Late last year an unknown artist came to gallerist Casey Bergen asking if he could rent space to display his work. Casey explained that ACA Galleries represents artist and exhibits their work, though the only time in recent memory that ACA had taken on a new artist was Bradley Theodore’s smashingly successful debut a year earlier. But when Casey saw the collection and heard the story, he knew he was onto something special. Now through July 29th, ACA Galleries will present Cryptographics, a career retrospective of the work of multi-media artist Michael Netter.
While Michael Netter may not be a household name (yet), he comes with a solid pedigree, having been a protege of NYC pop art luminary Andy Warhol in the early 1970s. Netter had always considered himself a painter, but in the documentarian atmosphere of The Factory, he quickly became obsessed with creating video art; he could often be found filming the bizarre goings on at Warhol’s surreal incubator, and editing video on the spot with his beloved and indispensable Sony Porta-pak.
Netter left the wild world of the Factory in 1973, and was able to transition into a successful career in the advertising sphere. But, through it all, Netter never stopped painting. The 75+ paintings, assemblages, and video collages, produced over the span of 30+ years, have never been shown to the public.
I had the privilege of seeing the show earlier this month, and I found this collection of works to be fun and relatable. In Cryptographics, Netter harnesses the power of familiar pop culture images, frees them from their moorings, and juxtaposes them in new and exciting ways. Warhol’s influence is superficially evident in Netter’s use of brand logos and pop tropes, but the message is a different one; Netter is wry without being overly cynical, and the overall effect amounts to witty, engaging, open-ended cultural commentary.
Netter is a veteran of both the avant-garde world and the world of corporate design, and under his brush, they collide on the canvas; in the art of Michael Netter the symbols of consumer culture are re-contextualized in colorful patterns and playful geometric puzzles, mapping the hidden landscape of our cultural subconscious. In the words of the artist, “My style is intentionally elemental: unmannered, denotative, vernacular, iconographic and impersonal. I want my work to feel like it was found on street walls.”
Michael Netter: Cryptographics is on display at ACA Galleries until July 29th.