By Louise Witonsky, Volunteer Docent at Grounds For Sculpture

The docents and other volunteers at Grounds For Sculpture have monthly meetings to share information and hear presentations by visiting artists.  At one of our recent meetings, artist Michael Amter spoke while showing some of his challenging cutting edge video experimentation.

Michael was born in Teaneck, NJ, yet seems to have spent some time nearly everywhere- his family lived in many states when he was growing up.  Currently working in Brooklyn, Michael has been part of a number of artist residencies including in France, Singapore, and Japan.

The artist’s childhood showed a rather zealous drawing and painting addiction.  He was clearly influenced by his own battle with a form of manic depression and has encountered some daunting moments during his life. In the limited time at the meeting  for discussion,  research was cited that “shows a very much elevated rate of depression and manic depression in people who are highly creative.”

Michael has been involved in a variety of endeavors.  He spoke of some of his memories of exhibiting in a wild alternative gallery on Melrose Blvd while living in the midst of downtown Los Angeles in the early 90’s.   He had spent many years working in film and television production that inspired personal experiments with these powerful contemporary mediums.  Over time, his growth in the use of these modern technological venues has become consistent with his personal expression.

A recent solo show at the hip Aferro Gallery titled Fall From Grace was quite ambitious.  A comprehensive installation throughout the large space in Newark, NJ, included projected film, recycled computer displays, and related print material — all presenting a romantic contemplation of moral dilemmas and religious motifs. A video sample projected in the show inspired by John Milton, William Blake and others was shown at our meeting and can be seen here:  Fall Video.  A special piece created for the Meridian International Center’s 9-11 tribute that travelled around the world was included by request in  the US Library of Congress.  Michael Amter worked with NYC’s Creative Time, producing a number of limited prints for the Dreamland Project in Coney Island, NY.  His latest solo exhibition titled Itoshima reflected upon the local environment and local cultural themes he confronted upon his visit to Japan. It involved a video installed within an antique rice storage facility, and was done for an artist organization, Studio Kura, located just outside Fukouka, Japan.  A video sample produced for this exhibit can be viewed here.

We enjoyed Michael’s presentation and his looped ‘moving sketches’ which imitate contemporary genres, resembling instructional scientific cartoons that play upon brief attention spans.  Themes are clearly focused on life and the various influences we often take for granted such as gravity, space, and time; they compound the human condition, impacting the past and future. He employs a simple graphic imagery creating a complexity which challenges the viewer to ponder.  One could relate the work to Paul Klee in a very contemporary vision or Man Ray’s experimental endeavors, but comparisons would not fully capture the pure individual presence in Michael’s expression.  To separate this prolific work from the young artist’s persona would be nearly impossible.  It is him, being unique in nature. This is an artist who seems to be ahead of his time, but his roots in popular culture make this work stand out from the traditional norms in the fine art community.

Bamboo, 2011

Subway X, 2011

Harvester, 2011

Family Wrapper, 2011

The art for this post comes from Michael Amter.