New York

Michael Madore

Bridges & Bodell

Until now, Michael Madore’s work has appeared mainly in group shows held under the dubious rubric of Outsider art, with which it seems to share merely a tendency to a totemic use of animals, such as snakes and marsupials, as well as to “manic,” jittery, doodle-like lines that swarm over the picture plane and onto a drawn frame. Shot through with allusions to cult films, art history, and coterie fiction, the seventeen ink drawings in his first one-person show, “Secret Sender 6000,” are, if anything, “insider art”—that is, art plain and simple. The title, an allusion to beepers used mainly by schoolgirls to transmit messages during class, suggests that Madore’s work is above all involved with addressing the very un-naïf issues of cliquishness and the politics of the coterie.

The primary difference between Madore’s recent and earlier work is the incorporation of language, both his own writings and quotations, which permits him both to spell out and to reach further into his arch sensibility. Sometimes this amounts only to a word or two, seemingly configuring itself out of the drawing’s wavery lines; at other times entire paragraphs spill down the picture plane, making up most of its elements. Julia and Her Bazooka, 1994, includes a lengthy quote about heroin addiction and syringes from Anna Kavan’s 1970 cult novel Sleep Has His House. Written out in a quivery hand that complements the stippling of the ground, the quote’s content plays off an image of a large abstract snake, whose pattern mimics the overall shape of this serpent coiling along the bottom of the drawing.

In Meet Me in the Library, 1994, a cartoonishly electrified figure straight out of a Theophile Grandville illustration reels back before a small avalanche of books as they tumble from the shelves of a tipping bookcase. One of the volumes caught in the figure’s hand, which has been raised as if in self-defense, is The Glass Bees, a novel by German writer Ernst Jünger about Disney-like automatons. Along the bottom of the drawn frame is written “IT WASN’T HIS BRAIN THAT I HAD IN MIND,” suggesting that the image before us is some sort of allegory of sexual frustration.

If some of this is a little too arch (or not arch enough), there are several drawings that offer glimpses of what Madore’s work becomes when, freed of allusiveness, it is allowed to pursue its own involutions to their very end. The best of these is probably Classified Information, 1993. It is divided roughly in half by a bar, essentially a continuation of the drawing’s internal frame, which is patrolled by black, spermatozoic creatures. On the upper half is a silhouette of a man’s head, in profile, that floats above and “zaps” with its tongue the back of another silhouetted head, this one attached to a man’s body. This second head stretches its tongue toward something “offstage,” suggesting an endless chain of illicit “tastings.” The text, written by Madore, reads like a caption dictated by some intermundial spirit whose task it is to inform us about the existence of other worlds: “You would call this a ‘mess hall,’ ‘lounge area’ or a similar name. It serves a similar function as your areas for gossip and napping. It has the purpose of socializing and TELEPATHIC exchanges of non-CLASSIFIED information. The only difference between your lounge and ours is that our frequency SENSORS can detect if CLASSIFED INFORMATION should ever be exchanged telepathically, whereas your areas would not.” Perhaps this is “outsider art” after all.

Thad Ziolkowski