Michi Meko at MOCA GA in Atlanta

By January 25, 2019
Michi Meko, Malkauns: And We looked out unto it…, 2018. (Courtesy Fredrik Brauer and MOCA GA.)

Atlanta-based artist Michi Meko’s darkly intriguing solo show “It Doesn’t Prepare You for Arrival,” on view at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia through January 26, is a remarkable exhibition in its pervasive sense of silence and inaction. More than a particular meaning that’s been carved out and conveyed by the artist, the visitor is left with the implication of vast cosmic spaces. Meko seemingly turns his explorations inward as much as outward: the work is never without personal referents or specific signifiers, but its most intriguing element is the artist’s capacity to leave these imagined or remembered territories as he finds them—boundless voids. The effect is strange and unnerving.

In the monumental installation Under a Dark and Folded Ether, a cascading dark material forms a curtain with Baroque swirls, bustles and gatherings, covering an entire wall. The work makes intriguing use of a humble material: landscaping tarp, looking uncharacteristically elegant and spooky. A curtain in the theater both implies and obscures something lying beyond it, and the sense of drama in this encounter likewise indicates that the artist’s work exists not only in its material trappings but also as something beyond perception, something expansive and menacing.

Installation view of Michi Meko’s exhibition “It Doesn’t Prepare You for Arrival” at MOCA GA, showing Meko’s works Contemplating the Rage and the Looming (left) and Under a Dark and Folded Ether (right). (Courtesy Fredrik Brauer and MOCA GA.)

“‘It Doesn’t Prepare You for Arrival’ is a show that seeks silence and the comfort of solitude,” writes Meko in his statement accompanying the exhibition. “The wilderness can provide this solitude. However, there are countless reasons Black people have felt unwelcomed in natural spaces… This exhibition offers a pause, a moment to search for the transcendence at the edge of day, before the day falls into blackness.”

Christian Siriano on view at SCAD FASH in Atlanta through October 9

Meko creates this sense of meditative contemplation within the gallery, and the space suggests a chapel-like quiet. Instead of an Emersonian vision of nature as a beautiful and delicate world where humans can find rest, respite, and communion, the exhibition’s four large-scale works appear to portray nature as being as remote from human life as the unresponsive, infinite stretches of outer space.

Meko’s painting Contemplating the Rage and the Looming effectively employs materials including black fabric, hologram glitter, and curtain fringe to depict a lustrous, hypnotically deep starry expanse. Indecipherable navigational lines, which have become one of Meko’s signature visual motifs in recent years, are overlaid with repetitive tick marks like those used to keep track of passing days in a prison cell. The strategy is repeated in the painting Malkauns: And We looked out unto it… While the reference in the title remains elusive (Malkauns is one of the oldest ragas in Indian classical music),  the work’s vision of nature is more specific than the one in Contemplating the Rage, though no less discomforting, showing a nighttime landscape.

Michi Meko, A Coded Message to Escape, 2018. (Photo courtesy Fredrik Brauer and MOCA GA.)

In the installation A Coded Message to Escape, the exhibition’s sense of mystery and mounting tension reaches a high mark. An avid fisherman, Meko nearly drowned in an accident in 2015, and fishing lines, weights and buoys have made resonant appearances in his work ever since. With crabbing nets and buoys placed against a field suggesting a night sky, the installation evokes opposing, irresolvable forces frozen in momentary balance—life and death, past and present, motion and stillness. This is not the comforting quiet of the natural world; it’s the unsettling hush of submersion, of loss and death, the dreamlike palimpsest of signs rather than their clear or logical accumulation.

Michi Meko’s solo exhibition “It Doesn’t Prepare You for Arrival” is on view at the Museum of Contemporary Art Georgia in Atlanta through January 26.

This article features one of the artists participating in Art Crush, BURNAWAY’s upcoming auction and fundraiser, on Saturday, February 16 at The Factory Atlanta in Chamblee. Find out more about this year’s event—which includes a silent auction, interactive installations, live printmaking, and more—and purchase your tickets here.

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