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The Monocle Arts Review
Orientalism, Mobile screen grab, .png, 2017

Orientalism, Mobile screen grab, .png, 2017

Robert Bound: Tell us about Michael Genovese’s pieces. This one I feel in doing some preparatory note taking, I did need to be talked through it. Maybe you can fill me in.

Francesca Gavin: Genovese is great, I’ve been a fan of him for a long time. He is originally from Chicago and now he lives and works in Los Angeles. This show is an interpretation of the play on the history of abstraction and also touches in with the idea of how we use our phones. What he did is he looked up different words on his on phone, let’s take the word “guilt” and before things turn over and you’re using google image search you’re presented with these colored, cubic shapes and he’s translated that into these very finely made paintings. So, its very much about a translation of technology from one medium to another, but also at the same time, how do you reinvent our relationship to the abstract in a way that’s contemporary and interesting and has meaning, and I think he does it really well. The format of the paintings echoes the same kind of ratio of the actual format of a phone screen, so very much like, narrow and tall. Michael Genovese’s work at the moment is touching in on this heritage of Josef Albers or Ad Reinhardt, and this history from the 1960’s that’s being given new meaning in a contemporary context.

Robert Bound: What you’re looking at is neither one thing or another, its seems like a very contemporary/ futuristic take on the great subject of so many classical paintings; a sunrise or sunset, it neither here nor there, do you know what I mean? Do you get a sense of nature with this or does these seem exceptionally digital and machine made, not the images themselves, but what Michael Genovese is referencing?

Francesca Gavin: What I really like about this work is that there is a real physicality to it. It feels like it’s an object, it doesn’t feel digital, it doesn’t feel like something clinical in that sense or digitized. You really feel like someone has painted it, which I think is quite important and interesting. Personally, I am really fascinated about our relationship to screens, which I think is very different from our relationship to say television or movies, that kind of cinematic heritage. I think now we have a much more intimate relationship to the screen..
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ArtReview
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When the Dallas Museum of Art installs its Piet Mondrian collection, the result is illuminating. The museum has enough work, made over a long enough period of time, to allow one into the artist’s head, to see his particular form of pictorial reduction. In the world of popular Mondrian (in which his work is found on coffee cups, cupcakes and Yves Saint Laurent dresses), it is easy to forget the moody plein-air roots of the artist’s blocks of color and black lines. Mondrian painted liminal moments, when the fading sun threw dark shadows and stark contrasts across a row of trees. Analysing moments of transition or in-between spaces was how Mondrian attempted to show the structure of vision. 

Michael Genovese’s new paintings recall Mondrian: they offer the grids of colour, perfect surfaces and hard-edge look that made Mondrian a force not only in art but in design. However, Genovese’s grids do not derive from the crepuscular, but instead from moments of transition found online. Specifically, he finds his abstractions through a Google Image search algorithm, which fills (only for an instant) a browser grid with blocks of colour just prior to the full loading images. The result is a momentary abstraction, a visual stand-in for whatever topic that brings a person to Google. If one’s computer has a fast connection, this intermediate Google space may be impossible to see altogether.

Using a screenshot, Genovese matches the color of the grid exactly. The searches that he uses to produce the the colour grids from Google are suggestive and romantic on purpose; words like ‘guilt’ and ‘pessimism’. Genovese paints the resulting grids on canvas, using accumulating layers of gesso and urethane until the surface is flat, pristine and glossy. The vertical works are slightly larger than a door and installed close to the ground; they are human scale, large enough to contain a viewer in their space. As evidenced by Elation (2016), the paintings offer a sober view of their subject matter. The colors seem pleasingly matched no matter whether the search was for ‘astonishment’ or ‘rage’. 


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Know Wave
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“WJS: I love the idea of the “unseen,” as this is exactly what you are doing – you’re mining color that is only visible for a few moments from the text you are searching. In this way, you are getting at some kind of interior space, that may not be initially legible, on what looks like highly polished, hard-edged abstract paintings. After all, the origin of abstraction was exactly the search for something that is perpetually unseen – a universal language, some sort of expression without speech that transcends culture, and enters the realm of the spiritual. The other component of the “unseen,” however, is an element of control. Even the most minute experiences we have on our phones are regulated. Is there something nefarious latent in your project? I’m reminded of that very famous Barbara Kruger image/book Remote Control (1994). There is also a connection to Sarah Charlesworth’s Modern History series, in which information and socio-political relationships become reduced to formal relationships.

MG: I’m looking for that quiet and undefined space between information, and what you refer to as the interior space – that flawed moment in translation, color, and order, right before it fails...”

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Shards of Hope
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“Visitors to artist Michael Genovese’s solo show, Lines and Cracks and Zebras and Horses, at the OHWOW Gallery in Los Angeles have cause for concern — massive, silvery cracks run along the otherwise pristine gallery walls. The room appears to be on the verge of crumbling. These fault lines are not really chasms (although you can never really be sure about these things in contemporary art). They are more like casts of chasms, memorials to anything that might take on the form of a line, however sacred or banal. Accompanied by a book of line-dominated images, notably a thunderous herd of zebras, the impossibly reflective sculptures are arresting for their scale and symbolism. Each sculpture is the convergence of disparate worlds: Pompeii frescoes meet Metallica; a crack from an Iranian Mihrab dated 720 A.D. fuses with a mortar line from the vicinity of Castillo de San Marcos in Florida. Looking at them, it’s entirely appropriate to feel like you’re in the throes of an earthquake.

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In an interview with Genovese explained that his work is about “designating value” to fragments of life. Whether it’s staring at stray hairs in the bathtub or gazing at a historical landmark (a very loaded term, in the context of this show), these moments mean something because, in that instant, we are registering the things around us and trying to make sense of them. By turning a crack, usually associated with damage, into a sculpture, Genovese alters the meaning of the crack.”
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