Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Experiments With Truth, Michael Massaro @ HCC Ybor Art Gallery

AT readers are probably familiar with Michael Massaro's work, from shows at C. Emerson Gallery. He graduated in 1999 from the University of Tampa, where while a student, he worked as an assistant to Carl Cowden, master printer and locally famous muralist.  He is currently the director for Gallery 501 at Blake High school.

I met Michael at the opening of Tempus Project's Bits and Pieces show. We talked for a bit, and he mentioned Experiments With Truth was coming up at the HCC Ybor Art Gallery.

Michael Massaro, "Gradual Extinction"

The exhibition title comes from the title of Ghandi's autobiography. He felt his experiments with truth had constituted the main of his life. MM set up the lighting for this exhibit.

Massaro is a social sculptor, one dealing with basic human issues, like the violence and abuses people heap on each other -- globally. He regards violence as a language, one that we all learn, and we're so used to it that we become desensitized. The work uses both figurative and abstract forms to convey all this. In the work on the left, the bone-like form at the top, and cinder-like one at the bottom, connected by a tortuously-shaped woven strand.

Michael Massaro, "Experiments with Truth"

Detail of image at right

Note how Michael is able to fuse what would normally appear to be disparate materials into resolved works. One often sees strands, braids, or woven fibers connecting various sculptural elements, and these ties that bind are agonizing, and they also look organized. For me, they connect across space and time, and also conceptually.

Michael Massaro, "The Slanderer"

We see that same trope again in "The Slanderer", out of whose mouth disgorges a twisted braided cord. Note the pain the slanderer's gilded face reveals, and how his eyes are closed.

Michael Massaro, "Sinew of Indifference"

In "Sinew of Indifference", on the right, we have a figure that looks like a fetus (baby or cat) wrapped in a similar manner to Egyptian mummies, with another tortuous connection to a vessel, a bowl, which might have held nourishment and/or hope, empty. I found this work unspeakably sad and moving. A testament and cry to awaken our empathy.

Michael Massaro, "There are no rules"


 The work above is composed of big nails held out on wires connected to other nails. This repeats many times across the work, and the redundancy of nails holding up nails, along with the title, came across to me as history (and inhumane acts) repeating itself.

 In closing, one additional observation. I wonder if Massaro's syntheses of dissimilar objects and materials into codified new wholes might not be of metaphorical significance in this series, in the sense that no matter how far apart we may be, there is hope for us getting together and becoming one.

--- Luis

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