Michael Byron

By Spring, Justin | Artforum International, November 1993 | Go to article overview

Michael Byron


Spring, Justin, Artforum International


In Michael Byron's recent exhibition, two candles, in the shape of life-sized busts cast in paraffin, each faced a series of elegant gray-on-black "drip" paintings. On these paintings, typographic collage translates each dribble and squiggle into some psychological "moment"--"lust," "laziness," "substance abuse," "fate," "enlightenment," "inner peace." In a companion exhibition in Paris, Byron presented an installation entitled, Search(6): Le Tableau d'Amsterdam, 1992--93, which indicated that, as a whole, his new work is about translation: the translation of paint into language, of a squiggle into a signifier, of an object into it representation.

Byron's works linger like complicated, multitextured brain-teasers. Close in spirit to the light bulb drawn over a cartoon-figure's head, the candle-busts turn the Enlightenment's belief in subject-centered reason into a visual pun. Each entitled The Viewer, 1993, these busts underline Byron's examination of the relationship between the viewer and the work, of just how a squiggle in paint becomes something more: how a painting becomes personally expressive at the same time that it becomes a culturally significant statement. With his version of drip painting, Byron summons the ghost of Jackson Pollock (and, by association, the ghosts of the critics who recognized and elevated his work to cultural prominence). But the specific critical issues associated with Pollock's painting are evoked by Byron's series, entitled "Psychological Charts," 1993, in such a way as to call them into question. …

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