New York

Michael Banicki

Feature Gallery

For the past ten years or so, Michael Banicki has been producing “Ratings,” drawings and paintings in the form of seemingly objective graphs or charts, recording his subjective preferences within categories ranging from North American Birds to World War II Planes.

Some of Banicki’s subjects, such as early jazz tenor sax players or the artists mentioned in H. W. Janson’s History of Art, fall within fields that place high value on cultivated discrimination. In other cases, the artist deliberately explores categories—Chicago Telephone Exchanges or the numbers between one and one hundred—in which such preferences seem groundless.

Once he selects a rubric, Banicki fastidiously maps his choices on small grids. Stretching up to nine square feet, the pieces can involve thousands of individual decisions. From the initial determination of a category, to the selection of colors with which to record his ratings, Banicki foregrounds the innumerable subjective choices we make on a daily basis and leaves the viewer wallowing in the arbitrariness of all our judgments.

Banicki’s works, which bear some visual resemblance to the minimalism of Agnes Martin or Sol LeWitt, aren’t terribly interesting as objects. What they lack in visual terms, however, they make up in the artist’s evident sense of humor and in the continual inventiveness with which he induces the viewer to play his game. Does he “know” jazz, are his evaluations of artists sound? It boils down, of course, to whether you happen to share his tastes, and that is exactly the point. By foregrounding the sheer amount of routine evaluation in which we engage, Banicki renders the more determined judgments that inform our “ratings” of his work arbitrary and contingent.

Lois E. Nesbitt