Ideas and influences: Mike Cloud

Mike Cloud in his Chicago studio

Rather than parse the differences among us, Mike Cloud’s new paintings address the one experience we all have in common regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, wealth, or nationality: impending death. For his solo show at Thomas Erben, on view through November 2, Cloud has used stretcher bars, belts, fabrics, paint, and other materials to create a series of abstract portraits of people who have died from hanging or beheading. Some, like Dorothy Stratten and Anthony Bourdain, were famous, others, like María José Reyes, were not. On the occasion of the exhibition, Cloud has put together a list of fifteen ideas and influences that inform his work.             

Mike Cloud, Reyes Portrait, 2018, oil on canvas, 34 x 34 inches

Cloud gleaned the first seven ideas from Huey Copeland, a critic who, like Cloud, is based in Chicago. He discovered Copeland’s writing through a book review, “One-Dimensional Abstraction,” of art historian Darby English’s 1971: A Year in the Life of Color that was published in Art Journal Open. The final eight ideas are from G.W.F. Hegel, the German philosopher, whose work Cloud began reading while he was a grad student at Yale. Throughout the post he has included images of his extensive collection of dice.       –Sharon Butler

Mike Cloud, installation view at Thomas Erben in Chelsea

*Seven ideas I gleaned from Huey Copeland:

9. Visual racialization, stereotyping and caricature are forms of abstraction.

The hurtful uses of form

11. There are no adequate critical frameworks for thinking about American art that uses abstraction as a political site in relation to directly political figurative work.

The aesthetic inadequacies of category

12. The art historiographies of marginalized groups tend to focus on vernacular traditions or representational practices with political intent.

The social legibility of strategy

17. The integrationist ambitions of Abstract painting and its appeals to the future provide progressive individualists with an alibi for the continued repression of marginalized social groups.

The benign origins of neglect

21. Greenberg never published a single word positive or negative on the work of a black artist during his lifetime. 

The alignment of our speeches and silences.

22. Marginalized artists must move beyond mainstream institutions and aesthetic criteria to avoid reproducing the erasure that structures the segregated art world.

The dignity of voluntary banishment.

24. Discredited schemata of canonization and double standards of valuation discursively re-inscribe the divisions within the segregated art world.

The nature of causal structures

*Seven ideas I gleaned from Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel:

2. Human existence is a spiritual individuality that emerges out of, and makes itself known through the sensuous material of our bodies.

The expressiveness of individuality

6. Works of Art do not aim to produce pleasure only after study, reflection scholarship and examination. 

The immediacy of affect

11. Painted characters are spirits who have been drawn into a community of spirits and have become particularized within that community.

The politics of the spirit world

14. To become particularized, individuals must achieve independence from divinity, nature and other individuals in mental or physical life, while conversely having a firm, intimate connection to divinity, the community, the natural environment and the endless needs, aims, passions, actions and deeds of human existence.

The endlessness of our obligations

16. Painting uses the principles of mediation and synthesis to unite a subjectively invented external environment of architectural and sculptural shapes into an embodiment of spiritual subjectivity.

Never an empty painting

17. The heart and soul of the painted ground’s painterly treatment reflects what is subjective and in harmony with the spirit of the moving figure.

The expressive ambiguity of world building

22. The essential principle of painting is the feeling, thinking, acting subject embracing heaven, the variety of earthly situations and external bodily appearances.

The eventual reconciliation of every subject

Mike Cloud: Tears in Abstraction” Thomas Erben Gallery, 526 W 26th St, New York, NY. Through November 2, 2019.

Related posts:
Mike Cloud: Angst and hope
EMAIL: Mike Cloud’s shopping list
Angel Otero: Painting and the social landscape
Thomas Berding: Something wild

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