Critical Essays and Reviews

Excerpts from selected essays and reviews :

"For over two decades Creighton Michael has created hybrid art forms that have simultaneously confounded notions of sculpture as a discrete entity situated atop a pedestal or on the floor while also expanding painting and drawing beyond its traditional support. Initially inspired by the presence and power of the individual, syncopated marks found in Vincent van Gogh's late ink and reed pen drawings, Michael has developed an innovative form of dimensional drawing that investigates the full implications and possibilities of mark making."

Excerpt from the essay accompanying the exhibition, DIMENSIONS VARIABLE, 2012; Maxim Weintraub, Ph.D., curator

“In Creighton Michael's work, drawing encompasses both the mark and the gesture, not as a singular ideograph but as interlocking components within a two-or three-dimensional space. In his intensely colorful abstract paintings and rigorous linear sculpture, the drawing component implies a pause as much as a flow. Visually, these works read more like a concerto than New Age mood music, more like Mozart, less like Pop art.”

Excerpt from the article, "Creighton Michael and the Origins of Marking,"by Robert C. Morgan, SCULPTURE, April, 2009.

"Michael's illuminating dialogue with Abstract Expressionism, Minimalism and Conceptualism is also infused with the meditative and even the mystical, taking them from the art historical and formal into more metaphoric realms. At its best, his work offers not only a critique and analysis of perception, of the tangible, but perhaps more significantly, an improvised poetics of the spiritual and the transient."

Excerpt from "Toward a Re-definition of Drawing," the exhibition essay for PLANE DRAWING by Lilly Wei, 2008

“The American artist, Creighton Michael, shows drawings at Hafnarborg, two-dimensional and three-dimensional. He has for a number of years made works that are characterized by a constant pattern, which allude to the instinctive mark making of the Surrealists, who tried to create lines on paper or canvas which were independent from our perception of the reality around us, but in direct contact with the subconscious. Also Michael alludes to Chinese writing and Oriental letters as well as abstract paintings from the middle of the last century which was characterized by interplay between chance and the intent of the artist, among which was the method of splashing color onto the canvas or the paper.”

Excerpt from a review of WAVElengths by Ragna Sigurthardóttir, "Land into Lines", MORGUNBLATHITH, August, 2, 2008

"He follows a course of study to its very end, giving full respect to the pictorial space and to the parameters of the problem he has placed before himself. The dialogue that he sets up between the painting and sculpture supports this careful and thorough approach to the creative endeavor and all originate out of the artist's interest in drawing. Indeed, it must be understood from the beginning that the conceptual underpinnings of all of Michael's work is the practice of drawing and the movement of line in space, whether that line is painted, drawn, or dimensional.“

Excerpt from the essay accompanying the exhibition, SQUIGGLElinear, 2007; Dr. J. Susan Isaacs, Curator

"Artists can ask, even coerce viewers to partake in their work through an outsized gesture. Creighton Michael's work, for example, addresses scale on various levels, from each of the twisted rope components of his calligraphic works to the large “drawn” sculptures they comprise. He reveals the manufacture of the mark, how it builds to comprise a whole and how it evolves over time, both three-dimensionally into an installation and progressively, designed to be read from left to right. Allusions to time are varied-from the history of calligraphy to the literal time required to follow his long, narrative sculptures."

Excerpt from Barbara MacAdam's curatorial essay for the exhibition, Monumental Drawings, 2007.

"In Creighton Michael's recent work, what you don't see is just as important as what you do. The invisible linear skein connecting the myriad contact points factors equally into the creation of his dimensional drawings. Boldly carving sculptural space, these arrays of densely layered marks function as visible residue of the artist's quest to move the viewer through time and space. A rigorous system supports their supple agility, one that uses the certainty of the grid as a springboard for improvisation. This pairing of opposites lends tension and complexity to his gravity-defying acts, as they conjure a spectrum of associations, from surrealism's automatic writing and John Cage's music to Mark Tobey's white writing."

Excerpt from a review by Sarah Tanguy in SCULPTURE, September, 2007

“Utilizing light, arguably one of the most emblematic signifiers of the city, FitzGibbons and Michael created a beguiling antidote to the urban within an urban context. Yet, despite aspirations to fantasy, the artists came down on the side of transparency and revelation. The fakeness of the project was shared with the viewer, its means of production clear, technological tempered by the handmade. An eerie, diffused grow light of sorts that nourishes alien creatures and the not-real, EELight, despite its playfulness, had inescapable ecological intimations that could be read as an implied critique of the world's natural habitats with man-made, often environmentally disastrous intrusions.”

Excerpt from a review by Lilly Wei in ARTLIES magazine, Spring, 2007

"Although meticulously executed, there is an underlying abandonment of control over these paintings that are constructed layer upon layer, mark upon mark. In these works Michael explores the fine line between the metaphysical and material. His intense exploration of both naturalistic and aesthetic processes probes the very notion of perception-how we interpret through our senses both nature and the mystery of matter comprising the physical world."

Excerpt from the essay accompanying the exhibition, "Patterns of Perception,"
Mint Museums, 2005, Carla M. Hanzal, Curator

“A predilection for line is a consistent motif that weaves throughout the myriad series of Creighton Michael’s oeuvre. He has stated: “My vehicle of [artistic travel] has been the activity of drawing. Its process, its immediacy and its attention to the basic unit, the mark, have guided my work for more than two decades.” In "Dimensional Line," Michael is represented by several recent series that investigate line: FIELD, DIP, GRID, and TUCK. Although the FIELD series is initially identified as paintings, all of the work can be described as hybrid. None is readily classifiable because Michael incorporates unexpected materials as well as disruptions in spatial and temporal logic.”
“The work of Creighton Michael in "Dimensional Line" creates an experience of the figure moving through time and especially space. His aim weaves between convergence and divergence. Michael’s impulse is toward the repeated gesture and his process towards accumulation, but within his repetitive process he seeks variation, even surprise. His marks direct the viewer toward introspection of an interior life. It might be said that Michael ultimately seeks formlessness.”

Excerpts from the essay accompanying the exhibition, “Dimensional Line,” Munson-Williams –Proctor Art Museum, 2004, Mary Murray, Curator

“Constructed through the confluence of restrained gesture and teeming with pattern, Creighton Michael’s paintings are riffs on a variety of natural structures: fossils, ponds, forests and other organic forms and environments. His images simultaneously reference microscopic and macroscopic worlds, at once delving inward along cellular streams and extending outwardly beyond the picture plane, merging with the viewer’s memories of channels of natural form. They also function equally as paintings-artistic constructions that, in this case, evoke certain forms and visual strategies of abstract surrealist and field paintings of the modernist era.”

ART PAPERS, Jan/Feb 2004, Paul Ryan
Review of “Articulated Spaces,” University of Richmond Museums

“Creighton Michael utilizes the mode of abstraction to achieve a sense of newness in his art, even while the pluralistic nature of contemporary art continues to pose a significant challenge to the idea of the "new". Is newness something outside the artist that others can visibly recognize, or is it a phenomenon that takes place within artistic consciousness, like a sense of enlightenment? Abstraction is quite rational even though it could easily be read as the opposite by viewers because of a lack of reference point. Thus abstract art is a challenge and seeks to go beyond literal imagery. Using a multiplicity of styles, Michael uses shape and color to investigate the empirical nature of art and image-making.”, January, 2004, Jill Conner
Review of “ Creighton Michael: Dialects of Line,” Collaborative Concepts

“Dialects of Line, Creighton Michael’s retrospective at Collaborative Concepts, is a display of steadiness, reviewing the last 18 years of work by an artist who works with a number of opposites. He frequently-and in the same work-dips into both painting and sculpture, exploring the pull between things changing and things staying the same.
Excitement is not the essence of Creighton Michael’s work; pond water barely makes waves. But through his comfortableness with opposites, the overriding impression is a solid vision that is realized through fluidity.”

The New York Times, Sunday, October 26, 2003, William Zimmer
Review of the exhibition, “ Creighton Michael: Dialects of Line,” Collaborative Concepts

“In these twenty years of work, the stitch has progressed from an early primitive state into a sophisticated yet simple beauty-a journey from modest beginnings to sublime heights. Viewed collectively, these works are not merely about our seeing. They are about our process.”

Excerpt from the catalogue essay, which accompanied the exhibition, “Stitch: Works by Creighton Michael 1976-2000” at Freedman Gallery, Albright College Center for the Arts, 2001, Christopher Youngs, Curator

“The abstract Expressionist painter Arshile Gorky when asked once what interested him about the landscape he was painting remarked that it was not the trees themselves, but the space between the trees. This understated, yet profound, comment underscores the essence of Creighton Michael’s oeuvre. Peering into recesses of the natural world he does not choose to record what is seen only by the eye. Rather, he elects to provide the conditions for each of us to make uniquely visible that which can only be realized through our immersion in places where what can be felt can not always be touched.”

Excerpt from the essay by John Brunetti “The Transcendentalism of Creighton Michael,” which accompanied the exhibition, “Visual Matrix” at the Elmhurst Art Museum, 2000

“ Notation (798) well examples Michael’s broad repertoire of textured imagery, which usually consists of nests of scribbled linear effects, white on a colored ground. In the center of the painting there are three clusters of whitish curved lines that vary in length; at times the marks feel calligraphic and remind the viewer of Mark Tobey’s lyric calligraphy; at other times, the schematic repetition of small strokes bring the work of Agnes Martin to mind. The allover, barely directed patternings in Notation (798) and other examples in the series result in a seemingly spontaneous organization- a kind of imagistic regionalism within a single plane.”

Excerpt from the essay by Jonathan Goodman for the exhibition, “Creighton Michael: Current Painting,” at Robischon Gallery, 1999

“ Mr. Michael works primarily in steel but has incorporated other disparate elements like plywood and fiberglass in his sculptures. That sense of disparateness characterizes his drawings here. The series is Split and the paper is divided in two horizontally. The upper half, coated with shellac, is strewn with thick graphite spirals, while the untreated bottom half contains fine, elegant pencil lines that make streamline shapes. The two halves work together to produce a rare, but purposely choreographed harmony.”

The New York Times, Sunday, November 14,1999, William Zimmer
Review of the exhibition, “ A Fine Line Between…,” Gallery on the Hudson

“This intriguing exhibition features several of Creighton Michael’s abstract sculptures installed next to related drawings. Where many artists use preparatory drawings, Michael reverses the process: ”drawing in air” with steel, wood and lacquered paper panels; then, years later, reworking those sculptural forms on paper. “Conifer” is an engaging, small relief of bundles pine branches with broad slashes of black paint standing in for stripped-off bark. A streamlines parabolic frame covered with painted paper arches over and around the pine, partially erasing it while creating a sense of movement in and out of space.. In the mixed media works on paper Michael paints biomorphic shapes, establishing, as in the sculptures, an interplay between the gestural and the geometric.

ARTnews/volume 98, Number 8, September 1999, Ruth Bass
Review of the exhibition “Creighton Michael,” Kim Foster Gallery

“ His sculpture, on the other hand, is consummately realized. Mr. Michael has the knack for giving his materials—whether they be steel rods or pine branches—sculptural motivation. His wall pieces, in particular, are impressive. They tense, relax, reach, cluster and are not without a sense of humor.”

THE NEW YORK OBSERVER, October 11,1999, Mario Naves
Review of the exhibition, “Intuitive Drawing ” at Kim Foster Gallery

“Creighton Michael has made a shift in his creation from sculpture to exclusively painting and drawing in recent years. For the artist, who sees each mode of expression as utterly non-hierarchical, the maneuver between the two-to three-dimensional, or vice versa, comes without struggle.”

“Creighton Michael’s representation of nature thus transforms it into a multi-faceted presence. Be it an underwater life formation or a dazzling constellation in the sky, what appears to be a complex surface of nature becomes a translucent membrane with an inner reality that is perceptible through a slight shift of viewing position, both physical and psychological. The subtlety in Michael’s abstract spectacles expresses something of and about nature-a reflex prompted by the conflation of intellectual understanding and instinctive wonder.”

Excerpts from the essay accompanying the exhibition, “Creighton Michael: Paintings 1995-1998,” Queens Museum of Art at the Bulova Center, 1998, Hitomi Iwasaki, Curator

“…While Michael’s drawings employ an austere vocabulary in which lines and strokes are reduced to a bare minimum, the images and motifs he engenders through this deliberately Spartan mark-making are formally intricate ad thematically complex…He is at his best when he investigates change, as a philosophical recognition of the inevitability of transformation, and as a formal concern, as he ranges from simple marks to elaborate arrangements…. seemingly random patterns become metaphors for larger ideas about the innate complexity of nature…It is to Michaels’s credit that he convinces us of his ideas through the striking particulars of his art.”

ART IN AMERICA, July 1998, Jonathan Goodman
Review of the exhibition,“ Creighton Michael: Vantage,” Kim Foster Gallery

“In his drawings, as in nature, revelations unfold through time. In the Pull series from 1998, images placed beneath a semi-transparent veil of gesso seem to writhe and intertwine. And in each piece, the gesso is sliced through to reveal what might be living protoplasmic organisms, or perhaps a visual interpretation of the struggle between order and chaos. The resulting drawings are both dark and sensual. The tension, which exists between the foreground and background pulls the viewer into another, almost microscopic world, while suggesting both the beauty and the disorder found in all nature.”

Excerpt from The Keynote Address: Mid-America College Art Association, Annual Conference, Lexington, Kentucky, 1998, Mara Adamitz Scrupe

“Paintings by a sculptor, emphasizing process and material. Mr. Michael flicks myriad small brush stokes, generating tonal fields that are abstract but suggestive of landscapes, clouds or flower blossoms.”

The New York Times, Friday, November 7, 1997, Ken Johnson
Review of the exhibition, “Creighton Michael: Vantage, ” Kim Foster Gallery

"All sensual aspects of nature appeal to him. And drawing is the cornerstone of his intuitive approach to landscape, never just a preliminary stage to sculpture-making. For Michael, drawing and sculpture are part of the same process."

THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, September 21, 1997, Victoria Donohoe
Review of the exhibition, "Line Play" at Haverford College

“ He observed the life in his pond and the surrounding woods. Gradually, the boundary between him and the vibrant plant and animal life metamorphosed into a bond that quickly enveloped him. The bond became line on paper, a way of developing his understanding of the regenerative cycle of nature and a way of communicating this understanding through the completed work. Michael’s working process echoes that of nature, marks are obsessively made, layered, erased, and added, as nature calmly builds, destroys, and regenerates itself. This intuitive technique allows Michael to develop drawings that are not just products of observation but of understanding.”

Excerpt from the catalogue essay by Judith Page for the exhibition, “Marks and Metaphor, Drawings by Creighton Michael 1990-1995” Vanderbilt University, 1996

“ He has created three distinct but interrelated bodies of work-inspired by local landscape and climate and yet poised for the infinite, or how we perceive it. Better yet, and much more in keeping with his own stated intentions, he has captured fleeting moments of human interaction with nature in three different mediums and vocabularies. He has opened new vistas in nature and esthetics, sharing his discoveries in these areas with the viewer through his multifaceted art.”

Excerpt from the catalogue essay by Cynthia Nadelman, which accompanied the exhibition, “Creighton Michael: Landscape,” at Katonah Museum of Art, 1995

“Mr. Michael sketches or indicates landscapes in sculptures, from a series titled “Vectors,” made of pipelike cylinders of various diameters. These skeletal creations, painted black, are displayed in the courtyard among actual spruce trees. As opposed to the trees’ insistent verticality, the sculptures lie low and suggest as did David Smith’s sculptural “Drawings in Space” from the 1940’s, the potential vastness and diversity of landscape.”

The New York Times, Sunday, February 12, 1995, William Zimmer
Review of “ Creighton Michael: Landscape,” Katonah Museum of Art

“The graphic contours created by the suspended wood elements, are abstracted forms from nature. Michael allows the line to emerge from the material. In his drawings and paintings, this activated line comes directly as an extension of the body, literally flows from the momentum of his impulse. Particularly full shapes which might imply a wing, leaf, fan or waterfall or, in the “Edge” drawings, the trace of a pond, create a kind of force which contains the precision of a contour and the speed of an improvisation. The use of metal and wood to literally draw in space, rendering a shape in the negative space of this air, is a process which encompasses the work of such artists as Martin Puryear, Ellsworth Kelly and Alexander Calder.”

Excerpt from the essay by Connie Butler, which accompanied the exhibition, “Creighton Michael: Recent Sculpture,” at Kim Foster Gallery, 1995

“ Conceived neither as preliminary sketches or after the fact documentations of sculptural works, drawings such as these have always functioned for Michael as fully equal vehicles of expression. In fact, attentive looking reveals that both sculptures and drawings partake of the same aesthetic approach -the intuitive arrangement of marks or elements, the composition, which reveals itself in the process of creation, and the delicate balance of light and darkness, mass and void. Thus in both his sculptures and his works on paper, Michael sets up a complex interplay between the physical action of mark making and the mental activity of association and metaphor. In doing so, he reveals that there is more to “drawing” than meets the eye.”

Excerpt from the essay by Eleanor Heartney, which accompanied the exhibition, “New Sculpture and Drawings” at Littlejohn Contemporary, 1992

“Effectively drawing in space, these richly pictorial works were complemented by a series of handsome graphite drawings entitled Waterworks. These pages reveal the intensity behind Michael’s gesturalism. Displayed next to each other, the paper and wood works created an extremely satisfying dialogue, presenting Michael’s formal sensibility at its most fluid and most clarified.”

ARTnews, October1992, George Melrod
Review of “New Sculpture and Drawings,” Littlejohn/Sternau Gallery

“ Michael’s techniques are not those of traditional sculpture and he has no sense of eminent domain about his medium, no interest in carving or modeling, or even creating forms that seize the space around them. His means are those of expedience; he uses wood, mostly, and also cloth, metal, and hardware, assembling them with a sense of carpentry that is accomplished without being self-important. The great majority of Michael’s sculptures hang on the wall, and even those that sit on the floor have a kind of spatial diffidence, covering ground by image rather than bulk.”

Excerpt from the essay by Nancy Princenthal for the exhibition, “Creighton Michael: Constructions 1990,” Ruth Siegel Gallery, 1991

For all its apparent aloofness, Michael’s work always hints at its own incompleteness, and, thus positioning itself in the void, invites us to take solace in its succinct asymmetries.”

ARTnews, March 1991, George Melrod
Review of “Creighton Michael: Constructions 1990,” Ruth Siegel Gallery

“ His works often defy expectations of what sculpture should or can be. The pieces engage the viewer slowly; they exist in a state of quiet stillness, liberated from extraneous associations and distractions.”

ARTFORUM, January 1989, Jude Schwendenwien
Review of a solo exhibition at David Beitzel Gallery

“The unlikely lines and designs of Michael’s sculptural pieces are like experimental drawings. His materials are diverse, and his basic strategy involves slender projecting elements or armatures that either define space on their own, or enclose it with a sheathing of aluminum, screening, fiberglass, or other materials.”

ARTS MAGAZINE, January 1989, Ellen Handy
Review of a solo exhibition at David Beitzel Gallery

“Straightness and flatness are humanity’s pride; nature loves the curve, man the level. For some years, Creighton Michael has been making objects out of ordinary materials, often plywood and wire mesh that look organic in every way. Yet they do not resemble plants or animals, and are very much sui generis.
They suggest enigmatic implements “improved” by some remote prehistoric tribe in a quest to achieve some yet-to-be discovered objective.”

Art in America, May 1989, Frederick Ted Castle
Review of concurrent solo exhibitions at David Beitzel and Pence Galleries

“Creighton Michael’s forms look like abandoned cocoons, some strange naturalistic armor animated by ghosts of past inhabitants. The scene is other-worldly. Regardless of the compelling elegance and clarity of these structures, Michael’s work reveals itself slowly. Our perceptions of it meander, for the artist relishes ambiguities and thwarts expectations. He thus subtly engages us in raveling meditations on the identity of these deceptively forthright objects. For example, his works – some hulking and talismanic, others luminous and crystalline – appear initially to be made of welded and chased metals. Yet the seemingly solid surface is, on close inspection, unmasked as a gossamer skin of paper or fabric, held taut on an intricate armature of thin wood. Implications of substance and weight dissolve. The work exposed strangely weds interior and exterior: it is sculpture turned literally inside out. Presumptions of its time – honored permanence and specificity thus fade into an enigmatic apparition.”

Excerpt from the catalogue essay, “Between Object and Image: The Sculpture of Creighton Michael,” for the exhibition, “Art at the Edge: Creighton Michael,” at the High Museum of Art, Susan Krane, Curator, 1987

The elegiac poetics of the fragment has become something of postminimalist calling card, but Michael distinguishes himself through the manner in which he telescopes your attention. His pieces have a holistic feel in their larger movements, but they draw your attention to the details: the delicate wood ribbing, light glowing through translucent paper, the complex transitions from convex to concave within apparently simple forms. Michael’s work presents moments of arrested perfection.”

Art in America, May 1986, Stephen Westfall
Review of solo exhibition at Craig Cornelius Gallery

“ A former painter, Michael says he thinks of his works as shapes rather than forms, and, indeed, their relationships to the wall or the floor often deliberately overshadow their actual physical presences. Rather than pushing the pieces in the direction of painting, though, this phenomenon seems to confirm their identity as sculptures. One piece may jut out from the wall and come to rest just inches off the floor; another may emerge from the wall like a wing riding an updraft. Often a work illustrates or seems to defy principles of gravity: either way, it deals with gravity. Titles such as “Anvil” and “Kyoto” reflect visual as well as conceptual or sensory associations; usually their meanings are intentionally multiple.”

Excerpt from the catalogue essay by Cynthia Nadelman, which accompanied the exhibition, “Archaic Echoes,” at the Center for the Arts, Muhlenberg College, 1986

“The synthesis of geometry, technology, and nature within a single sculptural model alludes simultaneously to Constructivism and Surrealism. The images he generates, however, are ultimately more biologic than mechanistic, more intuitive than systematic.”

Excerpt from the catalogue essay by Douglas Dreishpoon, which accompanied the exhibition, “ The Sculptural Membrane,” at the Sculpture Center, 1986

“Creighton Michael observes location as the crux of his sculptural forms, opting to take up spaces which are not only unusual in aesthetic terms, but are normally not even included in the human field of vision.”

ARTS MAGAZINE, September 1986, Dan Cameron
Commentary on work in the exhibition, "Transformations" at the Richard Green Gallery



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