Tang Contemporary is proud to present the first solo exhibition of American artist Michael Zelehoski “Inner Space” in Hong Kong this May. Featuring eight new mixed-media works by the New York based artist, the series works to dismantle visual processes by deconstructing the physicality of mundane objects and using industrial materials to meticulously reassemble them in pictorial space.
“Seeing is a constructive process.”
-- Francis H. C. Crick
Visual perception, which accounts for 80% of human sensory input, is an active and selective process that is intimately involved in thought and concept formation. Far from the passive reception of visual input, perception is an active reconciliation of the complexity of the outer world and the inner self that beholds it. This process plays out on a physical plane in the work of Michael Zelehoski, who manipulates actual objects to conform to his mental image of them; in this way, facilitating and yet challenging our perception of these objects as well as our understanding of the perceptual process itself.
We are seldom aware of the challenges and complexities of seeing. In order to perceive the world, our eyes must navigate an increasingly crowded visual field with ever-changing depth and perspective. To distill a single object, to really see it for what it is, turns out to be a surprisingly daunting proposition. In selecting and recontextualizing what he finds in nature, Zelehoski makes it easier for us to do so – by deconstructing found objects and reassembling them in pictorial space.
There is nothing unique about the humble, utilitarian objects that the artist selects. They are activated by their reconfiguration and isolation in space. This allows us to see the subtle beauty of materials that might otherwise seem old or decrepit, the history inscribed in their surfaces by the passage of time. At the same time, we struggle to reconcile the reality of the object with the artificiality of its context and configuration. Our minds try in vain to reconstruct the fragmented objects and coax them back into our physical understanding of space. Like Donald Judd and other artists associated with Minimalism, Zelehoski activates the relationship between object and space on an aesthetic level. But he does so – paradoxically – by depriving objects of their spatial autonomy and physical integrity. He also avoids the standardised production commonly associated with Minimalism, in favour of a more direct and intuitive process that derives organic stories from sometimes inorganic industrial materials. The time-worn, hand-hewn surfaces allow beholders to find new life in the old souls of found objects.
Michael Zelehoski insists that his work is more about physicality (or lack thereof) than a specific concept or narrative. Objects are manifest. They don’t have to mean anything. Still, there are silent narratives at play and inevitably, through subjective associations. As old contexts of objects are obliterated, the beauty of their objecthood is highlighted, giving them a new order and coherence.