Michael Genovese, Solo Exhibition, It's not the heat it's the humility
It's not the heat, it's the humility
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 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.
"Waveland and Troy, 2009, is a minimalist sculpture based, to begin with, on memory. Inspired by a resourceful solution to standard fence fabrication, of decades ago, wherein plumbing pipes connected in a particular configuration and planted on property lines to define one’s territory, the piece serves as memoir to this dated DIY practice, but more aptly as visual symbol translating its intended message – Stay Out. Through the topical treatment of nickel-plating commercially manufactured steel pipes, coupled with their linearly concentrated, symmetrical arrangement, the artist’s literal memory (a “fence” on the corner of Waveland and Troy in Chicago) transforms into an exaggerated expression of space and obstacle, as well as a glorification of convention.
Defying the territorial declaration made by fences, and the distance etiquette expected when interacting with fine art, Construction instruction deconstruction construction, 2009, is a performance video which serves to not only negate the terms of confines, but also to activate a sedentary object, infusing it with history, movement, and experience. The video monitor’s placement on a pedestal continues the dialogue of province and separation. The summation of concept lies in the questioning of boundaries, the enjoyed freedom of crossing them, and the cumulative value and resonance that results from interaction." (SFCC Exhibition at the Frost Art Museum, 2011)
Writing His Way into the History of Art
In the beginning there was the word, and in artist Michael Genovese’s work that word takes myriad forms, encompassing wall paintings, installations and graphic sculptures. Genovese has a background of strange jobs that inform his unique aesthetic- from painting carnival signs to painting the bases of swimming pools. He recently relocated from Chicago to Miami , where he has a major she opening the months at A-Ron’s cavernous OHWOW space. Although his work can appear graphic and bold in nature, Genovese is really interested in what he describes as “humility, and perseverance, abandonment and desolation - the melting pot of culture, race, gender, and socioeconomics.”
Dazed: How did you start making art?
MG: I was hired to paint signs for a traveling carnival, and while it was technically considered ‘art making’ by my boss, I began to see it as that. I started seeing penmanship as a cultural fingerprint.
Why attracts you to typography and lettering?
MG: I’m drawing to lettering because of what it emotes, aside from its literal meaning. I am mostly interested in handwritten text. It is someone’s identity, like a self-portrait, which is unique to a time and place, and a personal history.
What inspired you to start playing around with Latino text?
MG: I was trying to buy a soft-serve from an ice cream truck in front of my house. The man selling the ice cream didn’t speak English and the truck didn’t have any signs. His family was inside. His wife- was sitting on a tub of ice cream with his newborn daughter- also didn’t speak English. No one understood what I was trying to order. After we sorted it out, I offered to paint signs on his truck. I went home and drew out some ideas that night but he didn’t come back the next day. I resigned from my day job, packed up a bag with paint, and started looking for the family. I never found them but did find people in a similar situation. In Chicago, there are still pushcart vendors who roam the side streets selling elotes, fruit and vegetables in search of the “American Dream.” I bartered my way into painting their carts. I mostly got paid in fruit, but the meat of the project was in the transaction and interaction.
How has your move to Miami influenced your work?
MG:There is a Dodge-City sort of feel to Miami, you cannot quite grasp what is going to happen next. There is also a man versus nature battle happening here. Hurricane season comes and the city grows quiet and dark. It’s wild.
Gavin, Francesca. “Writing His Way into the History of Art.” Hung and Drawn, Dazed, Vol. 2, Issue #75, London, UK., July 2009.
IT'S NOT THE HEAT IT'S THE HUMILITY,
PHASE TWO, SCULPTURE ACTIVATION
Construction instruction deconstruction construction, 2009
OHWOW: A Fabulous Ménage
Michael Genovese is a breath of fresh air. His ability to engage public participation is uncanny and he uses this engagement to both inform and fuel his work. His solo exhibition “It’s Not the Heat, it’s the Humility” opened in OHWOW, Miami in 2009, and focused on creating a collective discourse by not only integrating text sourced from the general public, but also engaging his audience in a physical obstacle course within the space. In his “P.S.” series, Genovese painstakingly etched large metal plates with text collected from a four year long public project that invites people to share and write down their opinions and ideas. The text is engraved delicately on to the reflective plates, so the audience is invited to step in to read while being mirrored in the work. In conjunction with these plates Genovese strategically placed sculptures throughout the gallery so that they suggested a playground or obstacle course. And on opening night that’s is exactly what it became. Genovese is incredibly adept at engaging (and creating) social situations that embrace multi-culturalism in a way that is both genuine and truthful.
Claire Breukel is a Contemporary art curator and writer based in New York and Miami. She is interested in artwork that falls out of conventional modes of exhibition.