What are the conditions of painting’s contemporary life among countless reproductions, symbols and descriptions of reality? What is the extent of painting’s ability to render other objects aesthetic even as those objects translate painting into words?
A maze is a picture with an entrance and an exit, with a start and a finish that unfold over time like a story. I can read symbols as part of a picture language like the parts of a rebus or use semiotics to translate pictures into cultural meaning. When I respond Formally to a work of art I don’t have to “read” it. Language, on the other hand, has to read and is not transparent.
I make objects that are very dimensional, not always frontal, and sometimes incorporate very familiar imagery. In spite of my use of depth and imagery, I am very interested in how abstraction and painting function. I don’t think that contemporary objects tend to function through formal philosophies. Maybe, to some degree, line, color and shape act directly on psychology, through what is called “significant form”. Perhaps diagonal lines appear active by analogy to falling and horizontal ones appear restful by analogy to sleeping. Perhaps red appears agitating by analogy to fire and blue calming by analogy to the water. But bodily experience is not central to contemporary language and contrast is as important a reference point as analogy.
Paintings are always objects within a system of objects, and my paintings create a kind of microcosmic system of objects (toys, mazes, symbols and painting materials), which although familiar within their own contexts, might combine into an overarching system of familiarities that create a kind of transparency of their own.
Mike Cloud is a painter living and working in Brooklyn, New York. He earned his M.F.A. from Yale University School of Art and his B.F.A. from the University of Illinois-Chicago. His work has been exhibited nationally and internationally at P.S.1, NY; the Studio Museum in Harlem, NY; Danubiana Meulensteen Art Museum, Slovak Republic; Honor Fraser Gallery, CA; Thomas Erben Gallery, NY; Good Children Gallery, LA; Marianne Boesky Gallery, NY; White Columns, NY; Max Protetch, NY; Apexart, NYC. Cloud has been reviewed in the New York Times, Art in America, Art Review and featured in the publication Painting Abstraction by Bob Nickas, published by Phaidon Press. His awards include the inaugural Chiaro Award from the Headlands Center for the Arts, the Barry Schactman Prize in Painting from the Yale University School of Art as well as the Grace Holt Memorial Award in African American Issues from the University of Illinois, Chicago. His work is held in private and public collections including the The Bronx Museum, Lincoln Center and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Cloud has lectured extensively on his work and contemporary theoretical art issues at the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University, Yale University, Cooper Union, Bard College, Kansas City Art Institute and the University of New Orleans. He is currently an assistant professor at Brooklyn College/ CUNY in New York.
(Image credit: Nyeema Morgan/ Courtesy of the artist)