Very few of us would reveal our shameful memories or hidden issues to the public, but artist Michael Scoggins isn’t afraid of putting his inner self on display. A new show at Freight + Volume, “if you can’t say something nice...,” captures Scoggins’ confessional sculptures, which are realized as chalkboards or over-sized pages torn out of a journal.
Scoggins’ work is sensitive and personal, and through his careful selection of phrases, makes the viewer confront their own cycles of negative thoughts. “I’m building up layers of history, and also thinking about memories, and how they’re flexible and change over time,” he says of his work. “The viewer is only getting part of the story; I hope they’ll complete the missing parts.” One Trick Pony (2014), is an example of the type of narrative Scoggins is building: originally a comment made about the artist during a graduate school critique, the phrase now becomes a joke as the artist rewrites it 25 times on a 67-inch-long piece of lined composition paper. The top of the paper is dated “9/8/2012” and signed “Michael S.”—ready to be turned in to a schoolteacher. The diptych I’m Not Scared (2014) continues Scoggins’ repetitive writing thread, as the artist writes the words over and over in order, creating a breakdown in language.
Scoggins uses “Michael S.” as a caricature of his younger self, exploring how memory can become blurry or blotched over time, much like his choice of media, chalk and graphite. “I feel the ‘Michael S.’ character has definitely transformed over the years and has become more of an extension of my adult self,” Scoggins has said. “I want to present my work with sincerity, and it is truly a reflection of who I am.”
“if you can’t say something nice…” is on view at Freight + Volume, New York, Nov. 8–Dec. 13, 2014.