This collection of watercolor paintings and ‘Constructions’ by Michael Mastrogiacomo truly establishes his mastery as a multi-media artist. This selection of works capture visual portrayals of deeply intimate scenes from everyday life and highly cerebral sculptural compositions. We are presented with the duality of the artist’s reflections and reinterpretations on broad spectrum of complex subjects, life, the people and moments -tragic and beautiful- occupying it, as well as intimate projections of a rich inner life and body of philosophical thought
The Witch’s Wedding Ring 1999 36” x 11” x 11” A wooden stool, mounted by candle, suspending a cooper ring above. This piece, in all it’s clean and linear simplicity, exudes an entrancing aura of supernaturalism. Historically, beliefs of superstition and folklore, ranging from delightful tales to frenzied obsessions, manifested within the home or community, to explain the frightening otherness of the physical world; the unknown. As with the perceptions of the witch and witchcraft as conduits of mysticism, physical manifestations of infernal strangeness, so too are these common objects adorned with endless mystical symbolic meanings. These objects can boast ceremonial, psychological and utilitarian purpose, with which we may tap into our deepest fears and fantasies.
Wise Guys 2020 19.5 x 25 watercolors on paper- A classic New York City scene, we are invited to saddle up to the bar and join this motley company of Brooklyn locals. Immersed in lewd jokes, lamentable stories, sagely advice (whether helpful is or not is debatable), while seeking solace at the bottom of a bottle.
The Silence of Loss 2021 27 x 19.75 - An elevated display case in wood and glass, suspending a ceramic bowl with preserved bird eggs. The cracked and worn gilt porcelain bowl, floating above a perch in this space, seems to mimic a nest inside a bird house, noting the small hole for entry to the back. This artificial rendering of such a wholesome and natural object, shelter for birds and their young, evokes an empathetic response. The desolation of this space is on full display, yet isolated from outside forces of nature, potential growth or change.
The Gravity of Air 1997 48 x 12 x 7 - A repelling magnet, opposite a feather under a raised glass bell jar, suspended by a copper wire inside a wood case, mounted with a landscape comprised of layered lead sheets. This curious kinetic construction plays with the dynamics of physics, the force of the large weighted magnet preventing it from colliding with the glass surrounding the delicate white feather. As a silhouette of a grandfather clock, the pendulum frozen in time, halts destruction or eventual decay. The landscape above, a window of sorts to the outside world, remains eternally still by the current of energy below.
The Offering #1 1996 18 x 6 x 5 - A two level wood case, the top with glass surrounding a mounted candle and framed round mirror, below a ceramic bowl with preserved monarch butterfly wings. The surreal and intriguing ‘Constructions' of Michael Mastrogiacomo do not shy from approaching the subject matter of life and death. In understanding and coming to terms with mortality, altars have provided space for the rituals of spiritual prayer and mourning the dead throughout human history. This altar meditates on a single flickering candle, a timeless reminder of the ephemeral nature of our existence; the flame’s reflection dances in the small mirror behind it, a tiny peephole into the land of the dead. The offering comes from the land of the living: the sacrifice of the butterflies wings is a striking cruel reminder of the ecstatic beauty of this all too brief life.
Offering #2 2021 14 x 6.5 x 6.5 - A low, horizontal case in wood and glass, featuring a mounted candle, opposite glass sheets with varying degrees of scorch marks. This retelling of Michael’s first offering, 25 years post its predecessor, projects the light of the candle as the source of benevolence, rather than an omnipotent force to be sated. Countering the psychical upwards motion of sacrifice made to the fire above, the offering here is the flame, earthbound and affective within its plane of existence.
The Evolution of Irony 2018 18 x 5.5 x 6 - A pine wood box lined with canvas, glass to the front and top, with wood mechanism with spindle feeding white thread into a glass dish, opposite preserved bird eggs. This construction is one of the more creative and visually surreal works, the eggs intended to feed the machine, transforming into the thread, lacing articulately into the waiting dish. Conceptions of purpose and function become subject in this playful kinetic work, what was once natural and organic modified and given function that serves man exclusively.
Manhattan Bridge 2019 14 x 26 graphite and watercolors on paper - An iconic and stunning view of the Manhattan bridge from Washington Street in Dumbo, Brooklyn. Michael’s ability in watercolor brushwork is evident, however our eyes are drawn to the beautifully detailed graphite rendering of the titular bridge, seeping through the haze of rain in the background.
Piano Room 2021 18 x 26 watercolors on paper - Rejected music sheets and unused instruments have been cast aside within this space; the day is warm and bright outside, framed by sweet pink curtains, a distinct contrast with the dark corridors within this mostly grey space, curiously half filled with a cloudy haze. Whether this is meant to illustrate the Piano Room as residing within the recesses of a distant memory, or the encroaching smoke as imminent, destructive fire, a gravity of importance has been applied to this space, unwilling to fade too quickly from existence.
Loss 2022 27 x 19.75 graphite and watercolors on paper - The detail and artful storytelling quality within Michael’s paintings are almost entirely fabricated from the mind, stories drawing on personal memories or outside sources of inspiration. The view from this ornate room overlooks what appears to be the famous Ponte Sant'Angelo bridge in Rome, Italy, crossing the Tiber and outlaying the holy Vatican City. This vantage point is difficult to achieve in real life, suggesting this may perhaps be a beautiful memory from long ago, these thoughts drifting by the sole occupant. The elderly man does not muse fondly on this view of visions past, but rather focuses almost entirely on the empty seat opposite. This is a moment of grief and abject sadness over a lost loved one. The look of opulence, brilliant colors of the chair, cast in warm sunlight, could never contend with the overwhelming sensation of loss.
Lights Echo 1994 16 x 13 x 5 - An elaborate wall mounted wood and metal base, with individual shelves featuring candle and scorched glass sheets, the affixed, found device below with glass lens. Considerably more science than art, the shadow cast by the candle’s light is given physical presence in the angled row of glass panes, the scorch marks perfectly alined with the flame. The lens hanging from the attached metal apparatus casts light when shifted, reliant on viewer interactivity and experimentation.
Girl in the Doorway 2020 20 x 21 watercolors on paper- The varied applications of exquisite light and color breathes into this domestic everyday scene something truly ethereal. There is a brilliant contrast in dimensionality from light and the flattened, altered perspective of this space. A projection of bright sunlight falls into the room, outlining the silhouette of the window, plastered against the wall, doorframe and stretching across the floor. The mirror washes the room and the figure of the girl in a natural glow; through the reflection of the window, we’re given passage to the exterior outside world.
Girl at Window #4 2021 19.5 x 26.75 graphite and watercolors on paper - Fourth in the artist’s approach to this gentle domestic subject, this somber yet bitter-sweet work best represents the artist’s ability with combining painterly watercolors and stunning detail. The roughened floor and cracked moulding is countered by the bright bouquet of flowers and sunlight shining into this room. Even the tiny landscape with chapel hanging on the wall includes painstakingly legible content.
A Gothic Tale of Sorrow 1997 46 x 15 x 7 - Wall mounted box in wood and metal, hinged door with peepholes and hanging candle below, the interior with preserved pair of bird wings. This work deliberately alienates the viewer from understanding the exact nature of the tale being told. Antithetical to a cabinet of curios, the presentation of the collected bird wings as specimen is obstructed from proper display. When shut, the swinging door only provides five small vertical holes for viewing; each hole has a lens, warping and obstructing this already impaired view. Driving home this sensation of mystery and the macabre, the candle as sole light source hangs below, casting an eerie glow, swaying back and forth.
Pieta 2022 4 x 5 x 2.5 - A bent railroad spike, set inside a decorative metal wire basket with heart form finial, on wood and canvas base. This found object assemblage is an extremely fascinating approach to the Christian imagery of the Lamentation of Christ, following crucifixion and death. In classic iconic scenes of the Pietà, the Virgin Mary mournfully cradles her son’s dead body, following his removal from the cross. This provocative piece, Mary as a rough and worn basket, Jesus as the spike, distorted and rusted, is a striking challenge to the traditional figural imagery of the subject, held with solemn, poignant esteem. True to the artist’s exploration of function and object metaphor, the spike meant to represent Jesus may also be interpreted as the very tool used to put him to death.
Born in 1950 in Elizabeth, New Jersey, Michael Mastrogiacomo’s has produced a massive artistic body of work throughout his lifetime. Since the fruition of his career and inception of the featured works from the series of found art object ‘Constructions’, Michael’s artwork has gained significant presence throughout the country, most prominently amongst the New York City and San Francisco art scenes. More recent, his magnificent collection of watercolor paintings, including notable works from the series ‘Field Fires’ and ‘Kamikaze Paintings’, best reflect his fluidity moving between various mediums, mastered painterly abilities and complex contemplations of man and nature, within the past two decades.
1982 – MFA Painting, San Francisco Art Institute, San Francisco, CA
1979 – BFA Painting, San Francisco Art Institute, San Francisco, CA
1971 – Maryland Art Institute, Baltimore MA
1970 – AA Industrial Design Newark Collage of Fine and Industrial Art, Newark, NJ
1997 – Phillip Stabe Gallery New York City, NY
1997 – Old Dominion University Norfolk, VA
1997 – 1708 E. Main Street, Figurative Painting Richmond, VA
1995 – San Francisco Cultural Center, Mission, (Instillation) San Francisco, CA
1994 – 9th Precinct Gallery New York City, NY
1986 – Heller Gallery, University at Berkeley CA
1984-1986 – Dana Reich Gallery, San Francisco, CA
Selected Group Exhibitions:
2006 – UN Exhibition ( Art of Inspiration) New York City, NY
2006 – Russian Exhibition (Art of Inspiration) traveling exhibition to Moscow
1996 – Studio Exhibition Long Island City, NY
1993 – Tweed Gallery (Ten Downtown Show) New York City, NY
1985 – Ninth Precinct Gallery, New York City, NY
1985 – Crocker Art Museum (Permanent collection), Sacramento CA
1985 – Southern Exposure Gallery (The Impolite Figure) San Francisco, CA
1984 – Pacific Gallery, San Francisco, CA
1983 – 88 Dana Reich Gallery, San Francisco, CA
Group show at the Manhattan Art Club ‘The Kamikaze’, 2011
Vietnam War dedication, 2013 – present
New Art Examiner February 1985, D. Blumenthal
San Francisco Chronicle May 1984, Kate Regan
Artweek May 1983, Mark Van Proyen