Sunday, February 17, 2008

Massurrealist Micheal Morris

In my new spree of art blogging, I would be greatly amiss if I neglected to post about Micheal Morris.

Micheal is one of the co-founders of the Massurrealist school, and perhaps more importantly, a pivotal figure in my decision to move to the East Coast. Not that he attempted to persuade me and Jes or anything, just that I first met him and his lovely wife on my first visit to Connecticut. His energy, warmth, and openness really tainted my impression of New England for the better.

Not long after we moved here, Micheal had a showing of prints which was written up here. (OK, so I've been horribly procrastinating this post, and you'll have to scroll down a bit on the page.)

A can of orange soda floats amidst breaking waves, a blue square pattern floats up from sand to sky, James Seehafer says, “That’s what I’m talking about.” It’s the early 1990s, he’s talking about Massurrealism, and he’s looking at Michael Morris’ painting “Orange Crush”. Seehafer, the artist who gave birth to the word “massurrealism”, has found the defining image of the art movement he christened in Morris’ eight-by-four-foot piece. The Massurrealist entwines images of the outside world with that of the internal world while incorporating the idea of mass and it’s many connotations: mass as an adjective, mass as a noun, and Mass, the proper noun. A massurrealistic piece may include themes of mass production, mass media and mass transportation, mass culture, and the collective Mass of the universe.

A movement without barriers, Massurrealism embraces any and all artistic mediums; it’s the artist’s natural answer to a world swamped with information, technology and product.
An emphasis on the elements is found in Morris’ paintings, and it was his experimentation with water that prompted him to pioneer the Massurrealist art movement 15 years ago.

“Painting water took a long time to learn,” Morris said. “I spent about six months on it before ‘Orange Crush’. Water is made up of secondary colors—green, orange and violet—and blue added on top for the reflection of the sky, then the foam…water is what got me started, it got me excited.
Morris also plays with concepts of time, physics, and the weight of human emotion. “We associate our feelings with mass,” he said. “We talk about being heavy with guilt, we tell people to lighten up.” His work fuses the intangibles of the human condition with the fact of our environment and culture, creating images that somehow make sense.

“Art is a science, a way of understanding the world,” said Ben Armstrong of Redding, who attended the show’s opening. “It’s extremely valid, though often overlooked.”

See, I told you I was at that show. Seriously though, after that quote was transcribed, I had a great conversation with Michael about his work. It followed a similar vein, though I wish I'd heard his comments about the elemental nature of his work. Because, from talking to him, I know that he does see painting as a philosophical/scientific/metaphysical means of inquiry into reality. By which I mean that art can be a way, perhaps the only way, to rectify the disparities between our scientific understanding of the world, with our subjective experiences, our philosophical ponderings, and our spiritual faith. And if you think a pursuit that can try and reconcile these disparate impulses is trivial, then you haven't been paying attention to the news lately.

In case you are interested, here is the best description of Massurealism I've found:

Massurrealism is the realization of a quest that explores the fertile ground that encompasses both reality and imagination -- the conscious and the subconscious. In Massurrealism the artists combine images from the outer world (the Mass) and inner world (the Surreal). Massurrealism thus brings disparate sides of our life into direct association, juxtaposing personal symbols with the imagery of mass culture, often combining the conflicts themselves -- the hard, pounding throb of a locomotive (mass transportation) charging forward and the soft, yielding form of a woman,swimming above and away; the trendy sophistication of a cocktail with the simple innocence of inquisitive goldfish. What is real, we might ask. What is imagined? These new images offer a glimpse into a universal hologram; a view that points at something beyond just images; a vision that may explain nothing -- yet might just explain everything. As such, Massurrealism pursues what is perhaps the ultimate realism.

OK, so that is a little nebulous, as are most artistic manifestos (except perhaps the Futurists, but then those who support Fascists are generally pretty concrete.) But there is something there, and if you Google Massurrealism, you will most likely find the claim that it is the first major art movement of the 21st century. And you know, I'll buy into that.

Seems like since art hit modernism, it has fractured into more sub genres than electronic music. I mean unless you are a devoted fan of dance music, you probably have no idea of the difference between trip-hop, jungle, dub, and industrial, any more than the layman knows the difference between Abstract Expressionism, Neo Expressionism, Lyrical Abstraction, or Unitary Urbanism. Since the mid-90s, it has pretty much felt like the only real categories for art were based on price and the geographic location of the gallery presenting it.

I wish I could find good quality pics of his paintings "Homage to Munch" and "Vitreuvan Barbie".... Those two works best of all portray the combination of skill, pop-culture savy, and humor that runs through all of Morris's works... But in a few years perhaps you'll see them in the art history books...

You can learn more about Michael Morris and Massurrealism in Massurrealism: A Dossier which includes some original essays by Morris.

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