When an artist’s body collapses, human relationships become crucial


There is a way in which the human body functions like a machine, and the artist or all of his studio activity also fits easily into this machinist metaphor. And like many systems around the world, their inner workings become the subject of intense scrutiny, study, and appreciation when they fail. Michel mandiberg‘s Time range The exhibition gives the viewer a window into a time when the artist had to deal with the collapse of his own body due to a fight with aggressive cancer, and this window allows me to see the inner workings of their studio and relations with their assistants.

Installation view of Time range at the Denny Dimin gallery

Having written about Mandiberg’s work before I could attest that he tends to be a pretty high concept. Their penchant for it is evident here, as is their inclination to use digital vocabulary and tools. Time range is actually a summary of two much larger bodies of work – Zoom on paintings (which I will leave aside) and portraits made for Live Study, a long-running performance that includes an archive of live streamed videos documenting the artist’s painting sessions, as well as a series of oil portraits and associated color studies. The paintings here do several things at the same time. They are representative of Mandiberg learning to paint. They are used to document the various projects, commissions and responsibilities assumed and the workflows generated in their accomplishment. They also explain the underlying humanity that underlies Mandiberg’s entire artistic endeavor. In a painting titled “My doctor forbade me to do more work (Zorn Palette)” (2020), the image is a color gradient going from a white center to washes of red and yellow, under which is the text of an email exchanged with studio worker Michele Maglio-Walsh. The text reads in part:

I really need to transition you into someone who is healthy and can meet your needs on a more ongoing basis. Basically my doctor forbade me to do any more work like this until I finished my drug treatments. I still have at least 7 months, and it’s cumulative, so it’s only getting worse.

It’s Mandiberg’s sense of responsibility to the people they work with that permeates the exhibit, through the combination of semi-naive portraits, spreadsheets, digitized gradients, and video stills with correspondence. by e-mail including letters of recommendation and letters seeking to establish a relationship with the artist. .

Installation view of Time range at the Denny Dimin gallery

It is the people and the threads of loyalty, duty, affection and care that connect us to each other that become palpable here and are the most touching aspects of this show. The art scene I know certainly consists of ruthless gallery and studio systems that ruthlessly exploit artists, but Mandiberg’s commemoration of the people who worked with them to continue making art in their most physically vulnerable state. brings out something else. We are responsible for each other, at least if we choose to be.

Time range continues at the Denny Dimin Gallery (39 Lispenard Street, Tribeca, Manhattan) through December 23.

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