Michael Blake is an LA-born artist who moved to NYC after receiving his BA from California State University to join the MFA program at Hunter College where he recently graduated with a degree in sculpture. I visited his studio space in Tribeca and chatted with him for over an hour about how he uses sculpture as a medium to breakdown dichotomies of public and private spaces while exploring taboo and desire. Walking into his studio was like walking into a gym locker room (the aroma of deodorant included) with objects carefully placed on the floor and the walls. It was a dream-like interior that embodied an environment frozen in time where you are allowed to reflect on objects and intimate situations integrated into daily life that are rich with sexual tension and gender associations. Check out our conversation below.
Photography by Alexander Perrelli
“Using restroom readymades and gym equipment, as well as foam, latex, and other hardware, I hope to construct sculptures that parody and challenge commercial extensions and constructions of the body.”
I’m interested in how you often use highly structured and traditionally masculine materials and displace them by adding organic and sensual elements. Can you discuss your choice of materials and how that relates to the themes you explore?
The physicality and energy secreting from the manufactured sex object sculptures that I construct are amplified by their material specificity and proximity to one another. Their placement and locale is vital, and they are often linked by color, texture and material. This enables the sculptures to speak to one another like teammates, marked in uniform and positioned as if on a playing field. Using restroom readymades and gym equipment, as well as foam, latex, and other hardware, I hope to construct sculptures that parody and challenge commercial extensions and constructions of the body.
Tell me about your wall installation that appears to represent a pseudo barrier and gives the illusion of privacy. What is interesting to you about this concept in particular?
I am interested in the relationship between public and private space, and the bathroom is an environment that allows for the collision of the two. The pseudo-barrier is modeled after a urinal partition found in public restrooms and locker rooms. These partitions play with voyeuristic tendencies, imposing rigidly regulated spaces comprised of laminate or metal.
I changed the partition material from metal to foam to flip the institutional object into something that is flexible and easily penetrable. My slight alteration of the partition playfully challenges perception and social taboos by subverting institutional objects, spaces and scenarios.
How does your work impact your personal exploration of identity?
I explore autobiographical themes related to desire, sexuality, and identity, making my work inherently personal. The sculptures are bodily and act as friends, becoming tangible trackers formed in my process of exploring my identity. The surface of these sculptures are constantly shifting and evolving in terms of material, scale, palette, and form. Much like identity, they are unfixed and are able to change, mutate, or be altered depending on context.
What’s coming up in the future for you?
As I recently culminated my MFA degree at Hunter College this April, I am excited to continue to exhibit my work as opportunities arise, collaborate with my peers and to further my practice in New York.
For additional information please visit michaelblake.co.