[Michael Kalish, “Rose on Red,” 2008. Bent car parts. Courtesy of the artist/MODAA]
Artist Michael Kalish is as famous for his innovative art as he is for the people who buy it from him. Kid Rock owns an original Kalish; so do Sharon Stone and the Governator himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Other owners? Muhammad Ali, Nancy Reagan, Tim Allen, Ringo Starr, Nike, Disney. The list of Kalish collectors reads like a who’s who of pop culture.
So what’s all the excitement about?
Well, since he started his art career over a decade ago, Kalish has seen his fame skyrocket largely from the use of a highly innovative medium. Yes, this Los Angeles-based artist (who, incidentally, is a former almost-pro baseball player) crafts finely detailed portraits and sculptures out of—why not?—license plates. In his numerous compositions (most are two-dimensional, although he ventures into the third dimension on occasion), these automotive dogtags are sliced and diced into intricate compositions that, according to the artist, reflect the very nature of the automotive culture from which they hail. His creations’ subjects have included Marilyn Monroe, the Beatles, and the American flag, as well as a number of other icons of Americana.
And so, Kalish’s work has not gone unnoticed, mostly due to its Pop sensibility. The artist has appeared in numerous nationwide mainstream magazines and his art is praised for its endearing qualities—namely, the detail with which each work is painstakingly created.
This detail is readily apparent in the Kate Stern-curated MODAA Transportation, in which the artist has submitted a selection of his traditional pieces as well as a number of new sculptures that venture beyond the license plate to explore the capabilities of the car tailgate as medium.
[Michael Kalish, “Rose on Yellow,” 2008. Bent car parts. Courtesy of the artist/MODAA]
In much of Kalish’s work, there are two kinds of details—the ones he himself puts in (colors, geometric forms, and so forth) and the ones created by the medium (the lettering of the license plates, for instance). With this new array of works, the medium has shifted. No longer is the viewer catching only glimpses and pieces of identification tags; rather, other words—“Ford” or “Chevy”, for instance—sneak into the fray. The effect only further solidifies Kalish’s take on the automobile and the way in which it has engrained itself in the American psyche. Lars Carlson
Through June 13.
Museum of Design, Art and Architecture: 8609 Washington Blvd., Culver City – Phone: 310.558.0902 – Mon. - Fri. 9 a.m. - 6 p.m.; Weekends by apointment only – www.modaagallery.comMySpace Art Chat