Joshua Liner Gallery is pleased to present Lights Out, a solo exhibition of new paintings by Brooklyn-based artist Michael Kagan. This is the artist’s second solo exhibition with the gallery, and will feature eight large-scale works and six smaller works in Kagan’s primary medium, oil on linen. The artist will be present for the opening reception on Thursday, February 11, 2016.
For Lights Out, Kagan reinforces his fascination with man’s moments of triumph over nature’s limits captured through iconic imagery. With a refreshed focus, the subject matter for Lights Out includes paintings of astronauts, cockpits, Formula One drivers, racecars, and for the first time, mountains. The artist shares, “The idea behind Lights Out comes from a life changing situation that takes mankind to the next level… the subjects of my paintings are worthy of being painted because they achieved something epic, and will be remembered, but in doing so they could have died or did die, hence ‘Lights Out.’” Through various, carefully selected historical imagery, Kagan paints a tenacious and dynamic impression of man during fearless moments, driven to achieve greatness.
Meticulously researching his themes, the artist devotes hours of attention to understand the story of his subjects, selecting a definitive image to paint. Working from an abundance of photographs, Kagan carefully chooses imagery that encapsulates the pinnacle of these recorded moments in history. In There is No End, a true to scale depiction of the astronaut Eugene Cernan on the surface of the Moon looms before the viewer. Derived from a significant, widely publicized photograph of the astronaut, the painting captures the last time man set foot on the lunar surface in 1972. Similarly, a snapshot of the Brazilian Formula One driver Ayrton Senna served as inspiration for a large-scale work revealing the moments before the iconic driver’s fatal crash during the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix. The artist notes his preference for painting momentous snapshots rather than entire narratives as he explains, “I edit [the paintings] down to just the ‘hits’ and am always looking for that iconic image so that even if it was silhouetted, the viewer would instantly know what it was.”
Traversing a fine line between abstract and figurative, Kagan’s thick slabs of paint amass together to build detailed compositions. Upon close inspection, the paintings appear pixelated and erupt into countless particles. In Concorde, Kagan’s swift dabs and blocks of oil paint compact tightly, filling the entire canvas. The abundance of dynamic, tightly placed brushstrokes create an energy within the composition that almost reverberates before the viewer. Stepping back to view the work as a whole, the myriad of controls and instruments in the renowned plane’s cockpit become recognizable. Despite the frenzied appearance of Kagan’s brushstrokes up close, distance reveals a process that is is organized, methodical, and deliberate. Kagan sheds light on his approach to painting with particular reference to a new series of mountain works as he explains, “I get lost in the brush strokes and build it almost like an abstract painting but the final result is an epic mountain.” Although the landscapes introduce a new focus for the artist, Kagan’s inspiration for each work remains on the extraordinary lengths man will excel to overcome nature’s limits.
Born in 1980 in Virginia Beach, Michael Kagan received his BA from The George Washington University and MFA from New York Academy of Art, where he also completed a postgraduate fellowship in 2005. Special projects include a commission from The Smithsonian, an apparel collaboration with Pharrell Williams, and album cover artwork for The White Lies album Big TV which won an Art Vinyl award for Best Art Vinyl, 2013. Most recently, Kagan completed his largest commission to date—a 27-foot-wide painting for Los Angeles-based tech start-up RadPad, of which BBC published a detailed feature. Solo exhibitions include Thunder in the Distance, Joshua Liner Gallery, New York, NY (2014); and I am My Father’s Son, Space SBH, Saint Barthélemy, French West Indies (2012). Selected group exhibitions include Your Favorite Artist’s Favorite Artist, Joshua Liner Gallery, New York, NY (2014); Shake the Dust Off, Allegra LaViola Gallery, New York, NY (2012); and Growing Pains at Charles de Jonghe Gallery, Brussels, Belgium (2010).