Fascinated with using thick semi-abstract paint to study personal, historical and fictional experiences of space travel, Michael Kagan’s Space images have opened up outlets to expand painting technique, brushwork, and abstraction in his work. Inspired by artists such as De Kooning and Richter, he walks the line with tension and anxiety between abstraction and representationalpainting. The iconic images of astronauts and rocket launches become the vehicle to express this tension.
In the series exhibited at Space Gallery SBH, Kagan’s paintings concentrate on the possibilities and power of light; sometimes the images are excitingly blown out or photo bleached and sometimes create soft calm shadows. He renders opposites; fast, powerful, chaotic senses with mediated areas. Thick, fast, and at times explosive overlapping brush strokes cross and interweave violently throughout the canvas. However, the flurry of brush strokes dissolves, and then come together to form an image of peace and tranquility and silence in space or contrastingly the kinetic frenzy inherent in a rocket blast, further amplified by the large scale of the work. Machinery, complex space hardware, reflections, and launch explosions are broken up into thick strokes and layers of paint.
Astronauts can be interpreted as the modern day Icarus or sky god. Michael Kagan uses this imagery in his recent paintings in order to emulate the cinematic experience of an impassioned viewer of space travel. Kagan’s fundamental interest in space travel stems from childhood experiences at the NASA space camp, model rocket launches in the park, and nighttime telescope viewings of the moon.
Image caption: Thunder Kiss II, 2011, Oil on linen, 152.4 x 203.2 cm / 60 x 80 inches