Los Angeles-based artist Michael Minelli’s first solo exhibition in New York City
- on view at CUE Art Foundation - will include a selection of works from his most recent series, Souvenirs (2007-2011). Minelli’s practice, which includes object making, drawing, writing, photography, and performance, is as much about engagement with consumerist culture as it is about engagement with materiality itself. He pushes his materials, from gaffers tape and sequins to plaster and photo backdrop paper, to do unexpected things, sussing out a certain internal, material logic. Using Sculpey brand polymer clay for the Souvenirs series, Minelli investigates the material while drawing upon a rich archive of references—the clay itself reminiscent of childhood arts and crafts projects or 19th century folk art while the miniature figures depict subjects ranging from Michael Jackson to the victims of Abu Ghraib, from a bana peel and rubber chicken to Kim Phuc (the child horribly burned by napalm and depicted in the Pulitzer-Prize winning photograph taken during the Vietnam War. His work, as curator Sowon Kwon writes, “counters consumerist spectacle and bombast without reproducing it (a neat trick), and without cynicism, sanctimony, or panic.”
Minelli’s practice is rooted in an exploration of materiality, both literally
- as he seeks to understand something through the process of making it - and culturally, through his use of media-derived imagery. Minute in scale, Minelli’s Souvenirs sit casually in opposition to the medium’s history of grand gestures and epic proportions. Small, hand-worked, and crafted out of an ordinary material, the Souvenirs demand an intimacy with America’s uncomfortable and recent history of race, war, torture, and celebrity culture. Each Souvenir, stunningly straightforward in its presentation, carefully oscillates between sinister and playful, funny and dark, irreverent yet startlingly candid—an honest invitation to more closely examine our relationship to, and complicity in, a culture of consumption and spectacle.