Mike Cloud, Dialogue of Growth, 2014, oil on canvas, 91.5 x 30.5 inches

There are many things I admire about the painter Mike Cloud. Besides Cloud’s bigheartedness, his work is funny, unrelenting, energetic, remorseless, and bold.

1.) Cloud’s paintings are optimistically sad in an all American way… They describe joy… misery… grandeur… pizzazz… and a well-worn history that embraces heroes, religion, hate, love, and humor.

Mike Cloud, Rabbit Plate, 2008, oil on plastic, 46 x 46 inches

2.) Like a sinister joke, or a self-destructive one, the work makes us laugh and question why we’re laughing.

Mike Cloud, Poet, 2014, oil on canvas, 29 x 40 inches

3.) I like that Cloud’s paintings are not rectangles or squares, but instead, coffins, quilts, clear plastic stapled on stretchers, bags of chips, and flags.

Mike Cloud, North Star, 2014, oil on paper, 18 x 24 inches

4.) His work is aggressively present. Incised in oil on paper with muddy colors is the text “I hate My Life Self – Mike Cloud’ – The painting is titled North Star and leads us to Self Loathing / Destruction / Self Pity and offers both generosity and vulnerability in paint. The work is anti-heroic, anti-grandeur, and anti- a search for belonging or meaning. The work is simply cutting.

5.) Cloud’s paintings are not based on the personal. The work has its own identity at stake. Its existence posits how works of art can pay their own way, or cost the artist, or be made at someone else’s expense.

Mike Cloud, Cycle and Stable, 2015, oil on linen with stretcher bars, wood and hardware, 96 x 96 inches

6.) The tragedy and brightness of Cycle and Stable (2015) is unsettling and striking: the text “RAPE BUTONLY + OF THE SABINE WOMEN!” is overlaid by a text on a stick that reads “RACIAL MYTHOLOGY AND STORIES ABOUT MONEY.” There are arrows pointing up and down on both ends of the stick. Cloud challenges us to dissect, analyze, and feel what he paints. The works are loaded and ambitious. We get America, rape, race, money, and paint. It is a very tragic, but ultimately stable, cycle.

Mike Cloud, Travelling Barracade, 2013, oil on canvas with stretcher bars, 49 x 34 x 82 inches

7.) The painting Travelling Barracade is sinister, ominous, and promising. Stretcher bars are made into a triangle covered in canvas. Additional stretcher bars are used as a base for the painting to stand upright in a room, and a longer stretcher bar extends above the triangle, dropping a strip of canvas roughly painted white (a flag to surrender?). The strips of color, painted blue, white, and red, divide the triangular section of canvas. Three “start” and “end” lines alternate and weave together creating different lines that connect the text “Csaatst”, “Mray”, and a swastika. The complex and unnerving quality of the piece is hard to pinpoint; it’s as if the painting surrenders its identity as an actual traveling barricade and is just a painting.

Samuel Jablon, Lovin It, 2016, acrylic and glass tile on wood, 72 x 60 inches

Samuel Jablon is an artist based in New York, NY. www.samueljablon.com