"Mike Childs: The Journey: Grids, Colors and Curvilinear Forms, 2004 - 2020.
By David Rhodes
Toronto-born and South Bronx-based Mike Childs has been working in New York since 1995. In this exhibition, 28 paintings from the last 16 years are presented, revealing a constant and evolving ex-ploration of how humans negotiate their surrounding modularly built, urban environment. Patterns and contiguous space interface, interlace, and proliferate like so many passing surfaces and colors, changing with the passage of time or the panorama of a gaze. Walls, graffiti, signage, and bridges of the Bronx all began to fold into the flux of Childs’s images during his time living in the neigh-borhood. The paintings are committedly non-objective, use geometry and color to explore compo-sitional possibilities, but evoke Childs’s experiential surroundings, not literally, but rather through abstract, pictorial themes.Mike Childs, A Long Walk, 2020, Acrylic on canvas, 38 x 66”My German Friend (2012), one of the larger-scale paintings here at 50 × 62 inches, comprises a shifting aggregate of colored surface and tessellated forms, grouped around a central divide of vertical grey and green that bisects two contrasting geometric zones that recall the façades of modernist or project buildings, their windows, and balconies. The composite nature of the image conflates pictorially what we do with memory or thought, moving back and forth spatially and temporally, a mnemonic montaging sometimes consciously directed, most times not—this is the true quality of our ongoing experience: fractured, fluid, split. The acrylic and spray painted yellows, greens, blues, and greys produce optically a muted yet crisp, at turns faded, illumination in the city with electric lights or overcast skies and pockets of green, an organic foil of trees to concrete and synthetic clad sides of buildings. Particularly in the ochre yellows to the left and the green and green blues to the right, a movement of rounded shapes occurs in the close tones and turning curves.Animal Behavior F (2017), again acrylic and spray paint, evinces a different range of color; its hex-agonal patterning, like a screen or honeycomb, also appears in other paintings from this series. Dark reddish-pink panels on either side of the patterned area partially frame it to create an open-ing, like a window or gap between separate structures. There is the use of stenciled shapes, impro-vised playfully yet effective, gesture toward a tight and specific composition. There are no uncon-sidered areas: Transparencies, allowing a priori shape and color to remain visible after subsequent layers have been added, are striking in the left side of the dark pink. Within the hexagonal shapes other compositions can be seen: segments, independently balanced and self-sufficient, accumu-lating so many contiguous thoughts, one different from, though no less important than, the other. Animal Behavior G (2017) further combines the series’ vocabulary, reorienting the composition so that frontal and topographic are spliced together in a kindred conceptual strategy.In Childs’s paintings, an object is not simply fractured to recombine in splintered parts. Childs implies a frontal view that has taken a walk around the object; he then puts the different views together, and this completely mobile point of view, one that includes other elements of close-ness and distance, is inserted into the composition. The paintings bring to mind the work of Gary Stephan, that great progenitor of very real but impossible realities, who creates another place only possible in painting, and perfectly suited to it, one that is still unsurpassable in other media—fac-tual, static surfaces that confound and move, conceptually and optically in all the ways we have to gauge and engage the world. Childs moves successfully along this same path, too.
By David Rhodes July 10, 2020
NEW YORK, NY.- David Richard Gallery is presenting its first solo exhibition of paintings by New York-based artist Mike Childs. The presentation includes 28 paintings that survey the subtle, but important transitions in formal concerns and compositional elements in the artist’s paintings from 2004 through 2020. This is not intended to be a comprehensive retrospective, but rather a survey of paintings that touch on several key aesthetic themes that have been prevalent in Childs’ work over a couple of decades to varying degrees of emphasis. The real focus is on his consistent and dedicated path to exploring non-objective abstraction within the parameters of color, geometry and dynamic compositions, yet always evolving and pushing the depths of his compositions and range of aesthetic elements. The exhibition is on view by appointment only from June 17 through July 17, 2020 at David Richard Gallery located at 211 East 121 Street, New York, New York 10035, P: 212-882-1705 and online here.
The paintings in this exhibition span the past 16 years of Mike Child’s studio practice. This presentation was curated from a recent studio visit with the artist. He had to move studios in the Bronx this spring and while doing so, began to post paintings from various earlier series, many of which had not previously been presented formally in any exhibition. When I visited his new studio, he had hung many of them for me to see in person. As I viewed, I noted many common aesthetic themes that unify his work and specifically commented on some of the subtle shifts in his work over the 2 decades that enhanced the richness and depth of his compositions and the viewing experience. Hence, it was decided those selections in his studio should be his first solo exhibition in the gallery to chronicle his journey since 2004 and set the stage going forward for the next new series.
The aspects of Childs’ paintings that have remained constant throughout the past several decades include his command and control of color, always hitting the values consistently and spot-on regardless of the palette. The strong color harmonies instantly unify and pull seemingly disparate elements together. The grounds are consistent and geometric, usually some variation on a grid and more recently honeycomb shapes have replaced the four cornered structures. The geometric shapes are inspired by Childs’ long-time interest in architecture as well as the urban environment and more recently, the ever-present signage and brand marketing in contemporary culture.
Art Spiel, 2021
"Streaming: 8 Artists exhibition organized by Mike Childs and Melissa Staiger"
In dialogue with Melissa Staiger
In March 2020 the New York art world shut down and soon went online for exhibition opportunities. Like many artists, Mike Childs was furloughed from his job, and stayed at home, drawing as well as supporting his 6th grade son. To foster a sense of community, he reached out to fellow artist and curator Melissa Staiger to see if she was interested in combining their skills. They came up with the idea to create an online group of artists who worked on paper. The collective identity of this group was envisioned as eight individuals who reflect the creative New York community and exhibit a compulsive nature towards the making of images. Childs referred to these image makers as “producing work via a stream of consciousness in the modernist literary tradition”. In referencing this type of creative approach, Staiger immediately seized on the word to title their project Streaming, referring both to a creative thought process and the online reality of contemporary artistic existence. This led to the creation of the website https://s-t-r-e-a-m-i-n-g.com, which was the foundation for the current exhibition at Stand 4 Gallery. The group exhibition at Stand4 Gallery, brings together work by Mike Childs, Deanna Lee, Keisha Prioleau-Martin, Rafael Melendez, Benjamin Pritchard, Sharmistha Ray, Melissa Staiger, and Julie Torres. The show runs through July 10th.
You say that color in this show “stems from a historically emotive reference.” Can you refer to some works in this context?
Color in this group show is either polychromatic or monochromatic. Many of the works are referring to expressionism, with an emphasis to unlock the contemporary expressive possibilities of color. Keisha Prioleau Martin’s Head Over Handlebars depicts the body in movement. It shows a figure kicking their body off the bike in midair, colored with a yellow glow and an orange outline. The motion seems weightless but also falling. The green emphasizes a tilted sky instead of grass, letting the viewer experience what “joyously defying gravity” feels like.
Deanna Lee and I, Melissa Staiger, share a room presenting our two series “Dawn, River, Sea” and “Wave” respectively. Our abstract lens of the natural world and use of line and color highlights each other’s work, hanging together. Deanna’s work on paper encompasses the nocturnal atmosphere, sonic environments and the micro color shifts in a dawn sky. This feeling is echoed with her use of radiating thin and thick lines. This series layers central dark areas made with an ink wash on top of subtle atmospheric color fields, reflecting the growth and transformation of nature as water and air hit the horizon line. We see this brilliantly in Dawn, River, Sea 4. Vibrating thick layers of paint that resemble a flexible spine and rib cage is seen in my Wave Series, particularly Wave No.18. The bold, prismatic thick layers are stacked following a deep curve and spilling over the edge of the panel. Layers of interference paint an organic hard-edge shape remind me of the bursting openness of plant forms and wavelengths of color.
Mike Childs works include ink he makes on his own from a walnut tree in the North Bronx’s Pelham Bay Park. He uses his homemade mixture, black India ink, and watercolor for his series “The Traps”. Mike taps into older parts of his own history and psyche by using these mediums. He loves observing and drawing architectural growth and demolition in an urban environment. We can see these forms in Traps #16.
Julie Torres and Benjamin Pritchard serial works share a wall at Stand 4 Gallery. Their works show multiple layers of paint, the use of solid color on texture and not discarding anything but continuously working towards its resolve. Torres’ Hole in my life was mixed directly on the surface from many colors straight out of the tube, creating a crater form with a convex center. She gravitates towards crude outcomes that tell a story. Julie describes it as “what has happened… and failed attempts are forever fused within the work. No failure is discarded. Big messes resolve themselves years later.” Ben Pritchard says that he has “been working with paper over the past few months, with a simple principle: exploring it until the barrier between myself and the world disappears”. We can see this in the serial works below with texture from oil stick marks and bold color.
Mike Childs at David Richard Gallery 2020