Project Description


Michael Russell, Motor Form #2, 2016, Graphite on Paper, 31 x 42 Inches

Nancy Toomey Fine Art is pleased to announce an exhibition of works by Michael Russell entitled Patterned Recognition on view from August 31 to September 28, 2016. Nancy Toomey Fine Art is located inside San Francisco’s newest art complex Minnesota Street Project, 1275 Minnesota Street. The public is invited to the artist reception on Saturday, September 10, from 6pm to 8pm. Join the event page here.


Michael Russell, Patterned Recognition Exhibition Installation View

Michael Russell explores the passage of time and the various ways in which he moves through it. He searches for patterns and significance within cultural and autobiographical artifacts to better understand the conditions of his surroundings. From his perspective, technologies, words, social structures, designs and habits are all aging–they evolve, devolve, and even stagnate. The artist appears to imagine his environment from afar, and wonders what the remnants of how we live might reveal about ourselves.


Michael Russell, Carefree, 2016, Oil Pastel on Paper, 40 x 60 Inches

The sculptures and works on paper in this exhibition are meant to evoke familiarity, disposability, and the cultural fatigue that arises out of our instant media climate. Many pictures are reminiscent of a recent, but unknowable past. While these works appear to generate a feeling of nostalgia, the sense of familiarity is ultimately distanced, empty, or without exact reference. The content repeats and is patterned. Through a re-working of the material, Russell tries to present commonplace entities as strange and new again. Arbitrary design elements and patterns are edited to obfuscate meanings and use-values complicating the relationship between form and content. Typography is mined from a previous era, yet challenges viewers to contemplate their messages on the present’s terms. Familiarity exists as a sensation with its own vocabulary that is reproducible and malleable. Defamiliarization thus becomes a possible catalyst for heightened perception.


Michael Russell, Matter of Time, 2015, Wood and Stain, AC Gear Motor and Motor Control Adjusted to 1RPM, Pulleys with Timing Belt, 40 Inches Diameter x 54 Inches Length

In Russell’s words, “The practice of trying to see more critically is important to the phenomena I choose to re-present. Sorting through information and media on a daily basis is fatiguing. My work embodies a longing for answers and continuity while simultaneously admitting that the process of understanding anything takes time—a currency not readily available for most. It is that which is unknowable that motivates me to refocus my attention and assess the quality of the grasp that I have on the fleeting present. Within a moment of not knowing, viewers may also become aware that they are being asked to read, translate, or simply slow down. But ultimately the works only hint at aspects of contemporary life and acknowledge the matters at hand with ambivalence. If the artworks had voices, I would imagine them to be saying, ‘I see what’s happening out there, and I know you do too.’”

Artist Michael Russell

Born in 1985 in Los Angeles, Michael Russell received his Bachelor of Fine Arts from UCLA in 2012 and his Master of Fine Arts from Claremont Graduate University in 2015. His art has been in numerous exhibitions at, among others, Santa Monica Prefecture, Malibu Circa 1990, and Control Room, in Los Angeles. Most recently, New American Paintings and the Hammer Museum’s Graphite Interdisciplinary Journal of the Arts have published his work. Patterned Recognition is his first solo show at Nancy Toomey Fine Art.

Exhibition Statement – Patterned Recognition Exhibition (PDF)

Bio (PDF)

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