Photo Courtesy of SuperArchitects

Photo Courtesy of SuperArchitects

Even before his first solo exhibition wrapped up in June of last year, artist Michael Nesbit was thinking about creating SWIPE – Abstract Technical, the follow-up to Towards Phlatness. “I think that it was important from the last show, which focused more on complexity for the sake of complexity and controlling chaos, to produce something with a level of simplicity that anyone could understand,” Michael told me when we caught up in the weeks before SWIPE’s opening. This time around, the LA-based artist will be showcasing his exhibition at two locations – an offsite 10,000 square foot space in Chinatown and Jai & Jai Gallery.

The opening reception will be held this Saturday, November 14, from 8pm-12am at 837 North Spring Street, Los Angeles, CA, 90012, in collaboration with media partner SuperArchitects. The offsite installation will feature six concrete canvases and will run through November 22, by appointment only. Additionally, curated pieces of work (frottages of swipes on unspecified brick walls on paper and flood swipes on concrete canvases) will be shown at Jai & Jai Gallery (648 North Spring Street, Los Angeles, CA, 90012) through January 2, Tuesday-Saturday from 11am-6pm.

Check out what Michael had to share about his new exhibition, “swiping,” and his thoughts on discipline and technique below.

Ioulia Borealis: Why “swiping”?

Michael: That’s a good question. Where the Towards Phlatness drawings are a strategy of absurd complexity and the “bottom up,” the swipes are at the other side of the spectrum. They are about the “big move,” the simple gesture. The thing that anyone can see and recognize, “Oh that’s a swipe.”

I think that today there is something provocative about producing something that more people can get into and understand. Meaning it’s a swipe. It’s nothing more. It’s nothing less. That being said I think as far as an artist and one who is trained within architecture, scale becomes quite critical and not only scale but even the discipline that goes into the technique. While the swipes might appear minimal in comparison to the Phlatness drawings, they take on their own inner complexity. The visual complexity of the Phlatness drawings and the scaleful simplicity of the swipes are different means for myself to deal with technique and representation. The simplicity of the swipe makes it compelling in contemporary art and architecture. The scale produces the sublime where there is something that’s larger than you and gives you that feeling of awe.

Photo Taken by Jasmine Park

Photo Taken by Jasmine Park

Ioulia Borealis: How big of a scale are we talking about?

Michael: The work that I’m going to show in the 10,000 square foot space in Chinatown will be six 8x12ft swipes on concrete canvas. I also swiped the walls of the space.

Ioulia Borealis: What do you mean by concrete canvas?

Michael: What I call a concrete canvas is basically a concrete wall. I have an 8x12ft angled steel frame. Then in that frame, I’ll lay plywood, then a 17 gauge paper back stucco netting roll, what you would typically use for applying stucco. I’m using it to apply a skim coat of concrete. I just call it a concrete canvas because you’re really more or less building a wall, except you’re framing it and then you’re hanging it in a museum space.

Photo Courtesy of SuperArchitects

Photo Courtesy of SuperArchitects

Ioulia Borealis: Can you explain the actual technique of the “swipe”?

Michael: Yeah, I think the technique has always been important to me, especially in my previous background as a professional baseball player. Discipline has been embedded in me. I grew up with a discipline of technique, whether it’s swinging a bat or throwing a ball.  In order to do something right, you have to do it over, and over, and over again. It’s not until then that you understand the parameters and the restraints that you’re working with.

What is interesting about the swipe is that the swipe requires a physical movement. It’s a physical gesture of taking a silkscreen squeegee across a material or a substrate. The swipe is a thin layer/ section of color that not only telegraphs the movement of the gesture but also highlights the material it’s swiping over.

Photo Courtesy of SuperArchitects

Photo Courtesy of SuperArchitects

Right away, because it’s a single move, you get this instant feedback of the relationship of the technique to the representation that’s getting produced. Establishing that technical understanding of what the swipe was doing was quite critical in the beginning. Then as the technique gets better, certain anomalies will develop. The anomaly or accident is recognized and becomes intentional. I can compare it to pitching. When pitchers first started throwing, they used the fastball. Then we needed to throw something else into the game, so came the curveball, and then the changeup. The game started to evolve around the technique that’s used.

In a way, the simple, straight swipe was done and there was a point where there was a movement shift that created an anomaly of the swivel. Then the swivel swipe developed. Then there was the flood. These techniques developed from just doing things, recognizing accidents and then turning those accidents into intention.

Ioulia Borealis: When I visited you at the studio back in April, you were doing these swipes only on canvas. Why did you decide to also start swiping outdoors?

Michael: It’s always been a goal to change scale in these and go bigger. Because when you go bigger in scale, it requires you to be inventive on the tools that you’re using, and the materials and the substrates that you’re placing them on. In a way, doing them on a wall, it almost becomes a material survey of going out and studying and looking at different materials that can be then taken back into the studio where I’ll make a brick wall canvas at 8x12ft and work directly on that. The swipe is almost like an X-ray or a section. If I do a yellow swipe on a brick wall, what it does is it heightens all the things that you don’t see or it brings forward all the little anomalies or imperfections.

Ioulia Borealis: Would you call this street art?

Michael: No, absolutely not, and I would make that clear that if anything, it’s fine art and it’s really about surveying and looking for materials within architecture. The city becomes a material. The buildings, the walls, the streets, become a testing ground only to bring those ideas back into the studio.

Ioulia Borealis: How did your collaboration with SuperArchitects come about?

Michael: I’ve been in touch with them since the Phlatness show. They started in Los Angeles, and I’ve been excited to see how they have developed from a social media network. I think they do a really good job of connecting [architecture] students and giving young people a platform to showcase their ideas.

I have also always appreciated that SuperArchitects doesn’t come with a biased agenda. They’re not looking for one [style] or a certain type of thing. It’s a pretty democratic platform that really gives everyone an opportunity to express their ideas. I think also because they’re based out of Los Angeles and I’m an Angelino. It’s been a pleasure working with them and Jai&Jai Gallery.

Ioulia Borealis: Thanks for your time and good luck with the opening!

Michael: Thank you.