Artists and comedians hold up a mirror that reflects our times. They show us our reality with darkness, light, and intrinsic truth. We depend on them to furnish a fresh perspective, sum up what’s going on, and provide us with relief, and the incremental bursts of joy and energy that carry us forward in difficult situations. They make life worth living now, and those to come.
They both have their own methods. Comedians help us laugh at things as they are. Artists, if they are at the top of their game, allow us to be uplifted by things of beauty and also offer trenchant social commentary and vision.
I follow and write about the outstanding, deeply complex artist Michael Alan in particular. He taps into the soul of a dark comedian’s agony and uses that to paint it forward, encapsulating the energy of the current moment. In the process he creates masterful work after masterful work, like an empathic machine that is a reflection of our now, and is also timeless and prophetic of our future.
A New York native, Michael Alan is pouring out his soul into paintings on a rooftop based in Manhattan. He has been creating art non-stop throughout the pandemic, continuing with his mission to reach out, inspire, and connect us all together, and in the process creating visceral art that adds meaning to our lives. (At least it does for mine.)
I have continued to follow Michael’s progression and I can attest that my life has opened up in the process! I started writing, and now I collect. I put my money where my mouth is, and my mouth will make me rich. It’s important to support art during the pandemic. Collecting is not about flaunting, it's about sharing the human experience. It provides a source of joy for me in a troubled world.
Alan’s current work reflects how people feel. It doesn’t target a type of person, it provides a spark of brightness, truth and relief in a time when it’s easy to fall into a condition of despair. Michael’s art resonates with different emotional tones, often a piece that offers wry, trenchant and witty social commentary will be followed up by an unapologetically beautiful masterpiece that glows with its own inner light. It’s astonishing to me that one artist can strike so many notes successfully and in succession.
“The Overall Obvious Toxic daily shit show. The 2020 ruling vision that we must take out” © Michael Alan
During 2020 I was lost and doom scrolling, and the Internet became a funeral. I woke up when I saw this piece. “The Overall Obvious Toxic daily shit show. The 2020 ruling vision that we must take out” is an example of Michael Alan’s accurate take on our screen saturated daily force-feeding of negativity, and satirizes our complicity in absorbing what we are fed. Figures, cartoony and humorously distorted clusters in rapt attention around a skull emblazoned screen that is blaring out disconcerting messages to consume and take more pills, and the artist’s stream of consciousness is also reflected in mordant comments on the effects. This piece is graphically profound and balanced, and Alan’s witty rendering tells us that there is still hope if we can realize the artificial nature of the reality that is being projected. There is always hope, if we have places to look.
“Freedom Dress“ 2020 © Michael Alan
As times became calmer and the future became more promising, I saw in contrast a piece called “Freedom Dress”. It’s a sublime synthesis of Alan’s signature figurative abstraction. An elfin figure is robed in the Freedom Dress, a swirling, multi-textured gown that vibrates with color, and Michael’s unmistakable, signature line work. It is a twenty first century icon. I think of Klimt when I follow the patterns and rhythms, it's art that inspires by sharing its unselfconscious beauty in an effort that uplifts the soul. This is art that should be lived with on a daily basis, art that is a condensation of energy that is alive.
“Anything can be done with the power of a disciplined, determined strong mind, Mind over matter” © Michael Alan
“Anything can be done with the power of a disciplined, determined, strong mind, Mind over matter” is the title of a Michael Alan figurative abstraction and also doubles as a mission statement for the artist. The piece is glorious, layers upon layers of levels of lines and textures that sometimes resolve into benign figures, and sometimes dissolve into vibrations. The chaos is contained inside a masterful composition, where every element is meticulously balanced so that the whole piece resonates in a harmonious vision. This image rewards a deep dive into its world. You can easily get lost in the contemplation experience, and the effect is a punk rock mandala that you can visit again and again.
“Civil rights, 2020” © Michael Alan
“Civil rights, 2020” has a more somber tone as befits its serious subject. It’s another of the splendid figurative abstractions, where the figures this time seem to be wrestling for position inside an enclosed space, the one on the left has a vacant stare and fangs, and seems to be attempting to dominate and subdue the figure on the right without fully being able to pull it off. It’s a testimony to the power of continued, stubborn resistance, and an exhortation to persevere against the odds.
“I don’t know how to use my phone” © Michael Alan
“I don’t know how to use my phone” is a funny and graphically outstanding take on a conundrum of modern life. It’s a portrait that could apply to all of us that are occasionally baffled by technology. Michael Alan expertly captures the multiple states of anxiety, woe and confusion while still managing to be visually compelling and powerfully funny at the same time. Our phones are now using us.
“Mother and son pandemic 2020” © Michael Alan
Finally I want to talk about a really emotionally resonant piece called “Mother and son pandemic 2020”. This piece radiates pure love. Michael Alan is the sole and full time caretaker of his 84-year-old mother during the pandemic, and this piece clearly comes from the heart. Alan holds his mother tightly, both of them blending together into an ethereal fog literally held together by Alan’s lines. Art and love is the bond that holds them together and supports them as they face into an uncertain future.
Michael Alan’s art makes so much sense in our times. Alan has his finger on the pulse of our zeitgeist. Like Salvador Dali who he’s been exhibited with (during AFA gallery’s show “Collision of Grey Matter” in April of 2018) He is a master of his craft and an acute and uplifting commentator on the craziness that surrounds us. I often wonder to myself when Michael Alan’s art will have its solo showing in the Museum of Modern Art, and hope that day will come while he’s alive!