Breach Miami

TORRENTIAL AVALANCHE SANDWICH

MICHAEL SWANEY SOLO EXHIBITION

NOV 28 2021 – JAN 08 2022

IT SEEMS LIKE A SHRILL CHILDREN’S BIRTHDAY PARTY AMONG FOLKLORIC ALIEN FRIENDS. BUT, MAYBE THEY ARE JUST MASKS AND UNDERNEATH ARE ORDINARY OUTSIDERS, LOSERS AND HOPEFULS. A MAN WALKS HIS TURTLES, A WOMAN HER TAPIR. OTHERS HAVE BIG BUTTS OR CARRY BUMPS LIKE FROM A HERNIA IN FRONT OF THEM. ANOTHER GROWS A HAND ON HIS SHOULDERS INSTEAD OF A HEAD. THERE ARE HULKING BODYBUILDERS AND ZOMBIE SOCCER PLAYERS. GNOMES, DWARVES, OR BODIES AS LONG AS TOTEM POLES. THIS IS HOW MICHAEL SWANEY BUILDS MOST OF HIS BODIES. THE TOTEM POLE, A MONUMENTAL SCULPTURE OF NATIVE AMERICAN CULTURE PRIMARILY IN NORTH AMERICA, CONSISTS OF TREE TRUNKS WITH CARVINGS AND PAINTINGS. IN A PILED COMPOSITION, THE INDIVIDUAL ANIMALS AND SYMBOLS TELL STORIES OF THE DECEASED AND THEIR FAMILIES. SWANEY’S FIGURES EXHIBIT A SIMILAR COMPOSITION. THEIR INDIVIDUAL PIECES OF CLOTHING AND BODY PARTS PILE UP LIKE BUILDING BLOCKS. THE LANGUAGE OF FORM SEEMS CHILDLIKE AND NAÏVE, BODIES ARE BUILT LIKE STILTS, PERHAPS A PUSH CAUSES THEM TO COLLAPSE LIKE A DOMINO GAME. THEN THEY WOULD HAVE TO BE BUILT UP AGAIN FROM SCRATCH, LIKE PUPPETS OF A CHEERFUL OCCULTISM.

 

MICHAEL SWANEY IS A SELF-TAUGHT PAINTER. NEVERTHELESS, HE IS NOT CONSIDERED AN OUTSIDER, AS IN MODERN TIMES THE EXCLUDED, THE CRAZY, THE CHILDREN AND MEMBERS OF FOREIGN, “EXOTIC” CULTURES WERE CALLED. SWANEY’S INSPIRATION, HOWEVER, LIES HERE, IN ART BRUT. OFTEN THE CHARACTERS BEAR NAMES OF THESE OUTSIDER ARTISTS. “HIS PICASSO” WAS ALOÏSE CORBAZ, SWANEY TELLS US. NEVERTHELESS, HE SAYS, HE IS A CHILD OF MASS MEDIA, OF POP AND EMOJI CULTURE, IN WHICH COMMUNICATION IS ABOUT BIG HEADS.

 

MOST STRONGLY, HOWEVER, ONE SEES THE SIGN LANGUAGE OF CHILDREN IN HIS WORKS. BUT HE DOES NOT COPY THE PRODUCTS OF OTHER CHILDREN, BUT THINKS BACK TO HIS OWN ATTEMPTS AT DRAWING AS A 10-YEAR-OLD BOY. HE WAS ALSO INFLUENCED BY A MUSIC VIDEO FOR LITTLE PLAYERS, “FINGER FAMILY COLLECTION – 7 FINGER FAMILY SONGS,” WHICH HE PLAYED WITH HIS DAUGHTER. IN IT, HEADS WERE ATTACHED TO THE FINGERTIPS, AND ONE HAND THEN DEPICTED A WHOLE FAMILY WITH MOTHER, FATHER AND CHILDREN. THE FIGURES ARE FOUND ON THE CANVAS IN A TIDY MANNER, LIKE IN A CUTLERY DRAWER. OR BETTER, LIKE IN A SHOE BOX, SOMETIMES THE THICKER END – THE HEAD – IS ON TOP, SOMETIMES ON THE BOTTOM. A WINK AT GEORG BASELITZ? SWANEY EXPLAINS WITH A SMILE THAT IN THIS WAY, SIMPLY MORE FIGURES FIT ON A CANVAS.

 

NO ONE IS LEFT TO FALL BY THE WAYSIDE. SWANEY TAKES CARE OF EVERYONE. EVEN THE PETS.

 

OF COURSE, YOU CAN SEE THE DIFFERENCE: THESE ARE NOT TRUE CHILDREN’S PICTURES. THE ADULT, ARTISTIC INTERVENTION, THE DELIBERATE USE OF APPARENT NAIVETY, THE CONTROL OF ERRORS AND THE INTENTIONAL NON-PERFECTION CHARACTERIZE SWANEY’S PICTORIAL LANGUAGE. PAINTED-OUT SURFACES ARE SCRIBBLED AND FLAWED. SPRAYED SURFACES ARE CRUDE. CONTOUR LINES RUN GOOD-HUMOREDLY THROUGH THE BODY AND EXAGGERATE THEIR FORMS. COLORS ARE EXCLUSIVELY SIGNAL AND DESIRABLE. SKIN DOES NOT EXIST IN NATURAL FORM. PAINTINGS, ROUGE, AND CARNIVAL PROVIDE FREEDOM. SWANEY’S VISUAL LANGUAGE IS UNCOMPROMISING. IT DOES NOT HESITATE, IT RECOGNIZES WHAT IT IS, REFLECTS AND CONSISTENTLY MOVES ON. THIS IS WHAT DISTINGUISHES IT MOST FROM CHILDREN’S DRAWINGS.

 

AT THE END, THE VIEW LOWERS. THEY SAY THAT SHOES REVEAL THE MOST ABOUT SOMEONE. THE TURTLES AND TAPIRS TURN OUT TO BE SLIPPERS, THEIR OWNERS PUTTING THEIR FEET IN THEM. ARE THEY ALL ALIENS IN THE END?

— LARISSA KIKOL