Lucas Michael: Rough Magic (10 Years in LA)

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Lucas Michael:10 Years in LA
EGHQ, Los Angeles, Jan 8th – Feb 15th 2011
Lucas Michael traces. Literally. At Emma Gray HQ, a survey of subtle objects from the artist’s years in Los Angeles, takes on the complex relations between tracing, inscription, imagined identities and over-writing.  Michael superimposes his signature on meticulously hand drawn frontispieces from books on Sylvia Plath.A photograph shows him ‘being Borg’ kissing the iconic tennis player’s trophy. The artist superimposes his own face, barely visible, onto a classic Liza Minelli from the Cabaret era.

Oliver Sacks, in his new book Mind’s Eye, takes a hard look at recognition. He considers the condition of not being able to recognize things visually except by placement.  Even faces are unrecognizable: the sufferer must impose some clue, some note, some mental mark, to cope. A related condition is alexia, the loss of the ability to read while still being able to write.  Michael takes up tracing like that: writing, as if not being able to read.  Something about ten years in LA: can he (we) still see the lines of flight, like jet trails over Santa Monica?

Lucas Michael does not lay claim to impersonation. His objects are intrigues, shards left at a site, from which he himself is long gone. “A ruin is an accident in slow time,” observes Cocteau.  We look for patterns at the archaeological site, as if Emma Gray HQ has become a dig, the objects study samples in search of pattern recognition: but we cannot read the signs.  In a low res performance video, the artist films himself taking Polaroids. The footage unfurls repeated Polaroid images as his face emerges from the emulsion. Beyond this, nothing happens.  Lucas brings us right up to the edge of visibility.He overwrites just to the edge of the legible imprint....almost-Borg, almost-Minelli, almost-Plath, almost-Lucas Michael.

Autobiography is ‘a discourse of self-restoration - by which one’s name...is made  as intelligible and memorable as a face.” (Paul de Man, via Kristine Stiles, in “Correspondence Course: Letters of Carolee Schneeman, MIT Press 2010). Lucas Michael will write that ruin and finesse that face: evidence is  to the contrary.  Site and citation conflate.  Lucas Michael’s ambivalent attachments make light work of a heavy tranche, that deep desire to identify with the beloved who may or may not be there. Lucas Michael’s erotic economy limits love to the accidental meeting. If you want to know the glory hole in Silverlake, you have to be able to read the signs.