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Mike Cloud/Jomar Statkun: Entry 1 TBR Blog

By Christopher Stackhouse

There are a couple of contemporary artists I’ve taken an interest in, spending most of the spring talking to them and writing about them. One is Mike Cloud, the other Jomar Statkun.

I’ve been putting together an essay on what Cloud does, or at least how I interpret what he does.

Here from that essay, an excerpt:

It is almost impossible to say anything wrong about Mike Cloud’s paintings. He is unyieldingly engaged with making paintings, that is, ‘paintings’ specifically not ‘pictures’. His canvases, works on paper, assemblages and collages (as paintings) are collectively and at once ugly, beautiful, crafty, blunt, elegant, shoddy, well made, honest and prevaricating. Allusion is the preferential poetic device. That is not to say that Cloud’s art is literary- it flatly isn’t – but it offers a caustic, humorous poetic sensibility while providing a somewhat open view of his intellectual interest in the medium and history of paint and its use. Each physical element of his paintings points to something both integrally of the form (canvas is object and surface) and ideas built upon formal definition (what does the use of a canvas as an object and surface for inscription mean). This manner of contemplating the component parts which take shape as an aesthetic something is time honored: seen through that lens it makes these particular art works hard to simply like or dislike. Observation from this standpoint takes place in a dense, purposely paradoxical field.

There is a mixture of openness, accessibility, with a personal system of addressing how painting can function in the dense accumulation of images experienced in our world daily, that makes his work considerably more complex to consume from a purely visual standpoint. The work like much of the best contemporary painting, loves the tradition and is in turn highly critical of it. It asks painting what can it do. As a witness to this interrogation, these questions asked are absorbed and transport a curious mind into a state of observance that places us squarely in the artist’s shoes. His art is both difficult and transparent, and for that generous. His paintings don’t talk down to us, though vocal, they don’t scream a mission. We’re invited to look and think about what we’re seeing under whatever terms we bring. I’ve known of Cloud’s painting for some time now, but it is recently after thinking about the work in relation to several artists who use paint, that the humanity of his practice, for me, increased in volume. Some of the painters I thought about specifically are Gerhard Richter, Sam Gilliam, Leland Bell, Kerry James Marshall, Agnes Martin, R B Kitaj, and Joan Mitchell. Cloud has his own list, part of which he shared with me, that to my surprise includes Peter Halley.





Jomar Statkun, also first and foremost a painter and printer, has several projects networked into a treatment of world history and art history. He has a gorgeous on going series of prints, drawings, paintings, and installations created for a body of work called “Defect Today”. In a sequence of this production are depictions of scenes with some real and some fabled heroes from the Phillipine-American War. The title of this study on this historic battle for Filipino independence is in part inspired by a Black American soldier/infantryman David Fagen who defected from the American forces sent to the Phillipines, and fought bravely and quite effectively with the Filipino Army. There is text accompanying, and, interwoven throughout the recreation of that event in art objects, some of which is appropriated or re-purposed from Mark Twain’s Anti-Imperialist Writing on this particular war and occupation. Part of Statkun’s engagement with painting and art making is an aggressive articulation of metaphor, and analogic analysis of global political, historical phenomena, contemporary society and its circumstances. When visiting his studio in preparation to start work on a piece about an installation of the artist’s to be mounted in Berlin, Germany last month, he showed me a striking abstract painting made after Turner’s “The Slave Ship”. Turner’s painting was originally inspired by the Zong Massacre of 1781, thus Statkun entitled his version with further attribution and acknowledgment “Zong”. In looking at that painting we discussed Tom Feelings’ “Middle Passage Drawings“, work with which he is also very familiar. Speaking of the sacred nature of such efforts, we discussed Feelings’ drawings in relation to Goya‘s “Caprichos”, his “Disasters of War”, also, two paintings “The Second of May, 1808, At Madrid” and “The Third of May, 1808, At Madrid: The Shootings On Principe Pio Mountain.” Seriality, drawing and printing, narrativity, historicity, the radicalization of myth, and spiritual investment in art are important facets of Jomar’s practice, and remind me of one of my favorite artists always to consider William Blake.

The studio visit, subsequent conversations, and an interest in situating his installation, then to be set up at the Tape Modern in Berlin, for an Andy Warhol themed show called “In fifteen minutes everybody will be famous-Tape Modern No.15”, produced an essay on the artist’s project.

An excerpt from, “Regarding Jomar Statkun’s – The Golden Cast”:

Statkun’s golden replica…..advances arguments that challenge participants in the art market system to reevaluate its habits and reasoning. This is a systematic appeal toward giving an appraisal of the relationship between market value and spiritual value. He is committing a self-imposed diagnostic reach into the heart of a human problem. For artists, the test is to look at the psychological and emotional implications of turning inspiration, tradition, belief, and creative life practice into fodder for human capital, turning the arena of cultural production into pure marketplace. Beyond the theoretical aspects, there is the actual physical object upon which he has chosen to center feelings and discussion – a gold colored infused plastic sculpture of his own painting. The cast model of this painting reproduces not only the surface of the painting, but the texture of the unpainted sides of the original canvas, the indentations from, and heads of, the staples securing that canvas to the support. Here, metaphorically speaking, process and materials are representative notions, spheres, into which a viewer can look and openly find traces of effort and decision making. A history in art and painting temporarily stabilized, its causes preserved.


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