On ViewGalería Mascota
Michael Ross: Time Repair
March 25–June 17, 2023
The gallery assistant at Galería Mascota in Mexico City's Roma Norte is perhaps unimpressed with the disheveled visitor who arrives late in the morning on a Saturday. I don’t think twice. I ask about the artist. “Michael Ross is an American artist who has been working in small scale art pieces for over thirty years,” says the assistant, “these are his latest pieces.” Of course, I recognize them from the internet, but since most of the internet is a field of lies, I take my time with a sense of familiarity that I know can only be trusted so far. After all, art at this scale is somewhat new to me.
The first piece one comes across when entering the gallery is War Film (2023) and it consists of what look like a few pieces from a vintage fuse box with a bit of red felt, all held together with a pair of golden screws matching the color of the metal. There is a somewhat physical or literal take on the piece, the ionic shape on the sides as representing the mechanism inside a film projector with the little red square in the middle as the projector's gate, a red square standing for the blood and the horror of war; but there is something about the texture in that bit of red fabric that started to trigger more sinister interpretations.
I am a sucker for ambitious titles, and War Film, while being brief, is very narratively charged. Just the mention of war sparks visions in my heart and my head. A boxing ring for ants I also thought to myself for a second before being transported to the red carpet at the Metropolitan Opera, looking at the wall of Patrons of Lincoln Center and having to consider my complicitness with oil conglomerates, banks, and worse just to see a performance of La Traviata.
“We’re the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War’s a spiritual war… our Great Depression is our lives…” This partial quote from the iconic 1996 novel Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk captures this feeling that while we may not be familiar with the battlefields of the traditional war, the grueling chase for quota can be as dehumanizing as some battalions if removed of the notion of glory and honor and given to subscription, advertising, and the participation trophy. But a red carpet is where the winners of the day are paraded and cheered. The demanding, specialized culture of idol worship and celebrity sometimes seems a bit too much like a prelude to the next crisis and the feeling that I've seen this film before. I commend the choice of keeping that piece on its own and in the very entrance. I’m now a believer in small scale art.
I moved to the adjacent room where the rest of the pieces were located and was greatly relieved by so much empty space. I walked around the room with a distinct sense of curiosity that comes from really having to get close to the pieces to appreciate them. I was slightly inconvenienced by the fact that the names of the pieces were nowhere in sight, but I understood the choice to keep the room spotless to better focus on the artworks.
The title piece, Time Repair (2022), is made with something resembling a discarded plastic lid with a thin sliver of silver screwed to it. I found this piece to be poetic, playful, and daring. I can imagine many people being upset at just how rudimentary it is, but there is still something not altogether simple about it; in the whole show I wasn’t able to place any specific material with any brand or product (on any piece—which was of great relief as I think that could have definitely broken their charm when in contact with corporate branding). The piece Chortle (2022) is as fun as its name. Seems like a bit of jewelry but of a shape and size that is very unique, somewhat masterful. I wondered if the artist had crafted those metallic pieces together from some important personal object or family heirloom and it seemed so solemn, but later on when reviewing the materials used for the piece I realized that, since at least one part of it is plastic, is was probably made much like the rest of them: a readymade put together in fun, evocative ways. It is obvious the artist is being very careful in his process and I like to imagine he has a lot of fun with it.
The significance of making art with bits of discarded materials is obviously important in capturing this point in our history. It’s a collection of the instruments of the era. The artist being born in 1954 means that he grew up in a world with comparatively little waste and plastics through a full cycle of technological adaptive radiation; now the UN Environment Programme’s opening message is “Our planet is choking on plastic.” As I walked out of the gallery I started to imagine a world or time when work like this becomes of such great influential impact that it would even emerge as a new form of vandalism and instead or alongside graffiti one would find these types of peculiar sculptures decorating public signs, adverts and the sides of buildings. If you see someone sneaking through the streets at night holding a handful of nondescript objects and a cordless drill, maybe it’s already started.