Michael Genovese’s work operates as a reflection, both in a conceptual context and in a literal sense. This exhibition addresses a range of subjects, from Art History to American culture, pomposity to personal debt. The artist holds up a mirror in order to understand his identity and his role in relation to these subjects, while challenging the viewer to perform the same exercise. How we define ourselves, our choice of expression, the ways we are influenced by what we read and experience, all create cause for reflection and require a measure of humility in doing so.
Genovese’s text engravings on high-polished aluminum panels are simultaneously illegible and painstakingly detailed; they are further evolved reincarnations of pulp and prose. By turning his formerly disregarded mail – unpaid bills, debt collector threats, and legal documents – into sacred objects, he aims to more accurately convey the power of burden. Also among this collection of engravings is a panel cataloging public commentary gathered from a previous project, citing nonsensical quotes like “Tippy-toe on the pooty-side” alongside profound examples: “Our dreams don’t fit on your ballot”. Another engraving plucks sections of cultural essays; from Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man” : “You ache with the need to convince yourself that you do exist in the real world…”. Two chrome-plated, twin pieces, present the myth of Narcissus – one in Spanish, the other in French.
A pentaptych of paintings, executed in a style similar to the engravings, rewrites selections from a manifesto on Futurism – a lofty art movement, full of Italian bravado, which fell short of its own expectations. “Today, let tomorrow go” is the incomprehensible message on a monochromatic black painting. In each incarnation of the two-dimensional work a reflection is forced, but an obstacle exists – the process of analysis is difficult, uncomfortable, and at times simply impossible. The overall presentation of this work is an appropriation of theories from “Art and the Power of Placement” and a nod to the bygone era of formal gallery settings.
Three large-scale sculptures continue the conversation of obstacle and experience. A porch, missing its home, is preserved like a giant chunk of amber containing the DNA of a tragic history. A bizarre arrangement of ordinary pipes and chains is elevated to grandiose through its nickel-plated treatment. Metal rails are manipulated into a circular formation, grounded with cement footings molded from traffic cones. The motive of this work is also an interactive one; an invitation to flex your agility on a course constructed to humiliate.
Accumulated sheets of paper, in actuality, weigh less than an ounce, yet can resonate the poundage of an anvil. Genovese takes intellectual ideas and gives them anatomy to match significance, while trying to preserve their original integrity. Ten-gauge aluminum panels somehow feel ephemeral, and a hulking wooden sculpture still gives a fragile impression; interpretations change depending on the view.