“I like when you can walk up to a painting and it’s a little abstract, and as you back up it all syncs together into something that makes sense, but if you walk up close it all falls apart,” says Brooklyn based artist Michael Kagan. Working out of his Brooklyn, New York based studio, the artist draws upon themes relating to space and man’s triumph over nature in his texture-heavy paintings. His self-described obsession with space imagery began as a child, when he would look at the moon through a telescope with his father, and later on, joined Space Camp.
Though Kagan’s paintings are striking in their interpretation of astronauts and rocket launches that recall the shining glory days of space travel, there is also something disarming about them. These celebrated rock stars of Earth suddenly find themselves entirely alone and secluded once they reach cold outer space, staring back at us with large, black masks, other times looking upon a sea of rocket ship dashboard buttons. The only signs of landscape are Kagan’s paintings of snowy mountains inspired by Everest’s sharp and dangerous peaks, rendered in quick and energetic brush strokes. Kagan once compared his works to performance pieces, where the image is all about “moments” and he lets the texture “happen” naturally.
For his current exhibition titled “Lights Out” at Joshua Liner gallery in New York, Kagain sought to convey man’s ability to push through his limitations, and to exemplify the dangerous moments of space travel and speed racing. The series combines several of Kagan’s most popular subjects such as Formula One race cars and drivers, astronauts, cockpits, and mountains. “I realized that I can really push this abstract brush work with the images I’m working with, so I started increasing the size, dealing with more closeups of astronaut helmets, more with rocket launches, and I kept going with this astronaut-rocket theme, but then I started missing the figure,” he says. “The more recent paintings I’ve done, I’m trying to bring the figure back a little bit and then with other paintings, I’m trying also to push the abstract quality where there is almost no recognition of what the subject matter is.”