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Maurice Greenia, Jr. Collections

Biography

I was born in Detroit, Michigan, on October 20, 1953. I lived in the cultural center area and then on the west side. In 1961 we moved to the east side. I was the oldest of nine children and had an interesting and imagination-filled childhood.

Through high school and college I worked part time at the Detroit Public Library.

I graduated from the University of Detroit in 1976. My major was in Communications Studies (radio, TV, journalism, film-making, etc.).

I'd been deeply interested in art and poetry. That interest became a passion and my visual dreams found themselves spilling onto paper and canvas. Encounters with Surrealism (a long-active group centered in Chicago) encouraged me and gave me a sense of direction and (anti) tradition. I remain a self taught artist and an obsessive/prolific one.

Starting in 1976 I printed my poetry and passed it out for free (more and more drawings creeping in the margins). I distributed hundreds of photocopied collections and manifestos.

At this time, I was on the staff of the Catacombs Coffee House on Detroit's east side and got my first experience performing while there.

In 1977 I had an important exploration wherein I hitchhiked to New Orleans through Texas with stops in Sedona and Flagstaff, Arizona and California. I got to see the Grand Canyon, the ocean and Merced/San Francisco/Berkeley/Oakland. I met Jack Kerouac's wife Edie Parker at City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco. We ended up as friends and associates back in Detroit. I had an important meeting with the Surrealists (including Philip Lamantia) and they gave me a big boxful of books to hitchhike home with. I went back up in a loop through Oregon, Washington, South Dakota, Wisconsin etc., until I got back to Detroit all renewed and focused in my vision as an artist.

I'd made a few attempts before but that is when I seriously started to paint, draw and make sculpture. I was 23.

By 1980 I'd started to show my work at various Detroit art galleries. I put out a small book called "Worlds." Since 1980, I've gone to New York City nearly every year. New York's the city I know best (other than Detroit). My intense exploration of its cultural venues and its streets has had a strong impact on my creative work.

I started a monthly publication in 1985 called "The Poetic Express" which featured my poetry, drawings, and a comic strip called "Surreal Theatre."

In 1988 I started doing freeform/improvised puppet shows. Some have been more structured and focused (even telling stories) while most are "vaudeville" style. These have one character as emcee presenting a series of acts. A film called "Tales from the Puppet Underground" starring my puppets was later made in the 1990's. This was a collaborative work with my friend Dave Toorongian (he's in the Space Band with me) using black and white Super 8 film. (In the late 1990's, this "puppet experience" led to writing plays for human actors on my then ancient 1980's computer.)

In the early 1990's I started to sign my artwork "Maugre" instead of using my full name. Combining the first three letters of my first and last names I created a new name. Later it turned out to be an archaic word meaning "to withstand in a defiant manner" (as well as other meanings). The accent on the "e" was added later during my visit to France in 1996.

Also in the early '90's I had two important solo exhibitions at the Willis Gallery and at the Space Gallery (both long closed, these were once located in downtown Detroit). During this time, I started creating hundreds of brightly colored sidewalk chalk drawings around Detroit, and in New York City, Ann Arbor, and France. Some of these were on underpasses and empty buildings. I photographed most of them.

In 1992 I moved down to the cultural center/new center area of Detroit. In early 1994 I started to show at "Galerie Jacques" in Ann Arbor. The year before I'd started a friendship with the late Jacques Karamanoukian. He was an extraordinary artist as well as a promoter and supporter of the arts.

In 1996, Jacques helped me to get over to France and be part of the exhibit "Les Jardiners de la Memoire" at the Site de la Creation Franche (in Begles - near Bourdeaux). I saw a lot of Paris. Later, my work would be displayed in two exhibits in Paris that I didn't get to see.

In 1996 and 1997 I did a huge street art project on the abandoned Hudson's building in downtown Detroit. It was all in bright colored (or white) chalk. Due to wind and rain damage, I'd have to go back days later and go over pieces in chalk again to restore them. I walked and took the bus there carrying a ladder so I could work higher on the building. This all started in response to artists having their murals on the building rudely painted over. It ended up with interaction between the homeless people living in the building, the people who wanted to save it and the people who wanted to tear it down. My work was imploded/exploded with the building when it was demolished in October, 1998.

In the early 1990's I the Don't Look Now Jug Band as a Kazooist and sometimes vocalist. In the late 1990's Jim Puntigam and I started "The Space Band." In this latter group I play musical saw, percussion, kazoo, vocals, piano soundboard, voice distortion device and much more. It's a free-form improv/experimental/humorous musical aggregation of four to six members. We perform in masks and costumes.

Since 1997 I've had an association with an art gallery and performance venue called Zeitgeist Gallery and Performance Venue. I've helped work on a continuing installation in the backyard of the gallery. I've been in numerous exhibitions there; and I help run it and keep it going.

In 2001 I started to work at the main campus library of the University of Detroit Mercy. I plan and install many of the displays there. These have included shows for black history month and women's history month, a damaged book exhibit and a solo show of my own work.

I continue to be friendly with/keep in touch with members of the International Surrealist Movement and am always interested in what they're up to.

I still consider myself an outsider. I'm self-taught (sometimes naïve and sometimes knowing) with the wild and original sensibilities of a self-taught artist. This is a feeling that's more than just about being outside the mainstream of the "art community". I have a strong Surrealist streak and I'm a naturally surreal human creature.

That said, I stand with other outsiders (who have been outside or who are still outside now) including native/aboriginal peoples, African-Americans, women, children, those who are called "mad," all true artists everywhere, jazz and blues players, the victims who struggle against their victimization, the poor, the sad, the angry, the lost.

I'll try to continue to work hard, play hard and make good work. I'll try to do what I can to make this world change TRULY for the better so that is may become less cruel, oppressive, exploitive, mean, miserable, stupid, insensitive, violent and all of that.

I'll continue to be some sort of force to try to help "the artist" play their true part in this world, this country, this life. Sometimes this goal seems a bit utopian and hopeless, yet some of us keep the faith and struggle on. Yes we do.

 

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