BFAS Blondeau Fine Art Services presents Michael Cline: Third Rail

Blondeau & Cie

March 24, 2010

Michael Cline: Third Rail
18 March – 1 May 2010

5 rue de la Muse
1205 Geneva – Switzerland
T +41 (0)22 544 95 95
F +41 (0)22 544 95 99
muse [​at​]

On 18 March 2010, to coincide with the upcoming “Nuit des Bains” in Geneva, BFAS Blondeau Fine Art Services is delighted to present an exhibition by the American artist Michael Cline, entitled Third Rail, at its space 5 rue de la Muse.

Having shown several pieces by Cline in the exhibition In Geneva No one Can Hear You Scream in March 2008, we are now proud to offer a solo exhibition of paintings, drawings and sculptures made for this event.

The works of Michael Cline combine various styles, among which are his earliest sources: the cartoons of Al Jaffee in Mad Magazine, comic books and other illustrations in skateboarding magazines like Thrasher. They are a veritable patchwork of references, reminiscent of certain Pre-Renaissance Italian painters—for example Cimabue, in the modeling of the body—but also of German Expressionism and the New Objectivity of Otto Dix, Georg Grosz or Christian Schad, the domestic or urban scenes of Balthus, Stanley Spencer, or Thomas Hart Benton or, the magical realism of the Americans George Tooker or Paul Cadmus and the decadent and grotesque world of Peter Saul. This is a pictorial universe drowning in chaotic penury, latent violence and unbridled sexuality—a social realism that Cline justifies by reference to his love of the photographs of Jacob Riis, the low-budget rural sexuality of Russ Meyer’s films and the somber, hallucinatory atmosphere of David Lynch.

For Michael Cline, artistic innovation is never an end in itself. On the contrary, it is a relief—indeed a liberation—for him to limit it. What motivates him is less novelty than observation and introspection. Like Balthus, who remained a figurative artist throughout a century that celebrated the virtues of abstraction, Cline, with his multiple stylistic references, seems anachronistic, timeless and profoundly disconcerting. There is marked ambivalence between, on the one hand, the pastel hues of his perfectly mastered palette, a certain nostalgia in his forms and on the other the violence of his subjects; this allows Cline to bestow a kind of universality on his scenes even though they are played out in contemporary America.

By entitling his exhibition Third Rail—a metaphor of US political life designating a subject so sensitive that any politician who attempted to raise it would be crucified by the media—he recounts certain inequalities prevailing in his native land, which, self-evident as they are, can be neither discussed nor criticized. Always the narrator, Cline does not discuss them: he paints them. The sensibility he affirms is one attuned to the great periods of transition and tumult, such as the first half of the twentieth century, and still more so to his own era, yet his work shows no sign of political commitment.

I consider myself a storyteller. I think to make art, is to tell stories, regardless of what you end up with. Whether they be religious illustration, institutional critique, or highlighting some sort of undervalued or unexpected thing that artists tend to do, artists are telling stories. So yes, narratives are imagined. And yes, I do think something fable-like appears from time to time—but I think more often my paintings take on the character of parable.*

Cline’s paintings are a transposition of contemporary social critiques. Questioning the notions of faith and expiation, they recount an imperfect world, in which ordinary folk are seen to the heroes of their own voyage of self-discovery. The suspense in his narratives is powerful but often ambiguous. The abundance of detail that parades before us in his urban tales, city fables and modern parables conceals as much as it reveals.

Michael Cline was born in 1973 at Cape Canaveral in Florida. He lives and works in Queens, New York.

He has exhibited notably at Marc Jancou Contemporary and the Daniel Reich Gallery in New York in 2009 and at the Galleria Il Capricorno, Venice, Italy in 2007 and 2009.

A 64-page monograph has recently been published by JRP|Ringier.

Press dossiers available on demand: philippe [​at​]

* Michael Cline in Art in America, web version, 28 September 2009

Image above:
Michael Cline
Troggy, 2010
Oil on linen
116.8 x 116.8 cm. 46 x 46 in.