June 12—July 19, 2019
Michael Cline is a self-described storyteller, making paintings filled with strange configurations of people and their surroundings. Bodies are in motion and yet caught catatonically stiff within streetscapes, contained by windows, or piled with objects. These scenes tend to be awash with a greenish light, adding a grotesque quality to their discordant details and faded palette. Liberally mixing styles and narratives, Cline renders an odd feeling of ambiguity and vulnerability.
Altogether, Cline’s works seem to be from another era and yet sit outside of time. Cueing the present day as much as centuries and styles past, these images describe a possibly parallel universe in which tradition is rehashed and current convention is frustrated. Within this adjusted sense of time Cline flattens perspective and shortens space. As much as these paintings seem apart from time, their layered images produce a multiplicitous sense of dimension. Eleven—or even one hundred—timelines are seemingly sandwiched upon each other in Cline’s estranged timespace.
Sharp shifts in scale add to this illusionistic effect. In many works a figure might stand in the shallow space between the flat surface of a wall and the picture frame. Details like soft shadows, a crack in the wall, or an odd doorway furnish this backdrop. By contrast, Cline’s earlier highly textured relief works move drastically closer to this plane, focusing on left-behind pieces of tape, torn bits of paper, and false wooden beams in trompe-l’oeil fashion. Impromptu and handprinted signs feature repeatedly, tipping into awkwardness with a misspelled word or adjusted numbers. These pieces of information provide an in-between setting that is as telling, if not more-so, as the characters they contain. Spilling with symbols, Cline’s works are irreducible to a single meaning, interval, or depth.
Michael Cline (b. 1973 in Florida, living in New York) received an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and BA from the University of North Florida. Cline has presented solo exhibitions at Corbett vs. Dempsey, Chicago; David Kordansky, Los Angeles; Marc Jancou Contemporary, New York; and Daniel Reich Gallery, New York. He has been included in exhibitions at the Parrish Art Museum, New York; Museo d'Arte Contemporanea Roma, Rome; Deste Foundation, Athens; David Zwirner, New York; Lehmann Maupin, New York; and Saatchi Gallery, London. He is in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; François Pinault Foundation, Venice; and the Museum of Old and New Art, Tasmania, among others. The first monograph on the artist’s work was published by JRP Ringier in 2010.