Art & Statement: Mad Ladders by Michael Robinson
Mad Ladders is my third solo exhibition at Carrie Secrist Gallery in Chicago, and brings together three different projects: an installation of my newest short film (from which the exhibition takes its title), a series of 2D paper collages, and a video piece for monitors entitled Desert States (You Win Again).
The 10-minute film, Mad Ladders, is very much a collage itself, blending original and found imagery with a densely layered sound design, all surrounding differing notions of “revelation”. As the prophetic ramblings of an unseen narrator (pulled from her YouTube channel) recount fantastical dreams of the coming Rapture, crystalline imagery of rolling clouds gives way to heavily-processed video of moving stage sets from The American Music Awards telecasts of the 1980’s and early 1990’s.
Blooming and pulsing in and out of geometric abstraction, a swirling montage of rising curtains, spinning set pieces, and unveiled pop idols forms an occult spectacle, propelled by its impassioned narrator and an 8-bit Tori Amos leitmotif. Like a half-remembered dream of mythology, television, and religion, the film seeks out a hypnotic balance between storytelling and free-falling. It is presented here as large-scale projection in a blacked-out, custom-built room with a curtained entrance adorned by a parallelogram-shaped slice of white wall.
My new collages (all made of cut paper and rubber cement) aim for a similarly otherworldly affect, forging fantastical, floating worlds out of materials culled from a wide range of photographic and illustrated sources spanning the past 60 years. Stone Age tools, circuit boards, floral arrangements, kneeling figures, strangely-hued drips and open landscapes all coalesce into dynamic compositions, proposing haunted and humorous interrelationships between history, technology and the natural world.
I began making collages in 2009 as a means to relieve the tedium of editing on a computer, and generate something fast, direct and physical. These have continued to be an important part of my practice, however, as I’ve become more adept at making them, they have grown more complex and time-consuming, to the point that they are no longer a relief from anything, but fully stress-inducing in their own right. That is to say, the collages in this new group of 11 are the best I have ever made, and I’m really proud of them.
Desert States (You Win Again), is a silent, 2-channel video presented on flatscreen monitors, mounted slightly high on the wall and tilted towards one another in “conversation”. Culled from segments of the 1987 and 1988 Miss USA pageants, the videos reduce and refract their sources’ highly-gendered pageantry into a raw form of ceremonial spectacle. Clad in bathing suits, state sashes, and big hair, the contestants are individually posed and captured within highly-staged landscapes of the American southwest.
Removing all commentary and numerical scores, each video loop is edited into a propulsive wave of relentless camera zooms, gleaming sands, and repeated gestures of surprise and seduction. Cumulatively, the contestants’ seemingly vacant expressions build a silent plea for rescue from the psychic deserts of Americana and misogyny. The final sequence of Mad Ladders is comprised of imagery from the same sources as Desert States, relaying an echo between the two works.
“Mad Ladders” will be on view at Carrie Secrist Gallery, 835 W Washington Blvd.
Chicago, IL 60607, through January 16th, 2016.
Acid Rain’s Art & Statement series places artwork alongside the artists own words in an effort to distribute and promote artists’ writings and a greater understanding of contemporary processes and ideas.