Love of Money is Relentless: Michael Scheurer at the Canco Gallery

November 15th, 2011  |  Published in November 2011, On View


Scheurer, Michael - Untitled _27 (Paint Series), 2010, 13.5 x 10

To quote Alan Watts, a much wiser man than I, “A myth is an image in terms of which we try to make sense of the world.” Walking through the hall of the new Canco Gallery space in Northside, I got the feeling I was entering someone’s intrapersonal mindscape, filled with its fair share of ecstasy and horror. That someone is Michael Scheurer. I haven’t met the man, but I can’t say that I didn’t feel his presence still lingering in his work. In fact, his instinct for placement and mark-making is so evident that I often found myself awestruck.

At first glance most of Scheurer’s work comes off as being a sort of mindless free-association experiment with mixed media collage, but of course you can’t write much about a first glance so I investigated further. I’m glad to say that I did. Each piece was seemingly constructed using a mixed bag of Eastern and Western printed media with emphasis on the ‘constructed’. I personally had many favorites at this show, but his best pieces seem to express just the right amount of controlled looseness to seduce any viewer into abrupt hypnosis. The stark use of synthetic process colors, most notably black, is evident in nearly all of his work. While most pieces are untitled, there is usually a series in which each piece belongs. I found that when gazing upon each of them my mind began to force a narrative, much like an inkblot forces an image.

One such narrative came from viewing his Untitled #27, a smaller collage from his Paint Series in 2010. Here the artist seems to be sharing an ancient, and yet resoundingly modern, theme of ‘man escaping from bondage’, whether it be physical, intellectual or spiritual. The amorphic figure in the foreground appears to be smothered by the enveloping darkness which at this day and age screams oil refinery. I couldn’t help but think back to an earlier date in 2010 where our trust in, not only oil companies, but capitalism as a whole was greatly challenged. It’s amazing how quickly one can forget such events without the prompting of the evening news. Scheurer’s re-contextualization of printed medium seems to aim our consciousness toward the one and only massive production device, money.

Another one of Scheurer’s smaller collages moved me still further. Untitled #13, from his Art Historical series in 2009, embodies a sense of straight forward symbolism using what looks to be minimal effort. The eye is pleased with the repetition of flowers until it is at once disrupted by what appears to be an explosion. Metaphorically speaking there is an obvious connection again with our current social paradigm. The entrenchment of consumerism is shaping our culture into something gaudy. The use of black furthermore suggests our descent from grace into unknowable darkness.

Scheurer’s work serves as a genuine reflection and critique of the most modern context. Although his message is apparent and well conceived, I couldn’t help hoping that his work would change into something more uplifting in the near future. It appears, as seen in nearly all of Scheurer’s work, we’re heading in more than one wrong direction. It would be interesting to see what direction he would propose given his uncanny aptitude for visual acoustics. I encourage attendance to anyone ready and willing to expose themselves to the illusion of commodity. Let your veils be lifted at the expense of humility.

–Dustin Pike

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