Artist Statement

My recent work involves the literal collapse of three-dimensional objects and structures into the picture plane. These found, utilitarian objects are deconstructed and cut into sometimes hundreds of abstract fragments before being reassembled two-dimensionally. The negative space is filled with carefully fitted pieces of painted wood, creating a solid plane in which the object is trapped in a parody of its former perspective. Through this dialogue between the deconstruction of the object and the construction of form, I am able to create works that are picture, relief and object in one.

These humble, quotidian objects are easy to miss in spatial continuity with the surrounding world. This is particularly true of objects like crates and pallets, which are ubiquitous to the point of invisibility and often seen as possessing little or no intrinsic value. There are many reasons why art objects are perceived differently, not the least of which is that we are able to observe them in the vacuum of the museum or gallery. I’ve found that the picture plane, acting as an autonomous coordinate, is capable of performing a similar function by incorporating actual objects. When a pallet, for example, is incorporated into the picture, we come to see it, not as an eyesore or an obstacle that has to be navigated around, but as an actual object of aesthetic interest.

The immediacy of these works owes much to the fact that they literally embody the objects they depict. Real interaction with an object demands a physical proximity that even the most effective representation can’t capture. For this reason, viewing these works in photographic images is problematic. Beyond the visual and phenomenological issues, there is the simple matter of how these pieces are constructed, which can be elusive even in person. I hope that the viewer will look closely at these images and remember that whereas the whole point of Magritte’s pipe was that it wasn’t, an integral aspect of these objects is that they are what they are.

My work deals with the relationship between mind and reality in a different way than a lot of two-dimensional art. The pallet, which was once part of the physical, three-dimensional world, suddenly becomes autonomous from the rest of space. The planar, concrete object is somehow more remote and closer at the same time. By unifying the picture plane and the spatial environment, I’m trying to reconcile the dichotomy between pictorial and physical space, art and object, sculpture and painting. Sculpture has been defined as a three-dimensional object in space. These are three-dimensional objects in two-dimensional space and although they find themselves trapped, unable to perform their original functions, my hope is that they become more active and productive on the level of our experience.

Bio

Michael Zelehoski received his Associates of Art degree from Bard College at Simon’s Rock and a BA from the Universidad Finis Terrae, in Santiago, Chile. Michael’s return to the United States after six years in South America coincided with the literal collapse of his early sculptural work into the two-dimensional picture plane. His work currently explores the duality between three-dimensional reality and the two-dimensional representation of real life objects and structures. He has exhibited nationally and internationally including a recent solo show at DODGE gallery in New York and a large-scale installation for the Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art’s biennial Peekskill Project. He has received various grants and awards for his work including a Massachusetts Cultural Council Fellowship and Artslant’s Golden Frame Award. He is currently working on solo installation for Volta NY.

Education

2001 - 2003
Universidad Finis Terrae, Santiago de Chile, Fine Arts, BA.

1996 - 1998
Bard College at Simon’s Rock, Great Barrington, MA, Liberal Arts, AA.

Solo

2013
Ethan Cohen, VOLTA, New York, NY

2012
DODGE Gallery, New York, NY

2011
Sanford Smith Fine Art, Great Barrington, MA

2010
Christina Ray Gallery, Pulse, Miami, FL
Christina Ray Gallery, New York, NY

2009
Ferrin Gallery, Pittsfield, MA

2008
Berkshire Museum, Pittsfield, MA
Park Row Gallery, Chatham, NY

2007
Kasten Fine Art, Great Barrington, MA

2005
SKH Gallery, Great Barrington, MA
North American Cultural Institute, Santiago de Chile

2004
La Nacion, Santiago de Chile

Group

2012
Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art, Peekskill, NY
Staten Island Museum, Staten Island, NY
DODGE Gallery, New York, NY
Jen Bekman, New York, NY
Sanford Smith Fine Art, Great Barrington, MA
Ethan Cohen, Emerge, Washington DC
Ethan Cohen, Scope, Miami, FL

2011
Pavel Zoubok Gallery, Pulse, Miami, FL
Pavel Zoubok Gallery, Houston Fine Art Fair, Houston, TX
Geoffrey Young Gallery, Great Barrington, MA
Christina Ray Gallery, NEXT, Chicago, IL

2010
Ferrin Gallery, Art Chicago, Chicago, IL
Christina Ray Gallery, NEXT, Chicago, IL
ArtSlant, Fountain Art Fair, New York, NY
Local Project, Long Island City, NY

2009
Daniel Arts Center, Bard College at Simon’s Rock, Gt. Barrington, MA
Storefront Artist’s Project, Pittsfield, MA

2008
Storefront Artist’s Project, Pittsfield, MA
Lichtenstein Center for the Arts, Pittsfield, MA
Ferrin Gallery, Pittsfield, MA

2007
Atrium Gallery – Ball State University, Muncie, IN
The Gallery at R&F, Kingston, NY
Watermark/Cargo Gallery, Kingston, NY
Kasten Fine Art, Great Barrington, MA

2006
SKH Gallery, Great Barrington, MA

2005
SKH Gallery, Great Barrington, MA

2004
Museo de la Solidaridad Salvador Allende, Santiago de Chile
Centro de Artes Visuales, Santiago de Chile
Galeria de Arte Contemporaneo Cantro Norte, Chile

2003
Casino de Vina del Mar, Vina del Mar, Chile
Centro Cultural de La Reina, La Reina, Chile

Press

2012
Miranda, Carolina A, “Must-See Arts in the City.” WNYC, January, 11.
Gopnik, Blake, “Objects that portray themselves.” THE DAILY BEAST, Jan. 24.
Elder, Don, “Space, Play, Form and Distortion.” HYPERALLERGIC, February 8.

2011
"Where to buy." THE WEEK September 16 : 27.
Shaw, Keith, “Michael Zelehoski’s Articulated Chairs.” THE BERKSHIRE EAGLE September 1 : 27.
Rogovy, Seth, “New Exhibition of Works by Michael Zelehoski at Sanford Smith Gallery.” THE ROGOVOY REPORT August 16.

2010
Moran, Jarrett, “Michael Zelehoski”, ARTLOG, September.
Laster, Paul, “Michael Zelehoski, ‘Objecthood’.” TIMEOUT NEW YORK, September 20.
Orensten, Evan, “Michael Zelehoski.” COOL HUNTING, May.
Shaw, Keith, “Fresh Vision.” ARTSCOPE, March/April.

2009
Lu, Anita, “Spacial Partita.” ARCHITECTURE & ART (China), Vol. 29, No. 5, June.
Fairweather, Judith. "Reconstructing Craftsmanship." THE ADVOCATE, June 18.
Shaw, Keith. "Charted Artifacts and Unhinged Chairs." THE BERKSHIRE EAGLE, June 18.
McGee, Alison. "Art with a (Re)Purpose." BERKSHIRE LIVING, July.

Awards

2012
Staten Island Museum’s Juried Art Show, 1st Place

2010
Massachusetts Cultural Council, Fellowship
Golden Frame Award, 2nd Place, ArtSlant
Survey America, Art Chicago

2009
Assets for Artists, Development Grant

Michael Zelehoski: Objecthood

Aliza Edelman, PhD

Each epoch always has and always needs its oppositions of destruction and construction.
-Piet Mondrian

A chair—an old wooden chair made of four legs, seat and backrest. This chair appears conventionally arranged—top, lower and seat rails for frame; a central, upright panel as backrest; stretchers and legs technically joined with ‘through tenons.’ Misshapen and incomplete elements are present to the viewer over time and closer analysis. The seat’s surface, typically modified to a person’s ergonomic contour, lies irregular and disjointed; the seat’s rails misalign. Typically grounded, the chair suspends on the wall at level or above the viewer’s horizon and bodily schema. Compressed and foreshortened, the object reconfigures into an ambiguous, deformed planar object or artifact. The chair’s perspective is newly synthesized, yet the viewer successfully maintains the perceptual experience of a chair.

Zelehoski’s sculpture, Chair (2010), is a mixed media assemblage composed of a deconstructed chair and plywood. His series of flat sculptures on exhibit in Objecthood have familiar and utilitarian titles, such as Box, White Table, Horses, Ladders, Pallet and Blue Shelves. The artist’s vernacular and found objects directly engage the domestic and urban environment, and introduce a significant discussion on the nature of relationships among the viewer, the object and the body. The sculpture Chair magnifies the intimate anatomy of this functional object and how it conforms ideally to human proportions. By introducing the formal, dialectical problem of the planar and geometrical surface, the artist expands upon a complex narrative of modern sculpture in the twentieth-century.

Zelehoski initiates a playful dialogue with earlier artistic examples of constructions and assemblages, including Picasso’s Cubist collages, Duchamp’s Readymades, and Rauschenberg’s Combines. While Zelehoski might not allude, intentionally, to the ironical underpinnings of these earlier artworks, there remains a degree of play and conflict in the reconciliation of his objects’ destruction and reconstruction. This conflict or act of transformation is a critical component of the artistic process. Its expression is found in Zelehoski’s denial of an object’s original, three-dimensional structure, and his subsequent establishment of the object’s authenticity as both concrete and abstract. In effect, the artist considers the history of the object itself as a primary element in the contemporary experience of his sculpture.

Zelehoski’s large work, Picnic Table (2010), a commonplace park fixture, advances the question of the object’s inherent meaning. The painted-wood table and benches, as seen from below, assume a network of lintels and supports; surface elements advance and recede to reveal the table’s construction and “anti-structure.” The artist refers to the object’s concealed parts—the ulterior and unexposed matter—as its “undressed” elements. Central to Zelehoski’s approach are Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenological reflections on perceptual experience. His structures elicit an exhaustive and infinite totality of “perspectival views which blend with one another.” Primary and preformed objects, critically reconstructed by Zelehoski in Picnic Table and Chair, among other works, actively organize our perceptual knowledge. Through our spatial and corporeal relationship to them as objects, we enact this “primary spatiality” or fundamental exchange in the world. Like Merleau-Ponty, Zelehoski attributes our perceived reality or consciousness to an exchange of relations between presences and absences, perceptible and non-visible matter.

Zelehoski’s exhibition title, “Objecthood,” also reframes the problem of spatial illusionism and postmodern sculpture. Handcrafted, wood constructions—framed and supported on a wall—clearly depart from Minimalism’s prefabricated, industrial sculptures from the 1960s and early 1970s. Yet Zelehoski’s geometric and modular objects, such as Ladders (2010), create an inevitable dialogue with, for example, Donald Judd’s galvanized, cantilevered metal boxes. While acknowledging Minimalism’s concern over the relational nature of compositional parts to cohere as a whole—the gestalt—Ladders disrupts the modular entity through its own spatial embodiment: adjacent, vertical ladders, each in part inert and impotent, are also perceptually active and productive. Articulating this struggle between the image’s shape and signification, Zelehoski realizes the subject’s concreteness and imperfection. The artist thus privileges the primacy of perceptual space and the illusory, “pictorial” nature of the work, affirming the object’s abstractness over literalness. Through his reconstructive approach, Zelehoski contributes to the fertile territory between sculpture and painting, and proclaims the object’s “objecthood.”

September, 2010

Piet Mondrian, Plastic Art and Pure Plastic Art (New York: Wittenborn, Schultz, 1945), 38.
See William C. Seitz, The Art of Assemblage (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1961), 21.
See Rosalind Krauss, “Sculpture in the Expanded Field (1978),” reprinted in The Originality of the Avant-Garde and Other Modernist Myths (Cambridge and London: The MIT Press, 1994), 280.
Michael Zelehoski, interview with author, June 27, 2010, Rhinebeck, New York.
Maurice Merleau-Ponty, “The Primacy of Perception and Its Philosophical Consequences,” in The Primacy of Perception, trans. and ed. James M. Edie (Chicago, IL: Northwestern Univ. Press, 1964), 16.
Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception, trans. Colin Smith (London: Routledge, 2002), 330.
Merleau-Ponty, “The Primacy of Perception and Its Philosophical Consequences,” 15.
See Donald Judd, “Specific Objects (1965),” reprinted in Donald Judd: Complete Writings 1959-1975 (Halifax and New York: Press of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design and New York University Press, 1975), 181-89.
See Michael Fried’s controversial essay “Art and Objecthood (1967),” reprinted in Art and Objecthood: Essays and Reviews (Chicago and London: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1998), 151.