Mike Slack

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Artist Statement

“As I stood there, I wanted to photograph everything around me… The process of photographing is a pleasure… It’s thrilling to be outside your mind, eyes far ahead of your thoughts.”  —Henry Wessel, California and the West

Photography for me is a primitive impulse: thinking without language, detaching from rational thought, collecting observations of the physical environment, the way a bee gathers pollen by gorging itself on the nectar of flowers, or the way our human ancestors made simple pictograms that evolved into complex alphabets. As photographs accumulate and bear scrutiny, an editing and communication impulse takes over, a need to create and transmit messages (or the illusion of messages — finding the signal among the noise), which leads to book-making, and an engagement with an audience. My approach to all this — the making, editing and sharing of pictures — is informed by a variety of things: cybernetics and information theory; the Ambient recordings of Brian Eno; Speculative Realism; the writing of Kurt Vonnegut, William S. Burroughs, Georges Perec and many others; and a basic sense of wonder at the fact of existence. I grew up playing the drums, studied language and linguistics in college, but am largely self-taught in this field, first making Polaroids, and now working with digital images and various prints. It’s all the same to me. Photography has become a long-term practice, and I would spend my time doing it even if it didn’t have a formal outlet.

CV

Born in Indiana in 1970.
Lives and works in Los Angeles.

His Polaroid photographs have been published in three volumes—OK OK OK (J&L Books, 2002; reissued by The Ice Plant, 2006), Scorpio (The Ice Plant, 2006) and Pyramids (The Ice Plant, 2009)—as well as the artist book High Tide (The Ice Plant, 2012). His most recent photobook is Shrubs of Death (self-published, 2014), and he is currently working on a new series of digital photographs entitled The Transverse Path (or Nature’s Little Secret). His work has appeared in Harper’s, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and other publications. He is the co-founder of L.A.-based publishing imprint The Ice Plant (http://theiceplant.cc).

Publications

April Flowers (Spaces Corners, 2015)— collaboration with Ricardo Cases and Ed panar [edited by Melissa Catanese] Both Sides of Sunset: Photographing Los Angeles (Metropolis/DAP, 2015)—anthology
Shrubs of Death (self-published, 2014)—artist’s book.
The Photographer’s Playbook (Aperture, 2014)—“Alphabetography” series featured throughout the book [edited by Jason Fulford & Greg Halpern)
High Tide (The Ice Plant, 2012)—expanded edition of 2006 catalog
Pyramids (The Ice Plant, 2009)—artist’s book
Double Fantasy (self-published, 2007)—limited edition catalog
High Tide (self-published, 2006)—limited edition catalog
Scorpio (The Ice Plant, 2006)—artist’s book
OK OK OK (J&L Books, 2002; reissued by The Ice Plant, 2006)—artist’s book
Looking at Los Angeles (Metropolis/DAP, 2005)—anthology

Exhibitions

Kopeikin Gallery—Both Sides of Sunset: Photographing Los Angeles (group show), Los Angeles, 15
Hamburg Kennedy—Both Sides of Sunset: Photographing Los Angeles (group show), New York 15
Aperture Gallery—The Photographer’s Playspace (group show curated by Chris McCall), New York 14
Ground Floor Project—8th + Hope + Hubby (group show curated by Bettina Hubby), Los Angeles 14
LA Mart / Santa Monica Museum of Art—Dig the Dig (group show curated by Bettina Hubby), Los Angeles 13
Alias Books—Grey Wall (pieces from High Tide), Los Angeles 12
Open Shutter Gallery—Polaroid show (group show), Durango 08
Naked—Double Fantasy (collaborative installation with Bettina Hubby), Los Angeles 07
OK OK Gallery—The Stable (J&L group show), Seattle 07
Salvation Gallery—You Can Have it All (group show), New York 07
Marcia Wood Gallery—J&L Group Show, Atlanta 06
Galleri Urbane—You and Me… (group show), Marfa 06
Portland Institute for Contemporary Art—Landmark (special commission), Portland 05
Arclight Cinema—Looking at Los Angeles (group show), Los Angeles 05
Galleri Urbane—Chinati Open House (group show), Marfa 04
eyelounge—Harvest (group show), Phoenix 04
eyelounge—Yes Yes Yes (70-piece project room installation), Phoenix 03
Rain Heron Gallery—Petting Zoo (group show), Los Angeles 03
Andrew-Shire Gallery—Big Wave (group show), Los Angeles 02

Editorial Etc.

Harper’s Magazine (editorial artwork—TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE by Michelle Huneven), 11/15
Harper’s Magazine (editorial artwork—THE SPEAKEASY), 7/15
New York Times (editorial artwork, Op-Ed page), 2/13/14
Harper’s Magazine (editorial artwork—SIC TRANSIT by T.C Boyle), 10/13
Los Angeles Review of Books Quarterly Journal (cover photo & art direction), Fall 2013
Los Angeles Review of Books (cover photo & various editorial artwork), Summer 2013
Canteen Magazine #8 (“Djinn and Goose”—new photographs / portfolio), Spring 2012
Harper’s Magazine (editorial artwork—ABOUT MOTORCYCLES by Frederick Seidel), 11/09
New York Times (editorial artwork for Op-Ed page), 1/1/09
New York Times (editorial artwork for Op-Ed page), 3/3/08
New York Times (editorial artwork for Op-Ed page), 6/20/07
Harper’s Magazine (editorial artwork—New Books section), 10/06
New York Times (editorial artwork for Week in Review, Op-Ed page), 6/11/06
Vogue Hommes International (editorial—excerpt of OK OK OK), Spring 04
Fotopozytyw (excerpt of OK OK OK), 10/03
Los Angeles Times (feature article), 5/22/03
Harper’s Magazine (excerpt of OK OK OK in readings section), 10/03

Lectures/ Interviews 

*B (blog)—Q&A with Blake Andrews, June 2015
*ON THE EDGE OF MYSTERIES (slide show & interview with Harper’s magazine Art Director Stacey Clarkson)— Penumbra Foundation, New York, November 2014
*The Believer Logger (online interview with Bucky Miller), June 14
*PACIFIC STANDARD LIGHT (slide show, lecture & discussion with Lawrence Weschler and Michael Light about the uncanny light of LA)—Artbook/DAP Showroom, Los Angeles, November 11
*Fotolog (online interview), 4/07 *Flashfilm (online interview), 3/07
*Art Prostitute #7 (feature & interview), Spring 06
*Webesteem [Poland] (online interview), May 04

Other Work

The Homewrecking Years by Brendan Canning (album artwork), Draper St. Records 2016
The Ruins of California by Martha Sherrill (book jacket artwork), Penguin Press 2006
“Krafty” by New Order (single artwork), London Records 2005