Michael Stamm, Tincture #2 (Philosophy of the World), 2017, Oil, Acrylic and Flashe on Linen, 57 x 42 inches
Thin layers of transparent space sit like slivers on top of each other. Sharp text bubbles scream from off screen “You can Never Please Anybody In This World!!!,” lyrics from The Shaggs’ “Philosophy of the World.” An upside-down figure in skin tight shorts does a head stand, optically submerged in a corked beaker of thin vinegar or over-fermented rose water. Framed by a flat cool grey border, the seemingly symmetrical space is densely superimposed and compressed into a tight ecosystem of growth, endurance and waiting.
Initially it is easy to assume that each object in the image is of the same time, affected by the same conditions, but the logic of this container is repeatedly broken as the legs of the figure project past the glass of the beaker, pinching the cork, and as the branches of the soaking vine sprout leaves that grow tall, past the edges of the beaker, grey border, and painting’s frame. Three different types of flower pots sit like layered acetate images on top of each other, evolving and refining as they move forward in space.
Michael Stamm, Bauhaus Beads, 2017, Oil, Acrylic and Flashe on Linen, 28 x 21 inches
Sharp in description and design, this world exists between dusk and dawn, without a horizon line. The only clue we are given to its, and our, location is the fast diagonal rain that pours outside the window in the top right corner, making the space inside where we stand suddenly preferable and surprisingly consoling.
Brushstrokes are hidden beneath crisp sleek washes of transparent color. The aqueous red solution in the beaker has a sheen that makes me feel as if I were submerged in it, experiencing the same conditions as the vines, flowers and speakers. I’m often alienated from a painting when I can’t tell the speed at which it was made but, with Stamm, the cleanliness and order shift my understanding of intimacy. At first I am pushed back, sensing the painting is impenetrable, but as I look longer it reveals layers of a story that were hiding in plain sight.
Michael Stamm, Lovers, 2017, Oil, Acrylic and Flashe on Linen, 57 x 43 inches
As soon as I presume to understand this world Stamm creates I’m mislead and deceived, the painting is always one step ahead of my eyes, defying my ability to comprehend its design or label its liquid. Are the lyrics of The Shaggs’ song spoken by the painting itself, or from Stamm sitting just outside the painting? What is the attitude of the painting? What is its tone of voice? Is it a wholehearted attempt at self help or a resignation to the Sisyphean task of presenting one’s private life in the public space of painting?
Michael Stamm, Cheers Cloak, 2017, Oil, Acrylic and Flashe on Linen, 28 x 21 inches
The thin screens of constructed space, which I wade through at a sluggish speed, feel like the layers of a person you’re getting to know. At first it (they) are contained, fixed and stable, slowly showing a disjointed interior that defies the container I assumed to comprehend. So then what is being brewed inside? Both the upside-down figure and the elixir seem to be signs of transformation; a will to escape a present reality.
For those who are willing to trudge through the densely layered image, Stamm generously reveals, with equal doses of optimism and suspicion, a world of personal renewal, enduring self-acceptance, and communion.
Keiran Brennan Hinton, About the Color of the Moon, 2017, Oil on Canvas, 56 x 40 inches
Keiran Brennan Hinton was born in Toronto, Canada and received his BFA from Pratt Institute in 2014 and his MFA from Yale School of Art is 2016. He currently has a solo show in New York at 1969 Gallery on view until February 25th.
Michael Stamm’s current exhibition, Meditation Inc., is on view at DC Moore Gallery until February 3rd.