Material Catch // Dominique Labauvie
Celebrating Opposites // The Work of Michael Conrads
Opening Reception // Saturday, January 21st from 6-9pm
Exhibition on View through March 4th, 2017
“The line informs us about the absent forms, as only the missing remain in our memories, our books, and in our images. The line attests to the desire of thought.” -Dominique Labauvie
Dominique Labauvie’s newest body of work is a series of sculptures and drawings focused upon ruin as subject, a theme often addressed in art history, and weighing heavily in Labauvie’s thinking as ever-present in our society by way of environmental damage, cultural destruction, government, and concern for the future. In Labauvie’s view, material culture—the remains of what once was—is material evidence which aids in understanding the past.
Through his sculptures, the artist translates the concept of ruin as the reduction of form to its minimum, the line of the funambule (French for tightrope walker), and sculpts in metal as a mark in space. The sculptures are fabricated using small segments of forged steel, welded, as marks on paper would be joined in drawing.
“The ground—any ground: earth, wood, or stone—hosts the forged lines, just as the landscape that for centuries has been mapped by rivers, roads, and highways. Drawing engraves the style of my sculpture. Drawing is one of the mental references of the sculpture, and in a sense it is a form of partnership.
“My sculpture not only addresses the line as a record to ‘transport time into space,’ but it also manipulates the material nature of steel. Steel is actually not natural but a man-made material, with the exception of the iron meteorite that falls from the cosmos onto earth. From the mineral to the industrial product, we can say that steel is a pure product of human inventiveness and work. As Valery wrote in 1937, ‘What would we be without steel?’
“The floor of the studio where I work is a surface on which I move. The segments of the sculpture are laid out, unconnected and moving all the time without a predetermined direction, as in a drawing. As I work, the image appears and disappears—creating a kind of high and low tide of perception. The line and its speed, its texture, tension, or extension is found well within the nature of the steel; it constructs the different rhythms of its presence and names them. When a line bends, it slows down; as it expands, it suddenly appears as a flat surface: it carves out its presence in space like a black hole.”
Labauvie’s sculptures are intended as a physical homage to the strength of survival. The Arrival is the last sculpture of this series, “a declaration of victory and love,” which makes a historic nod to the famous Birth of Venus by Botticelli.
Mindy Solomon is proud to introduce, for his first Miami solo exhibition, the work of Michael Conrads. Currently an artist in residence at the Fountainhead in Miami, Conrads hails from Germany.
Conrads believes good painting is a manifestation of the artist’s emotional and intellectual sensibilities realized on canvas. Ultimately, achieving a visual epiphany and the fulfillment of an aesthetic journey is the final goal.
“Before I start a painting, I usually have a composition in mind, which I develop through a series of small-scale drawings. These are drawn onto a specially modified grid, which enables me to shift between dimensions of space—from plain top view to isometric perspective to multilayered, multidimensional space-and-time tables. I use the grid as a tool to construct the illusion of depth, and to create contradictory perspectives that change while gazing at the picture. The perspectives can be quite complex at times, while others are merely repetitive and pattern-like, which can lead to ultra-dense, self-consuming structures. The magic happens (or doesn’t) in the transformation from a graphic drawing to painting.”
Utilizing a variety of media, from acrylics to oil, spray color, pigment, shellac, bitumen, and pastel, Conrads’s process is the materialization of painting. His process of art-making constructed to analyze how painting works. The parameters of a painting contain many contradictions: light and dark, dense and loose, quickly drawn and elaborately articulated, dynamic and static, colorful and monochromatic. Conrads believes all of these actions are valid. It is the utilization and implementation that create perfect compositional balance.
Conrads states: “Finding balance is usually the hardest part. It all comes down to what happens on the canvas. As much as planning or drawing may help to prepare for a painting, there are no shortcuts. A former exhibition title of mine comes to mind: No paint no gain. Lately, I have rather been looking for simplicity than complexity. It makes the work quieter and more dynamic at the same time, and helps me to focus on certain aspects of painting. Recent works include paintings that only consist of various types of pre-primed white canvases put together in spatial compositions, consisting of a minimum of painterly gestures. This minimal approach makes traces of the work or mistakes a lot more obvious. As the white cube, which only exists in theory—and can, in reality—never be perfected.
“But not all paintings are that minimal, and luckily, I am still fascinated by color. My paintings are about perception. They give me intellectual stimulation. I don’t want to explain anything in my work or to be identified with a particular name or a genre. There is no overlying concept. Showing the process of painting is important, but not my final goal. I guess it is important because painting is what I love to do. In that sense, a painting is no more than the sum of all the single actions that I did to it until it’s done. And sometimes that’s a lot.”