Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Mike Hein

I first saw Mike Hein's work a little while back when looking at artists for The Longest Day. I'm really into what he's doing now with molded plastic, making random associations between realism and abstraction. Check out some of these nice older works to see how he got there. He currently has a work in The Object Direct at Heskin Contemporary, curated by Matthew Fisher, which closes January 3. Also see his new website here and the interview below:

Demon Child Desk, 2002, school desk, laminate, mdf, 100" x 92" x 43"
JL: Throughout your progression, there are almost no examples where you have simply replicated/copied something. You made a move from assembling found objects in your early works (Jag in the Cemetery and Demon Child ) and to altered constructions (Slim Door), but they have never been straight-forward. Can you describe your initial approach to materials and how it has evolved?

MH: I never really thought that I was assembling found objects. I had thought of an object or material as a catalyst. Material and found objects seem the same to me they have the potential to do the same thing. Take for instance the desk and the Formica on the gravestone in Jag in the Cemetery. The desk sets up a context and experience shares by most people in North America of being in grade school. The Formica takes you to the kitchen of a middle class home. I think the desk was an anomaly though it still did what the other pieces did that did not have found objects.

I was very interested at the time at the relationship between the subject/form and the material it was depicted from. Attaching a precarious topographic form to a school desk and attaching Formica to a mdf form of a gravestone. Both transcend the sum of their parts. I think coincidentally these two examples entered into a supernatural realm via banal forms and materials.

Jag in the Cemetery, 2003, dimensions variable

JL: In many of your works, this approach sets up a kind of conflicts between thing easily recognized and something less palpable. Can you explain how this emerges?

MH: I find the only way work evolves is if I’m in the studio. I have to be messing around with the tools and materials. When I don’t have an idea I just go and experiment. Whether it be trying to depict something I haven’t before or creating a new texture in the plastic.

JL: How did you end up working with Plexiglas?

MH: I tired of using pre-fab materials. All of my references were seemingly tied to middle America. I wanted to move away from that and have broader, maybe more abstract concepts. Plastic is a raw material like a sheet of plywood or metal, but its properties are amazing. It is very workable with basic tools and is pre-colored. I’m also very attracted to the glossy finish. Concentrating on one material seems to expedite some facets of the decisions I have to make as well which, for now, are important.

Meteor (front view and side view), 2008, plexiglas

JL: Some of these are like visual malapropisms that have a humorous bent…why might you choose, say a banana peel to lie on top of a snow bank or taped pieces of paper to a rock?

MH: The snow bank and banana peels was something I saw four years ago on a snowy day in Nova Scotia and I liked it a lot. But it took along time before I figured out how I wanted to make it. I still think I could do it better. Actually that piece was destroyed in a shipping mishap. So I'll probably make it again. The meteor and rock with paper taped to it came about more like what I was talking about earlier: objects as a catalyst. I made the Icosahedrons and the idea came out of that.

JL: How important is humor in your work?

MH: I guess it is important. I don’t really think about them being funny and I never try to make them funny. It just seems to happen. I think over time common threads have lasted throughout everything I've made in my life. It's weird but a couple weeks ago I was thinking about how I was making work and how it probably exercises only some neural pathways in my brain. Now, those pathways must be wider or easier to travel and the result is that I am not totally in control of the choices I make in the work. Some things just happen.

detail of Sunset Village, 2008, plexiglas
Snow Bank with Banana Peels, 2008, plexiglas

JL: Can you talk about the other little touches and details...like the banana peels, the colors behind the meter, or the slime on the door...Where do these come from in the scheme of things just happening?

MH: Many of the "little touches" are a result of technique (i.e. tool marks and limitations of the material) like the roughness in the brim of Paper Witch Hat or the text and image inlays in the series of bags I did. Not that I just let them be without caring but I liked them formally, Sometimes a roughness happens in the work that I try very hard to get rid of, and bring back the slickness of the plastic.

This is a very good question because its something I struggle with. Keeping the plastic slick is sort of a limitation. I would love to add another dichotomy to the work- a nice clean surface vs. bubbly melted stringy plastic. I've tried to do it but it just looks like shit. Slowly, it’s coming into the work though. In Sunset Village, I embedded teeth marks into the crushed representation of the Styrofoam cup.

Slime Door, 2003, fiber glass, latex paint, ball point pen, mdf, 83 x 49 x 45

Friday, November 21, 2008

Sam Gibbons, in print

Mike Hein's post will be up soon...in the meantime, pick up the Fall '08 issue of Hi-Fructose. It has a lengthy interview with Sam Gibbons, whose work also appears on the cover. He has appeared here before. Also see his website here.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Object Direct

Mike Hein,
rock in the woods, 2008, plexiglas, 35” x 24” x 7”

The Object Direct, curated by Matthew Fisher, opens this Thursday the 2oth at Heskin Contemporary. It includes a few artists
who have appeared here in the past. In the next post, I'll have an interview and more work from one of them, Mike Hein (above). For now, see the artist list and press release for The Object Direct below:
Pat Brennan, Stacy Fisher, J.J. Garfinkel, Dan Gluibizzi, Mike Hein, Jim Lee, Dustin London, Saira McLaren, John O’Connor, Meridith Pingree, Rudy Shepherd, Mark Stockton, Cindy Stockton-Moore, Charlotta Westergren, Mitchell Wright

For the artists in this show, it's both who shot J.R. and who shot Mister Burns. Equal parts the Pepsi Generation and New Coke, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Regan, the Challenger explosion, the first Gulf War and President Bush. Art today cannot be reduced to an "ism" or single movement. Books entitled Painting People and group surveys such as USA Today remind us that art has gotten so large that what binds it together are simple comparisons and geographic groupings. These artists are apart of a single generation whose works features a strong presence of the hand.

These fifteen artists know the 1970s. They know the 1980s. These years formed their foundation for understanding both the real world and the art world. They are also not afraid to allow for the inaccuracies of their hand be apparent. For them, the concept of object exists in the artworks finial state, not in the process in which it was made. These younger artists differ from the idea of object-ness that was apart of the definition of 1970's LA Finish Fetish. Then, artists like John McCracken, Ken Price and Ed Ruscha allowed for 'object' to manifest its self in the form of perfect fabrication and machine surfaces. This removal overshadowed their presence in the creation of their art works. The artists in The Object Direct, permit the trace of their hand to be apart of the final piece. Reminding the viewer of the process in which an idea went from mental to physical, creating a directness and accessibility between artist and viewer that was shunned before.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Call & Response: J.D. Walsh

(Untitled) Imposing Entrance from JD Walsh on Vimeo.
2008, video projector, tripod, wood armature, 11" x 14"

The last, but not least, artist from Call & Response is J.D. Walsh. The Jaime Keiter stills are great, but the above video documentation gives a better sense of how amazing these look exhibited. Since my interview with him, these are dealing more directly with a delicate play between rhythm, video-as-painting, programming, and sensory experience. Also see his two works in this pic from the last post for a sense of scale.

: his website, the new album by his band Nights, Solomon Projects, Perfect Strangers..., and The Longest Day.

Call & Response
, curated by Gianna Commito, is up now at Kent State University and closes Nov. 21. Previous posts on Call & Response: Carrie Pollack, Patrick Brennan, Suzanne Silver, Mary Lum.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Call & Response: Mary Lum

Mary Lum, Genial, 2007, silkscreen, acrylic, ink, found wrappers, glacine, 17' x 25'

Gianna Commito recently did an interview with an Ohio newspaper about Call & Response. About Lum's Genial, which is based on a collection of French orange wrappers, she states, ''Mary's a collector, and sometimes the things she collects make their way into her art work and sometimes they don't. She eventually realized that there was something inherent in the quality of the wrappings that couldn't be improved upon, so they are as she found them.'' More of that article here.

Call & Response
, curated by Gianna Commito, is up now at Kent State University and closes Nov. 21. Photos by Jaime Keiter.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Call & Response: Suzanne Silver

Drawing a Blank, 2008, neon, 30" X 40"

Red (names), 2005-6, embossing labels, marley, metal, wood, 4" x 5.5" x 1.5"

Call & Response intends to highlight the flexibility of language and meaning in art. Of all of the artists in the show, Suzanne Silver takes perhaps the most direct angle, using the Talmud as primary source. According to the press release, Silver "models her drawings, paintings, and sculptures on the system of cross references, commentaries, embellishments, and amplifications found there."

Call & Response, curated by Gianna Commito, is up now at Kent State University and closes Nov. 21. Photos by Jaime Keiter.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Call & Response: Patrick Brennan

Untitled (debris), 2008, acrylic, oil, paper, pure pigment, fabric, and craft sticks on canvas, 72" X 48"
Untitled (fashion shirt), 2008, acrylic, oil, paper, pure pigment, fabric, and craft sticks on canvas, 72" X 48"

detail of Untitled (fashion shirt), 2008, acrylic, oil, paper, pure pigment, fabric, and craft sticks on canvas, 72" X 48"

One of my faves, Patrick Brennan, has two large works in Call & Response. He seems to be experimenting more with the limits of the black as outlining/covering element and expanding his manipulations of surface and material. Check out his past posts where we talked about these black works and showed some of his older works. Also see his website here.

Update: Patrick will be in The Object Direct, curated by Matthew Fisher at Heskin Contemporary, opening Nov. 20.

Call & Response, curated by Gianna Commito, is up now at Kent State University and closes Nov. 21. Photos by Jaime Keiter.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Call & Response: Carrie Pollack

Mirror, 2008, oil on canvas, 12" x 16", Diamonds, 2008, oil on canvas, 16 x 20

Fracture, 2008, digital print on canvas, 18" x 24", Betwixt, 2008, oil on canvas, 16" x 20"

Over the next week, I'm going to post a few images from each of the artist's in Call & Response, an exhibition curated by Gianna Commito at Kent State University. Unfortunately, I won't get a chance to see the show, but Jaime Keiter, of The Light Archive, took some pics. In case you're in or around Ohio, the show closes Nov. 21.

I started with Carrie Pollack because, as this is the first time I'm seeing her work, I'm really curious about what's she's doing. The press release says that she "photographs quiet, often 'accidental' occurrences in her Brooklyn neighborhood." These photos are then are printed or reproduced in paint on canvas. You can see more of her works here.