|BETTER DAYS AHEAD, OIL, 18 X 60|
By Bonnie Gangelhoff
When we last checked in with Michael Shankman in 2004, he was living in a San Francisco art collective called Million Fishes with 16 roommates. His paintings depicted the urban landscape that surrounded him. There wasn’t necessarily a message, just an evocative homage to the city by the bay.
Today Shankman makes his home in New York City, where he shares a duplex with one roommate—his girlfriend, an architect. When we caught up with the painter, he was preparing for an August show called Better Days Ahead at Hang Art, a gallery in his former hometown. His works have definitely taken a new direction since 2004, he says, and in fact, it’s a far gloomier oeuvre these days. “For a while I’ve felt that there was a disconnect between my work and the world,” he says. “I wanted to integrate the two more.”
|ROAD, OIL, 30 X 96|
An avid newspaper reader, Shankman says there is an anxious mood afoot in the country, and he wanted to create a body of work that reflects today’s economic and political climate. “I’m painting images of border fences, broken infrastructures, superhighways under construction, urban renewal, and other specific elements of charged architecture that I’m hoping will convey an equal measure of desperation and hope,” he explains.
As part of the series, Shankman is exploring the United States-Mexico border, an area where hastily installed fences dominate the terrain. After a recent trip to Nogales, AZ, he created the painting FENCE to convey his sense of the barriers that separate the two countries. For Shankman, one message of such works is that “we seem to be trying to build our way out of social and environmental problems.”
|FENCE, OIL, 24 X 72|
The show title Better Days Ahead not only reflects the national anxiety, but if viewers look closely, they can fathom a shard of light amid the gloom and doom. “I think we are in a weird political and economic moment with a lame-duck president,” Shankman explains. “And people are looking forward to the future with the hope that things will turn around.”
As for the painter himself, he says he doesn’t plan to stay in New York permanently. He misses the West and the year-round access to the outdoors that was so much a part of his life in San Francisco. His goal for now, though, is to continue coming up with shows that are cohesive, specific, and targeted to what’s going on in the world.
He is represented by Smith Klein Gallery, Boulder, CO; Hang Art, San Francisco, CA.
His next show is at Smith Klein Gallery, October 3-31.
Featured in September 2008