Michael Shea

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Artist Statement

Put yourself in the position of an eleven year old kid in Alamogordo, NM. The year is 2015. He lives in a town whose most popular restaurant Is Applebee’s. He encounters and experiences most of the world through an electronic tablet, watching shows and movies using his Disney App, and by doing Google image searches. The names Henri Rousseau, Jackson Pollock, and Alexandr Rodchenko are unfamiliar to him, though he’s aware of what their work looks like, or how it has been sampled or reflected in other cultural forms. His best chance of possibly knowing their creations directly might be in the form of a refrigerator magnet or mug, purchased by a relative from a far-off museum gift shop.

My intention is to make work that connects with such a viewer as readily as with someone steeped in the discourse of contemporary art. Such a person might feel invited into these works by depictions of familiar cultural icons, rendered with an illustrator’s touch. A straightforward still life displaying the most common of everyday objects is set before a colorful background. That this background is in some measure an homage, an imitation, or a parody of a 1960s Color Field painting is, in one sense, beside the point. Ideally, a viewer’s experience will be enriched by an awareness of such nuanced historical connections. But in cases where s/he who is looking is not familiar with this subtext, these paintings and objects still extend an opportunity for comprehension and not alienation, at least on one level. 

While this work aims to be accessible, it does not seek to reduce the complexities of the world into a digestible, appealing box of simplicity. Though its subject matter is often well-known, it is presented with neither reverence or scorn, and does not bear any trace of apparent critique. Rather, much of what compels the desire to pair disparate styles and themes is guided by intuition and a certain sense of humor. I’ve spent a large portion of my life dwelling on parody and originality, dignity and disposability, generality and specificity. Therefore I trust my unconscious mind when it proposes different combinations of reference, context, and theme. A product being sold on an infomercial might come with an accompanying bonus gift, an on-brand addition to compliment the main offering. Why not apply this logic to a painting on canvas, and present a miniature replica of this work that happens to be painted on the shell of a blue claw crab? It’s an even better deal!



2002 BA, The Cooper Union, New York, NY


2015 Fishscale, Navy Studio, Brooklyn, NY

Number Two, D&T, Brooklyn, NY

2014 Come Into My Castle, Old Room, New York, NY

2013 Gotterfunken: Oy to Joy, Ray Smith Studio, Brooklyn, NY

2012 Big End of The World Group Show, Magic Fingers, New York, NY

Brucennial 2012, 159 Bleecker St, New York, NY

2010 On From Here, Guild and Greyschul, New York, NY

2008 Brucennial, The Bruce High Quality Foundation, Brooklyn, NY

2005 The General’s Jamboree, Guild and Greyschul, New York, NY