G Fine Art Gallery Info Selected Archives Artists

Maggie Michael | Colored Grounds and Perfect Xs

February 14 - April 4, 2015


press release:

Opening Reception: February 14, 6:30-8:30 pm


             SATURDAY, MARCH 28th @ 2 pm

G Fine Art begins its 2015 season with the rousing exhibition “Colored Grounds and Perfect Xs” featuring new work by Maggie Michael. Of the artist’s work, scholar Jessica Horton wrote,

“White’s presumed neutrality had emerged as a glaring problem linking studio, classroom, and street. (Michael) began to cover her canvases in blue, green, gray, and orange…It is an act that reintegrates the ground in a network of human and material relations, connecting artist and paint with all that is above, below, inside, and outside the canvas.”

With “Colored Grounds and Perfect Xs” Michael creates a visual vocabulary­­ from paint pours, stencils, and drawn elements. The tensions between distinctive components make these paintings pulse with ample associations. Starting with the colored ground, the works may challenge received knowledge that informs critical consciousness. Building up from there, Michael centers her practice on decoding “American” elements of painting, particularly those from privileged system.

The Perfect X series links to Colored Grounds; marking where one line/incident/work encounters another. Michael engages the X as a structure and a multi-faceted symbol, open to interpretation and connected to both everyday and arcane signification. As the artist describes it, “The first line is, perhaps, incidental. The second line is, no doubt, an assertion. An X is to be found and dealt with.”

A number of inspirations inform Michael’s creative process: elements from Kazimir Malevich’s Russian constructivist paintings meet up with ideas from Giorgio Agamben’s contemporary philosophy, and Brazilian author’s Clarice Lispector’s unconventional, fluid writing.  These disparate elements commix through Michael’s endless curiosity in the possibilities for abstraction. Ultimately, Michael’s painted queries reveal a persistent interest in the planes where mind and matter intersect.  Michael reflects, “What plane conveys a view that is simultaneously straightforward and esoteric, humorous and alarming, secretive yet descriptively detailed?”

Michael received her MFA from American University in 2002, an MA from San Francisco State University in 2000, and a BFA from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee in 1996. Her paintings are included in several public collections including the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the United States Embassies in Romania and Barbados, the Federal Reserve Board, the Corcoran Collection, American University, and the University of Maryland. She was awarded an Artist Fellowship Grant from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities in 2013, a Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship in 2008, The Trawick Prize in 2008, and an Artist’s Residency at the Hirshhorn Museum in 2006.  Past exhibitions, including “Clones” (2002), “Run” (2004), “Open End” (2006), “All At Once” (2009),"Tattoos of Ships“ (2010), "There is No Rising or Setting Sun” (2011), and “Some Threads are Loosely Tied” (2014), have received critical acclaim. Michael lives and works in Washington D.C.

Gallery Hours: Thursday- Friday 12pm-6pm, Saturday 12pm-5pm
G Fine Art, 4718 14th Street NW, Washington, DC, 20011

Maggie Michael, Black Under Blue Before, During and After the Rotation of Horses, 2013, gesso, ink, enamel, and spray paint on canvas, 50 x 70" 127 x 178 cm



Colored Grounds and Perfect Xs Reviewed by Kriston Capps in the Washington City Paper.


“Maggie Michael: Colored Grounds and Perfect Xs”

At G Fine Art to April 4

Paintings from a seasoned local artist recall other works of literature and art—even her own.

By Kriston Capps • February 20, 2015

Clarice Lispector’s fingerprints are all over Maggie Michael’s latest show. Quotations from the Jewish-Brazilian writer’s novels appear in the titles of Michael’s paintings, but the connection is closer than that. It’s as if Lispector’s lyrical urgency, her experimental perspective and sense for repetition, have taken physical form in Michael’s latest solo show, the local painter’s seventh in D.C.

Longtime viewers who have seen her approach to abstraction advance and rebound and advance again might say no, these paintings are a return to form for Michael. The text is gone, the biomorphic imagery is back, the argument might go. And it’s true: The works in “Colored Grounds and Perfect Xs” call back to the paintings Michael made when she first got her start in the early 2000s. But she’s no less upfront about the way she processes her influences and ideas in her pure abstractions than in artworks with the words painted right on the surface for viewers to read.

In “Colored Grounds and Perfect Xs,” two experimental cycles play out side by side. “Colored Ground Series: Grey Crosscutting Silver (Delta)” (2014) and “Colored Ground Series: (Orange), How to Make (Frame) a Black Rainbow” (2014) are titles that fairly capture the way she arrives at those paintings. Which is to say, the “Colored Ground” paintings are logical, Maggie’s strategies nested and bracketed and stacked like compound clauses over a plain color base. On the other hand, “Perfect X Series: White” and “Perfect X Series: Nailing Tints and Wisps,” plus the three X paintings titled “Undoing,” each describe a singular form, with every iteration a new exercise. Both series remind me of Robert Ryman, the playful minimalist, with his love of jazz and monochromes.

Another of Michael’s new paintings—“Melting Eyes and Stones ‘More than the instant, I want its flow.’ (Clarice Lispector, Água Viva),” a chewy title—appears to depict cellular meiosis, as two stained forms divide. If it looks familiar, that’s because she’s recycling something from her “Clone” series, paintings of twin latex pours. Maybe Michael’s found something in Lispector’s writings that she could only work through by returning to schemes from her past.

That’s how Michael paints: like a problem-solver. Her abstractions are often musical and soaring, like landscapes, but she’s a methodical worker, one decision a segue to the next, plain and simple (yet not). Even her catholic interests in media—latex, enamel, spray paint, ink, oil, graphite, stencils, text, nails, even water from the Potomac River—seem to flow from first principles. Somehow, Michael is always working through other artists’ work, whether it’s paintings or poems or pop songs, and her paintings are inputs turned into outputs. Still, they add up to much more than the sum of their parts.

“Deconstructing ‘A Lover’s Discourse’ (Fragments of a Long River)” is a means to an end. Standing in front of the painting, I feel like I’m on the wrong side of it, looking out; like the real painting is on the other side of the canvas, and only the people on the other side of the mirror can see it; what I am seeing instead is the inversion of processes, the reflection of tactics, the ways of painting instead of the painting itself. I like my side just fine.


Gallery Hours are Thursday - Saturday, Noon - 5pm
(and by appointment)

4718 14th Street NW
Washington, DC 20011
T. 202.462.1601
F. 202.462.1604