Mike Womack’s fifth solo exhibition with the gallery, Crawl Space continues his ongoing practice of mixing conceptual art concerns and modern art aesthetics with the actual substance of everyday materials and constructions. This series of works also deepens his recent investigations into issues of home, family and memory, combining his early career as an abstract painter with his signature practice as an innovative sculptor.

The exhibition’s title Crawl Space refers to the area between the floor and the ground on which a structure is built. Typically this interstitial space is neither considered inside or out, but a place where earth and structure overlap. They can be dirty, unwelcoming, and hard to gain access to, with less-than-poetic elements such as tangles of conduit, insulation and rat traps.

Starting from this reference, Womack creates painting hybrids, blurring the lines between paintings as decorative and structural. In one work, a canvas’s stretcher seeming slides out to become part of the composition, while in another, cast dirt is the canvas’s foil and frame. His Landscape Painting #2 (Slab) is actually a slab of concrete pulled up from the floor like old peeling carpet to reveal the painted canvas. When a painting is hung traditionally on the wall, it is obscured by pieces of lumber leaning against its surface, like multiplying homages to Charles Ray’s iconic Plank Pieces. Throughout the series, other references come to mind from Gordon Matta-Clark to artistic movements such as the French group of Surface/Support from the 1960’s and 70’s.

The artist has stated that in his work “the tradition of modernism lies in contrast with the low culture of construction materials. Each stratum mixes with the other and confuses the class distinction between form, material, image, and object.” Paintings exist in every piece save Legend, a stratified sculpture that functions as a skeleton key, illustrating a vertical hierarchy from dirt to high cultured product.

The artist further describes these works as “elemental sculptures that reveal the structure, foundation, and armature of their own making. Similar to the gallery or museum, the substructures of the paintings and sculpture become a psychic foundation where value is imbued. The location of this value becomes suspended between the armature and the surface, between canvas and cradle, between oil painting and splintery 2x4.”

Mike Womack’s works have been praised by The New York Times, The New Yorker, Sculpture Magazine, Art in America, and others. His work has been seen in galleries and museums including Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, the Thelma Sadoff Center for the Arts, Wisconsin, the Evergreen Museum, Baltimore, and Arthouse, Austin. He divides his time between Boulder, Colorado and Brooklyn, New York.

Mike Womack's Crawl Space reviewed in The Wall Street Journal

Installation view: Mike Womack: Crawl Space, 2016, ZieherSmith

Installation view: Mike Womack: Crawl Space, 2016, ZieherSmith

Installation view: Mike Womack: Crawl Space, 2016, ZieherSmith


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