Salomon Contemporary proud to begin its 2011/2012 season with Michael Combs: Be All You Can’t Be, a solo exhibition of new sculpture that explores the human condition exemplified by man’s competitive nature and need to seek validation through societal trophies. Growing up on Long Island’s East End, Combs was raised by generations of hunters, fishermen, boat builders, and decoy makers. Instead of becoming an avid hunter himself, the upbringing ignited his passion for nature and position against the vanity of the sport.
The artist’s continuous use of historic “tools of the trade” are evident. With years of childhood experience in gutting and dissecting game for hunters, Combs understands the anatomy to perfection; and while many artists favor a human subject, his muses are animals.
The newest trophy mounts come complete with stylish racing stripes. While the decoration appears to be merely fashionable, the true purpose of the stripe is to provide the driver with a swift reference to calibrate passing distance, allowing him to be the victor. The artist empathizes with the losing side and continues to prod topics of bravado, insecurity, and personal rites of passage as his subjects.
Combs uses familiar elements of Americana and materials reminiscent of masculine icons such as Hemingway and Roosevelt. His football helmets, punching bags, and sports equipment illustrate another boyhood obsession, and are symbolic of how the west was won within the context of an infamous sports rivalry. The equipment acts as another example of the societal need for acceptance and a reminder that sometimes it’s best to be all that you can’t be.
Michael Combs lives and works in New York. He has a MFA from the School of Visual Arts. He has shown at galleries and museums throughout the US. In 2005, Combs had a solo exhibition at the Parrish Art Museum entitled The Trophy Room where he transformed gallery space into an immersive display of sculpted hunting conquests. In 2008, Salomon Contemporary, East Hampton presented The Lodge. This is Combs’s second solo exhibition with the gallery. In 2012 he will have a solo exhibition at 21C Museum in Louisville, Kentucky.