Michael Bise and Michael Jones McKean
Michael Bise: Epilogues
Fort Worth Contemporary Arts, Fort Worth
January 21 - February 25, 2012
Houston-based artist Michael Bise’s meticulous large scale graphite drawings speak for themselves. For that reason alone you should make a trip to see this exhibition. The technical accomplishments, however beautiful, are just a small part of what makes Bise’s work so solid. Curator Christina Rees says it best when she calls the drawings, ‘epic, beautiful, and disturbing.’ The narratives that unfold in the drawings nuances of line and tone are melancholic to be sure, but there is joy there as well—full to the brim with poetry and beauty. Conflicts between our curious, non-linear minds and the dogma of bible-belt religion and politics is a theme underlying much of Bise’s work yet seems particularly prescient these days as GOP moralizing fills the airwaves. Weighty themes, dark satire, formal rigor and a razor-sharp wit make this an exhibition not to be missed. My first experience with Bise’s work was in 2009 at Betty Moody’s venerable Houston gallery. While I may be less than objective when it comes to exceptional drawing, Holy Ghosts! was a knock-out. I expect much of the same from Epilogues, though remain hopeful its title is a misnomer and this isn't the last installment of Bise’s work we get to see.
Object-oriented philosophies and practices are once again in circulation, if they ever truly went away, which this writer tends to believe. In these ideas we’re presented with the suggestion that objects speak through us as much as we act as mouthpieces for them. Objects contain agency and are the things around which we organize ideas, histories, conversations and interactions. The argument is that the object, not us, is the tip of the spear. Michael Jones McKean’s work combines artifacts—meteorites, petrified wood—with everyday objects, surrogates and sculptures to create powerful meditations on the history and trajectory of the objects in our world. The Gilded Scab continues this line of inquiry and presents a large steel platform that roughly responds to the galleries architecture. Narratives are suggested and discarded, hierarchies between objects are also dissolved so that moments of solidity and solidarity between the things on display are created. McKean is most interested in how meaning attaches itself to objects via Semiotics, Hermeneutics etc., but his work also highlights the two way street that exists between viewer (if we can call ourselves that) and thing. Exhibitions themselves bear this suggestion out. Philosophies aside, McKean’s work is hauntingly beautiful, poetic and deeply engaging in its contortion of objects and their context, making it an absolute must see on any occasion. Plus, you couldn’t ask for a better excuse to make a trip to Montreal.
Eric Zimmerman is an artist and Editor of ...might be good.