MIKE CLOUD: quiltmaking & overproduction of opposites Meulensteen Gallery (NY), 2010.
During his residency at the Meulensteen Art Centre and its print studio 'Daglicht', Mike Cloud showed that in printmaking, as in painting, he excels at engaging multiple layers of meaning. While potato-chip bags are a universal artifact, Cloud re-contextualizes them, The common object becomes the medium and at the same time betrays a particular Dutch setting.
Over the course of his career, Cloud has consistently investigated and questioned the constituent elements of painting. He has often used mathematical formulas and self-imposed compositional limits in order to foreground not only his chosen materials, but the way those materials have been employed throughout the art historical tradition, concentrating on aspects of their makeup that often go unnoticed. In earlier work, for example, Cloud organized compositions based on the chemical properties of paint; the toxicity, plasticity, and drying time of various pigments were mapped in paintings of target-like charts.
However, Cloud juxtaposes the systemic nature of his compositional method against the sheer physical and emotional force of his paint handling and mark-making, which seem indebted to abstract expressionist forbears rather than the conceptually-oriented artists who came after them. In this regard, Cloud's work calls to mind a surprising lineage of figures, like Alfred Jensen, who have used organizational structures as the foundations for a personal visual language. Cloud complicates this relationship, though by introducing images and materials drawn directly from the world at large. He has produced an ongoing series of collages derived from monographs by female photographers, for instance, and has made paintings whose supports are fashioned from pieces of clothing that he has quilted together. Each of these techniques allows Cloud to incorporate imagery in his work without relying on his subjective experience as a source. Subjectivity, it seems, is something that he reserves for the physical application of the paint, or the intuitive way in which he constructs his stretchers, which become sculptural objects in themselves.
Cloud's transition into the use of printmaking techniques has been a gradual and natural one. Creating 'mirrored' images in paint by folding canvas or fabric onto itself became a way for him to reproduce marks he had already made. In these works, existing compositions were employed as external sources from which imagery could be drawn, as if a painting's evolution depended on its becoming a material thing apart from the artist's conception. Subsequently, he bagan to paint images from children's garments onto sheets of plastic; these 'screens' were then used to print images onto quilts made from those very articles of clothing. In these paintings -cum tapestries-cum-monoprints, Cloud developed a strange form of mirroring: an image from a commercial product is reflected through his understanding of painting as an activity that can compress dense material layers of cultural history. The image is part support, part brush, part composition. For Cloud, printmaking–like painting– becomes yet another form of objective organization, a system that reveals how images are made and perceived by the subjective power of individuals, as well as by the culture at large. - Edwin Meulensteen, Meulensteen Gallery (NY) >