Leslie Moody Castro, Artforum, June 2014
Made of sensitive materials such as tape, cardboard, and clay, the majority of the work in Theo Michael’s latest solo exhibition, “Reptile Dialectics,” will not survive for posterity. However, this extinction allows for opportunities unique to their condition as well as allows the artist to produce a body of work simply for creation’s sake.
The exhibition is divided into two distinct galleries. In the first, a multitude of smaller sculptures sit on short pedestals made of Styrofoam, and are complemented by graphite drawings, paintings, and hanging sculptures—most of which have been defaced by the artist—that line the walls of the space. The painting Relax, It’s Just an Artwork, 2014, for example, is scribbled with statements such as WHY HAVE AN OPINION and THERE WAS NO BUDGET. In the drawing Too Much Career Strategy and Now You Look Like This, 2013, four crudely drawn figures in blue ink float in a meticulously drawn graphite ocean, with penned speech bubbles filling the sky above their heads. The dialogue includes an indulgent theoretical art discussion in which each figure insults the opinions of the others and together they go as far as to insult the artist himself for defacing the perfectly rendered drawing with their forms and quarrels.
In the second space, ceremonial masks made of other perishable found objects, such as water bottles, are clustered high up on tall wooden stilts, which are situated atop a gargantuan pedestal that fills the entire space. Titled Fuck You I’m Civilized, 2013–14, the piece is playful and whimsical in appearance: The masks exhibit wandering eyes, pouty lips, and short chins, and make no visual reference to a specific culture but appear to be fabrications of the artist’s own made-up references. Coupled with their fleeting, existential nature, the masks, as well as Michael’s drawings and paintings, serve as lighthearted justifications in a world that takes itself too seriously.
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