Michael Reeder’s work is a feast for the eyes. With each look, your eyes get greedier and greedier, sucking in the purest colors, bouncing between the sharpest of contrasts, scratching across texture, dodging shadows and settling on the enigmatic figure.
Don Juan Matus
Reeder‘s works pull together a variety of paint applications that harmonize for the banquet of pleasure before us. Take a look at ‘Don Juan Matus’, pretty fucking beautiful. But noticing each element of Reeder’s technique helps to appreciate the harmonizing compositions of Reeder. First, look at the two beady red eyes sunk through the painting… and then at the greyscale hand, painted in relatively traditional brushwork, clasping the figures eyes, even though the eyes cut clean through the hand. Then notice the vibrant pink background that has been clipped with chance, in much the same way Gerhard Richter‘s squeegee reveals the wet paints below. Atop of this, purple geometric repeating triangles are stenciled complimenting the pink color below. From this background of brush, chance, and stencil, the figure is formed, achieved by cutting the outline of the figure from plush blue and installed to hover above it. This outline of blue throws its shadow across the figure giving crisp contrasts and depth to the flat plains of the painting. Notice the shadow of darker blue on the clean blue board, this helps to tie the figure together and pushes it forward from the lighter blue ‘background’ even though the figure is physically recessed behind the blue board. The final touch is a white smoke cloud that cuts the blue, speckled with spray paint that also hovers and casts its own shadow across the blue plain.
Each of Reeder’s works has this level of intricacy to its surfaces. Each plays with the textures of a surface. Each plays with the application of paint and depth. It is Reeder’s play with these bounds that has brought about this pure aesthetic pleasure of image. And, my word, they are pleasurable. But like all of us, we long for meaning when we have been stimulated so thoroughly, so I asked Reeder for a little insight into his work.
What do you feel is the key idea you are trying to communicate with your artistic output?
I primarily focus on the fundamentals of painting. In doing so, I hope to present work that engages the viewer on a visual level rather than just a narrative level. As the creator of these works, I am much more fixated with the interaction of surface, space, and color than I am with the specific meaning of imagery, which (for the most part) stands as a placeholder for these elements.
In your portraits, do you ever aim to depict an individual (i.e., friends, idols, self) or are they more so a result of direction (i.e., a concept for depiction, an aesthetic creation, or something else)?
The portraits are never intended to be any one particular person. They are fictional beings that exist only in my paintings. I hope that this ‘open-endedness’ allows the viewer to connect on a personal level rather than attaching the figure to someone who has been designated as the identity. Additionally, the vagueness is intended to promote collaboration between the viewer and the work.
Could you define for me your definition of what art is?
The interesting thing about this question is that no matter how I respond, I can find a counter to my own response – that in itself I think answers the question. Although everything isn’t necessarily meant to be art, art can be anything. For instance, I can take three spray paint caps and stack them on a pedestal in a gallery and call it art, and it is. It has been placed in a space for people to reflect on, expound on, critique, love, or hate. Art exists for its beauty, concept, political message, lack of message, or general ingenuity, etc. So, essentially art is anything that has been designated or labeled as art.
Could you discuss ‘False Guru’?
‘False Guru’ is the first piece where I was able to successfully incorporate concrete as a medium into my work. I’ve had a few failed attempts at achieving this, and this was the first that actually worked out. The purpose of the concrete isn’t to just use it for its unique surface, but it also allows me to use potassium silicate paint, which is something I have been working on incorporating into my work for a while now. Potassium silicate is a mineral based paint that bonds with the porous surface of the concrete.
You recently did some extremely dope work making cycling gear and a mural for Specialized Bikes?
The ‘Cutty Clouds’ mural was actually part of my first major brand collaboration with Specialized Bikes. We teamed up to create a Reeder inspired race track bike and team gear for the 2018 fixed gear team. As part of the collab, they commissioned an 8ft x 20ft mobile mural that has traveled around to different races this year. Lots of fun, and something very very different than the norm!
As a painter myself, I have been watching your work for a few years and have been burning to ask you this question, How the hell do you get such accurate patterns in the paint?
Well, most of the pattern work is hand cut using transparent vinyl masking tape. However, that’s mainly just for the simple geometric patterns, and I’m certain you’re specifically asking about the intricate halftone patterns, haha. For those, I use a digital vinyl cutter to create the very precise stencil. Vinyl cutters are a really useful tool for artists. You can learn more about some of the different types by checking out this guide to vinyl cutters on freshlypickedblog.com. With that said, even though I’m not hand painting thousands of tiny dots, I still have to remove the thousands of tiny dots to create the negative space for the stencil to work. The machine just makes the cuts. So yeah, that’s an excruciating process.
Where can people catch your next upcoming show/mural?
I’m painting a mural in Atlanta the last week of September as part of the Outerspace Project mural festival, and I’m grinding away in the studio for my upcoming solo exhibition ‘Deadringer’ at Spoke Art in NYC that opens on December 1st!
Reeder’s work is dope. Keep an eye on this guy and enjoy the ride!