Leif Ritchey is an artist who lives and works in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Over the past decade, he has staged solo exhibitions at venues including Martos Gallery, New York; the Journal Gallery, Brooklyn; Shoot the Lobster, New York; and Luce Gallery, Turin, Italy. In addition to art, Ritchey is the co-founder of Leif and Tooya Clothing Company, which ran from 2002 to 2009, and is a member of the experimental surf band Shades.
We take a refreshing trip away from the coasts for this episode of Consumer Reports, landing in the idyllic heartland college town of Ann Arbor, Michigan, for a mellow week with Ritchey and his family. This includes plenty of studio time, a practice session with Shades—which counts Ritchey’s father as a member—while watching Miami Vice, and quite a bit of Raffi. All this and much more, including both Migos and children’s books, below. —John Chiaverina
Saturday, March 11
Tooya makes a pancake breakfast. Drink yerba mate. Listen to Raffi, One Light One Sun, next Theo wants to go down to the record room and look through records. He really likes this Barrabas record, Heart of the City, because the cover has a street scene with a heart shaped manhole cover. He’s also into a record cover that has a black background with white paint splatter speckle all over. The record is the Dance Trance Medley by the Boystown Gang. We bring that one upstairs.
Read article in New York Times about Georgia O’Keeffe’s show “Living Modern” at the Brooklyn Museum. I had just seen the posters in the subways last week. Great black-and-white photo of her, she looks timeless. In the article I learn that she designed and sewed most of her clothing. I think I am more interested in the images I’ve seen of her homes and furnishings and styling–her allover aesthetic–than her paintings.
Get a text from Eliza inviting me out to L.A. for her opening at Overduin Gallery on April 9th. Looking forward to it.
After Theo’s nap we take a long walk. It’s a big loop through the woods near our house.
We get home and make tortilla pizza dinner.
Read Goodnight Moon and Felix Finestitch with Theo.
My dad picks me up to go record with our band Shades. He’s blasting our last recording, I-90 Swords, when I get in the car. We start the CD over.
At Spencer’s house. As Brian and Spencer are setting up drum machine I put on Miami Vice. It’s a double episode, “The Prodigal Son” (1985). After blasting Jan Hammer’s intro we turn the volume off and Spence puts down the beats and Dad lays down the bass. TV floating in the dark. Later we pause to hook up the synths and guitar. We turn up the volume on the TV and catch the rest of the Vice. Julian Beck has a cameo. He was a painter and poet and started the Living Theater with his wife Judith Molina, inspired by Antoin Artaud. In his Vice episode he plays an investor banker mogul shifting tides of dark world power. My dad sees him on the show and talks about how sometime in the late ’70s, when he was attending the University of Michigan, he was walking across the DIAG on campus and saw Beck giving a lecture outside to a small group sitting on the grass. Watching this episode, I think that his character on the show must be who Mr. Burns on The Simpsons was based on.
Ride home, listen to the album we just recorded.
Sunday, March 12
It’s early. 7:30. Get up for some water. Tooya and Theo are listening to Raffi. I fall back asleep. Later a car outside is blasting some techno, it mixes into my dreams until I wake up at 11:50. More Raffi. Read the NY Times Sunday edition, a piece on Carmen Herrera. I also read about Rick Owens. He dyes his own hair. He also always wears his own clothing designs and lives in a building with all furniture designed by him. He’s a lot like Georgia O’Keeffe. Read a piece on Nike’s sports Hijab. Read some of the Times mag “25 Songs” issue. Leonard Cohen. Future. Frank Ocean, Migos “Bad and Boujee.” Rain drop Drop top.
Listen to the Big City Blues Cruise on WFMU/NPR.
Cook dinner with Tooya.
Books with Theo. Goodnight Moon twice and Pelle’s New Suit by Elsa Beskow.
Read book The Shark’s Paintbrush–it’s about biomimicry and how nature is inspiring innovation–while Tooya is cutting out patterns for a new shirt for Theo.
Monday, March 13
Bathtime with Theo, listen to the radio, WCBN Route 66. Part of the song reminds Theo of the “kid’s museum”–what he calls the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum. They have great kinetic stairs that make jazzy electric piano tones as you step on them.
Running errands—grocery store. Listen to Ladysmith Black Mambazo Chillout Sessions. First Wave Radio is playing at the People’s Food Co-Op. More Ladysmith Black Mambazo on the way home.
On the way to the studio. WCBN Yazoo City Calling American roots music show. Lightning Hopkins and a couple other great tunes I don’t catch the names of.
At studio. Look at some Instagram. Duro Olowu’s latest curated show, “Making and Unmaking,” is really great. Listening to late Miles Davis, Tutu. Remember a video Spike Lee made of medley of songs off this album with a bunch of Miles’s paintings. As I continue scrolling through Duro’s posts there is one of a poster of Miles on a wall in a record store in London.
Put on James Ferraro mix Brian gave me. I’ve been meaning to check out James Ferraro’s movie Rapture Adrenaline. I listen to his album Far Side Virtual next and then the mix again a couple more times as I’m getting into painting. Repetition on listening is usually where I end up once I get a vibe going.
My friend Chris gave me an entire iPod filled with Daniel Baldelli live mixes from his club Cosmic in Italy late ’70s to early/mid ’80s. The mix is tapes people have posted online. His tapes where widely traded and copied–much like DJ Screw or the Grateful Dead.
Put on David Mancuso Live at the Loft Volume 2 to mellow out.
In the car, home from studio, listen to radio–the rest of “Hang on Sloopy” and then Red Rider “Lunatic Fringe.”
Tuesday, March 14
Tooya and Theo are listening to Gemini Good Mischief record first side twice.
Theo and Tooya take a nap. I read some of the book Helio Oiticica and Neville D’Almeida Experiments in Cosmococa–programs in progress. I’ve always been inspired by his desire to merge individual life experience with art. The paragraphs I read were about bringing paintings into three-dimensional environments and as things to be worn with the alchemy of the body and music.
We’re in the car for some afternoon errands, listen to Snatam Kaur, Prem.
Stop at the People’s Food Co-Op hot bar to go. I catch part of “Double Dutch Bus,” it plays on in my head into the street. Back in the car listen to more Snatam Kaur.
Stop at knitting store, Tooya checks out some yarn. Theo and I ride the elevator a few times. They’re playing some kind of soft jazz in the knitting store. More Snatam Kaur in the car home.
Read Shapes, Shapes, Shapes and Things That Go with Theo in bed.
On the way to studio, Radio 107.5 Detroit’s land of “Bounce Back” … Big Sean. I’ve heard that he went to the Detroit Waldorf School as a kid. I also went to Waldorf School. The art for his album Hall of Fame has all these veils of color that look like lazuring or colored silks. I can picture him as a child doing eurythmy in the amazing eurythmy room they have at that school. Theo, Tooya and I have taken a Parent/Child class there. The art also looks like photos of Oiticica’s Parangole performances. The next song is “T-shirt.”
At the studio. Listen to the Moodymann Forevernevermore while looking at the paintings I’m working on the floor and walls. At the same time I’m looking through a pile of magazines and newspapers. Wall Street mag; T magazine; W; O32c; a book of graphic design, Japan Volume—1985; a book on Louis Kahn, Between Silence and Light. Put on Tatiana Compost by USAISAMONSTER. Next listen to Ron Hardy live mixes from the Music Box. Look at more magazine tear sheets and Picasso book of ceramics and the book Soul’s Run Deep which reminds me of Tyree Guyton–an early influence for me. Later I put on Larry Levan Live from Paradise Garage to keep things moving while I’m working.
In the car home on the Rock Radio “I’ve Been Waiting For A Girl Like You”–great synth sound, then “Gypsy Woman” Stevie Nicks and the beginning of “Purple Rain.”
Wednesday, March 15
Yerba mate in the shower.
Check the email. Our realtor has sent more amazing haunted mansions in Detroit for us to check out. Theo wants to listen to Dance Trance Fantasy, the record we brought up the other day. The record starts with an airplane lift-off sound. We play it for awhile then Theo wants to hear the beginning again and over and over again.
Errands in the car. Raffi “Baby Beluga” in the car.
Some jazz piano in the art supply store. I get a couple more gallons of the book binding glue I’ve been using. More “Baby Beluga” on the way to the Matthai Botanical Gardens. “Beluga” all the way home.
Read Felix Finestitch and Sun and Seed with Theo and Tooya.
In the car to studio listen to Grace Jones “Instant Life.” Stop at the library, drop off some books, pick up some books for Tooya. More Grace in the car.
At the studio. Put on the Blade Runner soundtrack, Vandals, a great moody vibe for starting or ending the night. Check out review in the Artforum of “Postwar—Art between the Pacific and the Atlantic,” curated by Okuru Enwasor, Katy Siegel, and Ulrich Wilmes. Would like to see this show. Look at Instagram. J.W. Anderson’s exhibit “Disobedient Bodies.” Put on new mix CD my brother Jack gave me the other day. He keeps me up on the newest tunes. Great selection from the contemporary river of music. I listen to the mix a few times into the night.
In the car ride home. Radio. Catch some Mister Mister “Broken Wings,” great synth. I read Miles Davis was really into this song and covered it around the time he was doing covers of “Time After Time” and “Human Nature.” “Back in the High Life” comes on as I’m getting home.