the workers and the machinery they operate. I was not nervous at all, I've been in a couple before, so I was ready. What I loved most about photographing in the factories were the workers in this very dark setting...very dirty hard labor setting.
HuffPost Detroit: Choose a piece from the exhibition and explain why it's meaningful to you.
Photo by Karpov The Wrecked Train.
Karpov: This image is of Jose. I caught him perfectly in the photo. He had just did the mixing of the corn and he looked up at me and I captured it. I love the expression he gives me. He talked with such passion about his job and the hard labor of his work. I loved that.
"El Corazon" painting by A.B.K.
A.B.K.: "The Heart," the image that inspired the Lotería series.
ABK (Life-Size Lotería) vs. Karpov The Wrecked Train (Las Fábricas) is presented by the Southwest Detroit Business Association. The exhibition runs now through September 1 in the Atrium Project Space, located at 7752 West Vernor Highway in Detroit.