Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Michael Stamm – Just Like This Please – Thierry Goldberg Gallery (revised)

Michael Stamm doesn't take painting too seriously. That is to say, there is an obvious quirkiness to his paintings. Working with oil and acrylic on linen and panel, his paintings are simply detailed with patterns of hair and suggestions of texture, where the surfaces are pleasingly smooth, colors well blended, and the compositions cleverly created. It's the subject of his paintings that makes the joke. The people in his paintings are simplified in form, like evolved stick figures, cartoonish in body shape and personality. The paintings frame the characters doing mundane tasks in a voyeuristic way. The contrast of lighthearted content and skillful rendering makes for an amusing show which both captures your attention and forces a smirk.

Stamm works with ambiguous narratives, spotlighting seemingly self-involved characters fulfilling their quotidian duties. The work captures moments of contemplation and self-consciousness, as if the characters are waiting for an epiphany, in the meantime seeking answers and insight from their cats. In one painting titled Forgive Me Kitty, a man stretches in a downward-dog Yoga pose, his MacBook computer screen glowing from beneath him. His cat looks at him disapprovingly as the man apologizes for his imperfections.

 Stamm's style is inspired by the visual vocabulary of wellness posters, cartoons, art-deco illustrations, and Japanese prints. The text in the paintings is cleverly worked into the images, and helps to develop the geometric and modernist aesthetic while simultaneously depicting messages in curvy writing, reminiscent of neon signs. For how full his paintings are in essence, they exude a humorous emptiness, or apathy. In Just Like This Please Stamm is presenting a subtle punchline for the mundanity of contemporary living.  

Forgive me, Kitty,  2015
Oil and acrylic on linen


  1. Those painting reminds me of Barbara Kruger in a contemporary/joking way. I think the hand written text and the color of the font fit the punchline well. I would wonder is there anything to do with the Internet culture. What do you think? Do you have any personal reference? I doubt the very first sentence by saying the artist isn't too serious. Is that your assumption or the artist statement? Just a thing that I would like to know. I am thinking about the painting with a man hiding behind the window. There is no text, and the mood is quiet different from the others. What do you think about this contrast? Great description on the painting.

  2. I think this is a really strong review and a really enjoyable read! The only part I wasn’t completely convinced by was your discussion of skillful rendering – does the style of painting add to the mundane quality of the work, or to the humor? In the first paragraph it seems you are suggesting the form of the paintings steps aside to allow the subject matter to take center stage. In your final paragraph you seem to suggest that form and content are closely related. I’m interested in the ideas of flatness and emptiness you bring up. Is painting’s role is in the digital age also somehow contradictory?