Tim McMichael's work turns nations on end -- or sometimes just 90 degrees. A simple rotation changes the context of familiar shapes of countries or states with an effect that is unexpectedly dramatic, transforming countries into inkblots or states into subtle glossy gradations.
In his current Kingdoms show at Clay Street Press, a suite of four lithographs -- "USA," "Iraq," "China" and "Mexico" -- portrays these nations, rotated and mirrored, as Rorschach inkblots.
With the inkblot's role in psychological analysis, McMichael's choice of strong color in all but "USA" speaks volumes. In fact, "USA" alone is printed utterly without color, in white on gray paper while the others -- in greens, reds or yellows -- stand out against white backgrounds. This statement about the nation's fading place in the world, or the perception of it, is evocative without being overstated.
The bold colors of the lithographs in that suite stand out in Kingdoms, the prolific local artist's solo exhibition. A restrained use of color characterizes much of the other work -- subtle, finely rendered etchings, silkscreens and paintings. Pattern and layering are an integral part of his aesthetic, as is a unified visual vocabulary that draws from history and nature, fossils and honeycombs.
McMichael found the fossil forms used in this show in a reproduction of a mid-19th-century text, the Iconographic Encyclopedia of Sciences, Literature, and Art by J.G. Heck. Their twisting forms create compositions of order or disorder with a societal sensibility, as in "Untitled (Convergence)" or "Untitled (Divining)."
Kingdoms is McMichael's third exhibition this year, following a solo show at Aisle Gallery in February and coinciding with the group show Uncoordinated: Mapping Cartography in Contemporary Art at the Contemporary Arts Center. Remarkably, all of the work in this exhibition was created during the last two months.
KINGDOMS is on view at Clay Street Press through July 12. Get gallery details and find nearby bars and restaurants here.