Michael Kareken Scrap Paper Pile with Water Cannon 2007 Oil on Canvas 36″ x 48″
Michael Kareken paints trash as if it mattered. His paintings of a busy Minneapolis recycle center over the past three years are displayed on his website where he separates his subjects into Metal, Paper, and Glass in the same manner as the recycle center. But he hasn’t “gone native” in his reportage of garbage – he keeps the focus on the painting itself, the contemporary sensibility of these landscapes has more to do with his composition and painterly handling than environmentalist advocacy. It is almost as if he is recycling masterly landscape painting – giving new life to old stuff.
Although he wisely keeps the subject matter open to allow a the viewer to project their own interpretation, the focus appears to be more concerned with how to make a sense and a visual drama out of piles of junk. He speaks to environmental issues in a muted tone, not unlike where subtle juxtapositions of muted and brighter color passages evoke depth and a poetic rightness of form and light.
Michael Kareken detail view of Scrap Engines #2 Oil on Panel 2007 16″ x 48″
His masterly draftsmanship and painterly bravura dramatically captures the gestural flows of huge piles of scrap metal, paper and glass. There is a tonal clarity that builds monumental space in which the viewers eye is lead across the surface like one of the giant magnetic cranes filled with falling scrap metal sweeping across the little mountains of trash. Of which subject he also made an incredible triptych – which can be seen in his “metal” section of his website.
Michael Kareken Scrap Bottle Study 2008 Oil on Panel 22″ x 30″
A brilliant fusion of his manner of painting with his subject makes me want to keep coming back for more. Thankfully there are some higher resolution photos of his work that helps make up for not seeing the work in person at the mnartist.org It would be worth a trip to Minneapolis to see his work at his Groveland Gallery.
I just read a very interesting interview with Michael Kareken on Mike Boyle’s blog interview with Michael Kareken