Mike McManus Studio Visit
Mike McManus is an artist working with metal on the line between
Bushwick & Williamsburg. This is his helmet.
I went to visit Mike McManus in his studio last week. Mike & I were in a L.E.S. show (curated by Jenevieve) in July, and also in the Motown to Def Jam show (curated by Souleo). His sculpture installation “Jesus Walks” was a pair of wax bare feet walking around broken lightbulbs.
He said he was doing etchings in metal using electricity and water instead of the traditional (toxic) acid bath. I’d never heard of this, and then when he said his studio had wood machines, welding equipment, two ceramic kilns, PLUS the mysterious electrical etch bath, I knew I had to visit.
Mike’s studio is in an industrial looking area dotted with open air welding and wood shops. I passed a canoe chained to a fence and guessed there was water nearby too. It’s got a nice desolate feeling, and when I saw the wheatpasted “Living The Dream” poster I guessed I was in Bushwick, but according to Mike it’s Williamsburg, and I guess he probably knows
The studio is a sprawling basement full of metal scraps, neat piles of sculpting shapes, anvils & tools. A girl in a t-shirt was working on jewelry in the back corner and Mike’s electrical etch bath was percolating somewhere near the center. The etch bath looked like a bowl of metal sludge with jumper cables dropped into it, attached to a battery sending out electric volts at regular intervals.
Mike’s sculptures look like big, dimensional, distinctly urban tribal masks. Some are elaborately layered, with series of repeating shapes that suggest a lighter material like leather, or even fabric. Others are simpler & direct, like my favorite piece, shown below, of a migrant worker from Guatemala. He’s incorporated softer elements in this one: a corn husk and cigar.
What’s next? Mike’s looking for a curator to show these striking pieces in a gallery space that has experience hanging heavy works from the ceiling, understands the importance of lighting, and would like to collaborate on the vision for the show.
For more on Mike, here’s a video of his interview with the Bronx Journal: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q_aPFyUJPrs
His Tumblr page: http://mikeymcmakingithappen.tumblr.com