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

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