Sunday, January 27, 2008

Studio or Installation?


For those of you out and about this coming First Friday, if you happen to be in the Fountain Square area, you should head on over to see the eye filling installation/studio/exhibition by Mike Lyons at 1651 English Ave. This will be his closing reception so do not miss it.

A couple weeks back, on a cold evening, I made a trip out to Fountain Square to check out an installation by local artist Mike Lyons. Or was it his studio? On the corner of State and English sits a nice little two story building that over the last year or more has been home to a few art shows and installations as the owners continue to search for a buyer. [I love the collaborative nature of this sort of real estate / artist exhibition, grassroots stuff. It keeps things exciting and unexpected.] Exciting and unexpected is what Lyons studio as installation brought forth but not without numerous questions and perhaps few answers. At first glance, looking into the space as the sun has set, the scene is staged with a large monolithic structure centered upon a large step ladder, a tangle of orange extension cords, paintings reminiscent of graffiti and street culture pinned to the walls floor to ceiling, re purposed sections of milled Styrofoam, fragmented drawings, TVs and videos playing on loops, with even more assorted odds and ends. Barely a spot in the space is unfilled (and this is just the front room). In short, I would say that it is this aesthetic some would deem a "Clusterfuck". Ah yes, I have always enjoyed that term and find it perfectly suitable in this context. While I tend to shy away from this sort of aesthetic, I do find that some artists work best in this manner, like the late Jason Rhoades.

Here, Lyons confronts us with the culmination of his artistic practice, the idea of studio practice as art. Here nothing is presented to us as a precious or particularly important. Instead we see fragments of his thought processes, hints of where he is coming from as an artist, be it through his sketches of Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes or those of Paul McCarthy's Block Heads. Everything here is in a state of flux and feels it shall always be in such a state. From clay carvings of a rat to an ever changing tangled sculpture pieced together from wooden moldings that run around the backroom like a miniature rollercoster or an elaborate hotwheels fast track. All of this streaming out at you at once and feeling a bit displaced and almost claustrophobic.

Overall, this may be the hardest installation or body of work that I have ever attempted to write about. And the thing about it is this... The more I write and think about the work the more questions it raises for me. Do I like it? I am still unsure, but then again I think it may be irrelevant in this context. This is a look into the Mike Lyons world, his way of thinking and seeing. And as such is beyond contestation. But I will tell you this. There is a lot to see and I would almost guarantee you that there is bound to be something in there for everyone to enjoy. Last I heard, he was in negotiations on purchasing the building. Good Luck Mike.

9 Responses to “Studio or Installation?”

Anonymous said...
January 31, 2008 at 3:47 PM

Yeah, I can never decide whether I like Mike's work or not, either. Part of me thinks there is a laziness to this kind of unedited "It's just the stuff I make" approach to art. As though any consideration of audience or purpose is just too uncool, or something. It's definitely hip looking, but there is no dirth of hip looking vacant art work in the world today.


The Dude said...
February 2, 2008 at 12:09 AM

What the hell is "hip looking"? My guess it looks a lot like the person who wrote the comment above.

Intentionally or not, Lyons is questioning what it means for something to be finished, or come to an end; questioning the concept of completion. When I say questioning, I mean that I'm not sure he has resolved this within the work itself.

Is the act of 'working' enough? In the end, I don't think so; how can something be judged if it has not reached a conclusion? What is left to consider is the possibility of the conclusion, which is not a conclusion.


Scott said...
February 2, 2008 at 10:48 AM

Well versed Dude.

Though part of me wonders if it may, in some circumstances, be more important to ask the question than offer an answer.

As I just did... lol


Lirio said...
February 2, 2008 at 12:11 PM

I think the being able to finish something cuts the men from the boys. It's the hardest part imo....we all can get the flow going, it's that someone knows where/why it's coming and what to do with it that intrigues me.


iggy said...
February 3, 2008 at 8:14 PM

".....there is no dirth of hip looking vacant art work in the world today."

Ain't THAT the truth !!!!!!!!!!!!!


DIRTH DIGGLER said...
February 4, 2008 at 5:16 PM

IMAGINE YOU HAVE A LONG WEEKEND APPROACHING, AND YOU COULD USE SOME TIME AWAY.
COULD YOU ENVISION A ROADTRIP WITHOUT A DESTINATON IN MIND? RATHER THAN PLAN YOUR ITINERARY, BOOK FLIGHTS, AND MAKE RESERVATIONS- WHEN IT COMES TIME TO LEAVE, YOU CHOOSE A DIRECTON, AND OFF YOU GO. YOU HAVE CONSTRAINTS TO WORK WITH, BUT YOU HAVE THE FREEDOM TO DO ANYTHING BECAUSE YOU ARE GOING NOWHERE. YOU KNOW YOU MUST BE BACK AT WORK TUESDAY MORNING,AND COME SATURDAY NIGHT, YOU BEST NOT TRAVEL ANY FURTHER FROM HOME. ALONG THE WAY YOU CAN ALLOW YOURSELF TO STOP AND SEE THAT ROADSIDE ATTRACTION, OR CHECKOUT THAT TRUCKSTOP WITH THE SIGNS YOU HAVE BEEN FORCED TO READ FOR THE LAST FOUR HOURS. YOU CAN TAKE SIDE ROADS, AND YOU CAN GET OFF THE INTERSTATE. THERE IS NO PLACE YOU NEED TO BE.

I DIGRESS.

MY POINT IS THE TIME INTENDED FOR RELAXATION IS SPENT TRAVELING, THE JOURNEY ITSELF IS THE GOAL. STRESSING ABOUT HOW TO ARRIVE IS NOT PERMITTED.

COMPLETE/INCOMPLETE ARE NOT APPLICABLE QUALITIES FOR AN OBJECT/EVENT WITHOUT A DESTINATION/GOAL. IF PROCESS AND JOURNEY ARE THE MOTIVATION, THEN CRITICISM MUST BE TAILORED APPROPRIATELY. MAYBE MIKES WORK WOULD BE BEST LEFT AS A PRIVATE
EXPERIENCE, BECAUSE IF WE USE THIS ROADTRIP ANALOGY- ALL WE ARE GIVEN IS SOME SNAPSHOTS, AND MAYBE A FEW STORIES FROM HIS TRAVELS. AND WHO REALLY CARES TO HERE ABOUT SOMEONE ELSE'S JOURNEY? IF WE FIND OURSELVES HUNG UP ON THE VACANCIES OF THE WORK, MAYBE WE ARE LOOKING IN THE WRONG PLACE. THE FIRST PERSON'S (ANONYMOUS)
COMMENTS SUGGESTED MIKE THINKS IT "UNCOOL" TO CONSIDER THE "AUDIENCE OR PURPOSE",BUT WHAT RESPONSIBILITY DOES
THE VIEWER HAVE TO CONSIDER MIKE'S MOTIVATIONS ? IF WHAT WAS PRESENTED IN THE GALLERY WAS UNAPPEALING, PERHAPS IT BEST NOT
TO JUDGE THE QUALITY OF THE TRIP BY THE PRESENTATION OF THE MEMORABILIA? COULD THE MEMORABILIA BE EVALUATED ON IT'S OWN MERITS? A DRAWING AS A DRAWING. A SCULPTURE AS A SCULPTURE. IS IT POSSIBLE TO ISOLATE INDIVIDUAL WORKS? TO NOT LOOK AT IT AS PART OF AN "INSTALLATION"? I FIND IT DIFFICULT TO EVALUATE A WRONG TURN WITHOUT KNOWING WHICH ONE WAS CORRECT. BUT HIS LACK OF DESTINATION SHOULD NOT PREVENT THE POSSIBILITY FOR AN ENJOYABLE RIDE.


Anonymous said...
February 5, 2008 at 11:01 AM

Ya, the difference is that when you are on an unplanned road trip, you make the choices and you are responsible for yourself and your experience. That is freedom. That is why MAKING this kind of artwork is so fun. When someone else is leading you on an unplanned road trip and you get to make no choices and the whole thing seems kind of random, you might get a little tired of it. That is why LOOKING at this kind of artwork isn't as much fun as making it.


dirth said...
February 5, 2008 at 12:49 PM

GOOD RESPONSE.

I IMAGINE YOU PREFER TO DRIVE OVER SITTING SHOTGUN, AND WHEN PASSENGER, YOU TAKE THE ROLE OF NAVIGATOR.

"When someone else is leading you on an unplanned road trip and you get to make no choices and the whole thing seems kind of random, you might get a little tired of it."

DO YOU ORDINARILY ENTER INTO A GALLERY EXPECTING TO MAKE CHOICES AND HAVE SOME CONTROL?


Anonymous said...
February 10, 2008 at 4:21 PM

I expect to be considered. An artist who seems to only consider his own experience is boring.


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