SMILE FOREVER @ Art Palace Austin, TX March 31- April 28 2007
I have been a subconscious stalker of Michael Sieben’s work for some time now; a sleepwalking peeping tom who suddenly wakes in the bushes peering in the windows of Austin’s art spaces to gawk at his work. Damn that Ambien! This week i found myself in the bushes on the grounds of Art Palace for Sieben’s first solo exhibition entitled “Smile Forever.”
I’ve always been drawn to his style of drawing/ painting in the same way children are drawn (excuse the pun) to their favorite cereal; the alluring characters on the boxes and that sugar fix. However, unlike cereal whose characters like Count Chocula and Frankenberry never really DID or amounted to anything, his characters have a deeper story and allure. They seem to have an inside joke or secret history with each other from panel to panel. Whereas the aforementioned monstrous sugar-dealers have very clean and static expressions Sieben’s monsters have wrinkles, zits and smiles of denial.
This body of work is choc-full of his trademark creatures with their goofy grins in his kid-book-illustration style. These new pieces deal with the constant presence of cameras in our modern world as though each panel is a still frame from some video that is tucked away somewhere. Each feature on our own monstrous countenances frozen on a digital tape, every lie we fake, each dump we take, each smile we make. Video is unforgiving on many levels, but the most unforgiving aspect is it’s permanence.
My favorite piece in “Smile Forever” is the oversized sculptural/installation that greets you from across the room as you enter the front door. The giant blue monster in his personally tailored brown plaid shirt just sits there with his dumb-as-shit grin as a cardboard surveillance camera records the boring minutia of his silent stillness. Even the drama of a recently severed arm is static and quiet in the space. Had I not been afraid of the APSF (Art Palace Security Force) cuffing me and hauling me away, I would have given him a comforting hug in all his blueness. I guess I’ll have to resign myself to just being that subconscious stalker in the bushes out of the surveillance cameras’ eye. •