|Michael Linares’ recent exhibition Found & Lost at Museum of Contemporary Art Puerto Rico highlights the alternately political, prosaic, spiritual, and flamboyant methods by which life is experienced and observed. The exhibition employs Linares’ own fluency in multifarious forms of discourse—from sculpture, to photography and video.|
Suzie Walshe on Michael Lineares
Michael Linares’ recent exhibition Found & Lost at Museum of Contemporary Art Puerto Rico highlights the alternately political, prosaic, spiritual, and flamboyant methods by which life is experienced and observed. The exhibition employs Linares’ own fluency in multifarious forms of discourse—from sculpture, to photography and video. In his conceptual and poetic works, Linares consciously conceals the borders between art and life, fiction and reality, private and public. With self-established behavioral instructions and rituals, he transforms daily life and experiences with a series of works that form a basis for his shrewd and penetrating cultural assessments.
The Puerto Rican artist lives and works in San Juan. His work however, reaches much further, with numerous international exhibitions including The Lawrimore Project, Seattle; Institute of Contemporary Art of Pennsylvania (ICA); CANADA Gallery, New York; The Peace Tower, a project by Mark di Suvero & Rirkrit Tiravanija for the Whitney Biennial, Whitney Museum, New York (2006), among others. Recently Linares has been included in The Generational: Younger Than Jesus/Artists Directory, a publication that will accompany the triennial of the same name in the New Museum, New York. Found and Lost is the first solo show for Linares in Puerto Rico and is presented as part of the New Tendencies program.
For the majority of his career Linares has blended the concerns and methods of Transgressive, Conceptual, and appropriative art with popular culture in order to create his own unique iconography, sometimes controversial and always engaging. His work explores contemporary obsessions with everything from sex and desire, to race and gender, to media, and commerce. In Found and Lost, as the viewer passes through the exhibition space they are led through a collection of works that originate from existing works of art, which have been modified in order to reactivate and redirect their latent meanings—underlining the constant process of construction, deconstruction and reconstruction of this meaning present in each act of reading.
In the case of both You Lookin’ at Me?, You Lookin’ at Me?, You Lookin’ at Me? and What does it say to you? these actions test not only the validity of the works being referenced, but also that of his own work, and suggests the revision of the position of the author as much as that of the spectator.
In his preliminary years, Linares’ work was concerned primarily with themes of social significance. In both Robo de chicles/ Stealing gum, 2005 and Oasis, 2006 the artist dealt with historically important sociological concerns using his idiosyncratic cocktail of humor and wit. The artist’s recent work has evolved from photography to innovative sculpture and installation that is intended to fly in the face of aesthetic convention, testing the emotional limits of both the artist and the viewer. Linares juxtaposes materials to reveal tensions—between the natural and the man-made, the city and suburbia, class and culture—creating a record of our desires, obsessions, and excesses. Twentieth-century art movements such as Assemblage, Surrealism, and Arte Povera are revisited and updated by the artist highlighting his capacity to express humor, poetry, and greatness through humble means.
The exhibition features an assortment of word play and subversion. Frequently touching on human values and ideal, Linares entertains the viewer in both Partial Truth, 2009 and The look-a-like art, 2008 using language and imagery of an all-pervasive consumer culture he grew up in, his works distort and mutate the familiar into the humorous. The placement of humor magnifies the narrative aspect of his often-mischievous subject while the use of recycled objects and concepts brings to the fore, the importance of making the most of preexistent resources. Linares’ artworks rarely inspire moderate responses, and this is one signal of the importance of his achievement. Focusing on some of the most unexpected objects as models for his work, Linares’ eschews typical standards of high art, and zeroes in rather precisely on the vulnerabilities of hierarchies and value systems. Much of his art has a delirious, hallucinatory air, as if the artist were trying to transcend both the naïveté of the ready-made and the sophistication of the art world. Linares has successfully created his own brand of appropriation and aesthetic wit, making him not only an innovative impresario of the art object, but also an explorer of clichéd roles and social disguises.
His approach illustrates the characteristic strengths—and, at times, the principal weakness—of arts traditions. In his work, Linares does something riskier and more paradoxical, entering the spirit of perception as if to know it from the inside. He retains something youthful yet knowing. Crucially it is this swirling inner contradiction that visually shows how successful his work is at dealing with the human condition. Contradiction is Linares’ way of showing the unavailability of certainty about anything, specifically the human relationships. The result is an art stripped bare, and with an overture so bold and rich, it is hard not to be lured in.