A Smaller Picture
I don’t know why Michael paints what he does. I don’t know what he wants from it. And the longer I know him, the more I watch him paint, the clearer it becomes that he has no idea what he’s doing. And he chooses not to know. The inquiry, if it is one, the questions, if there are questions, he answers by painting. Continuing. Moving on. He paints the things he paints again and again, repeats himself, elaborates. Not because doing so helps him better understand those things, but because each iteration further evades his understanding. It doesn’t matter if a picture is something we recognize or not. He handles them all the same, images to be worked and reworked each abiding by its own rules.
Here are a hundred small pictures, roughly letter sized, painted in the last ten months. In the painting of a friend’s mailbox full of tools, tape, a cup, and pens–all the things he doesn’t want to carry up or down five flights of stairs–I see our friend. This micro storage is one of those motifs that stick. It’ll likely reappear like some of the others, get repainted, surface again with new contents. A subject is a path. Something that leads to something. A way to find new images. He paints the moon, or many moons, or moonlike pseudo moons, and sometimes only colored forms that could be other things. Horizons fade like the folds of a blanket. Tracks in the snow are made by impossible feet, a left and a right foot that leave marks as though they came from two completely different bodies. As if each foot had a very separate purpose. We can’t see where the feet are going, or where they’ve been, only that they’re making marks, a proof of presence, like any other picture.
And because he’s painting objects from our life, our broken cups, shoes from a performance, our daughter’s elbows, the work is both a record and a fantasy, familiar but removed. It’s about images. There is no mystery. He’s not after a bigger picture. He’s after a small one. If there is a social message or a political agenda that I might locate in the work, then he certainly didn’t intentionally put it there and he would never claim it.