My work expresses my thinking about the subjects, objects, and techniques embedded in painting. I experiment with materials without preconceiving how their activation and conceptualization will connect as a total experience. My subjects are deeply human: natality, plurality, freedom, and death. I wrestle with the materials to make complete pictures—holistic abstractions—that are countercultural and anticultural in their aesthetics and politics.
- December 2022
Mike Cloud is a painter whose work questions the semiotic production of intersectional identity. Cloud’s research method involves a studio-based exploration of traditional materials, cultural ephemera, and household items. His paintings, collages, and other objects draw on postmodern attitudes towards the collective unconscious and its social expression, while being critical of art’s political use as a mirror of existential conflict.
Cloud’s “American history paintings” are historical figure portraits that use a radical approach to color, surface, and construction to create pictorial codes that connect abstract gestures to aspects of our shared human and historical conditions. In Battle of Little BigHorn, a flock of roughly collaged and thickly painted birds represent the combatants on both sides of the titular battle: native and federal. The birds are rendered in the childish tradition of Thanksgiving “hand turkeys,” having been traced as silhouettes from the artist’s own hands and then embellished with eyes, beaks, feet, and text denoting each historical actor: George Custer, Sitting Bull, Marcus Reno, Rain in Face, etc. The actors in Cloud’s depiction of the battle are simultaneously diverse and homogenized, differentiated and non-hierarchical: squaring the circle of conservative historical narratives and progressive identity-based Utopias.
Cloud’s solo exhibitions include Possessions: Mike Cloud presented by Thomas Erben Gallery as part of Frieze London, London, United Kingdom (2020); Tears in Abstraction, Thomas Erben Gallery, New York, NY (2019); The Myth of Education, the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts at the University of Chicago, Chicago, IL (2018); Quiltmaking & Over-Production of Opposites (2010) and Mike Cloud: Agreement and Subjectivity (2008), Max Protetch Gallery, New York, NY; and a site-specific work for MoMA PS1’s National Projects, Long Island City, NY (2005).
Cloud’s work has been presented in group exhibitions in the United States and internationally, including at The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, NY; The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Chicago, IL; The American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York, NY; Neuer Kunstverein Aschaffenburg (KunstLANDing), Aschaffenburg, Germany; and 47 Canal, New York, NY.
He has received a Foundation for Contemporary Arts Emergency Grant (2022), a Hassem, Speicher, Betts, and Symons Purchase Fund Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters (2020), the inaugural Chiaro Award from the Headlands Center for the Arts (2015), and a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in Painting (2015).
Cloud holds a B.A. from the University of Illinois, Chicago and an M.F.A. from Yale University. His work and research as a professor of art theory and practice at Northwestern University has expanded his studio practice to include writing and open-forum discussions.