The title of Michael Loveland’s show at Miami’s LnS Gallery is ironic: One Way implies the artist doesn’t look back, but this couldn’t be less true. Once only used as reference, photos from Loveland’s personal archive now serve as the grounding visual elements in his latest collection of assemblages. The works are bright and large in scale; photo subjects range from bunches of bananas in the artist’s yard to a faded garbage dump peppered with a naturally occurring time-lapse of raccoon paw prints. The pieces are so much more than just these photos though—they also contain autobiography.
Take Amsterdam Baby, for example. The title of this piece is a reference to the city where Loveland’s daughter now attends school. There’s a photo of a rusty bicycle leaned up against a boat from his travels there. This piece is one of the most curious examples of the artist’s signature use of armature on top or around his work. There’s a steel rod going down the center of the piece which coils off to the right. When I visited the exhibit, Loveland explained his use of this and other elements. “I fabricate everything myself,” he said. “I use armature and glass as a stand-in, so to speak, for the phenomenon which occurs when humans are standing in front of an artwork blocking lines of sight and changing the experience of others to the art. Also, as a way to play with the way natural light changes throughout the day.” Another good example of this practice in action is Beware of Lola Rose. A piece-height sheet of glass with printed images of the “Beware Dog” sign which sat on the fence at his home traverses the length of a canvas—in a custom steel frame—covered with paintings and photos of flowers in an homage to his recently passed dog.
As a title, One Way contains multitudes, but it’s specifically a reference to his photo of a directional sign which sits atop the piece called Day Dreaming Boy. Loveland snapped the image on his recent travels throughout the American Southwest. The show’s name captures what is quintessentially Miami about the artist: he is constantly on the road. When I arrived at LnS, I observed a big gray van parked out front. It had roof racks. At first glance, it was typical of the kind of work van you see everywhere around town but upon closer inspection I could see the van was the result of years of care and experience. Its rivets and paint were just so. “I picked up a bunch of hurricane proof glass that had been tossed from a condo development site years ago,” Loveland told me, “But it was so heavy the truck collapsed.”
All of the artist’s idiosyncrasies—armature, road travel, personal narrative—don’t just manifest in the archival photography throughout but also in the so-called “project room” at the center of LnS Gallery. To celebrate his 50th birthday, Loveland populated the space with various works from throughout his artistic career—a career which began officially when the artist was a member of Miami’s New World School of the Arts’ first graduating class in 1991. In the project room, you can see the ways in which Loveland has refined his process. In the past, his glass and steel elements were much more worn—clearly found objects—while today his materials are painstakingly made to look clean and polished.
That most of these works were created between the beginning of the pandemic and the present explains the artist’s introspective, automatic approach this time around. The works were initially conceived in bursts of raw energy. In the project room, you can also see Loveland’s inspiration for a stream-of-consciousness approach. Besides some of his historical works, there’s also a turntable, a wall of records, and couches arranged into a makeshift lounge. The artist invites visitors to relax for a moment, and perhaps put on a John Cage record. The musician echoed as a refrain from the artist’s mouth. Cage used improvisation and audience participation in his often orchestral presentations. These elements of inspiration can be seen in the big splashes of paint in Loveland’s work, or in the aforementioned viewer participation.
Entering LnS Gallery, I was naturally pulled toward its center by the large scale works and project room in such a way that I walked past other significant new work by the artist. Loveland has lived in the same home adjacent to Biscayne Bay for nearly twenty years. He and his family have made a tradition of paddling out to the Bay’s spoil islands, recovering trash, and using it to make artwork. This ecological consciousness manifests in a collection of five monoprints he calls his Buffed Environmental series. The manipulated silkscreens are printed on captivating deep blue acrylic paper. They are centered around one of Loveland’s photos of the jetty at South Pointe on my Miami Beach. The jetty itself is a reminder of the South Floridian urge to control the ecosystem. “When it comes to my environmental art,” Loveland told me, “I think it’s better not to hit viewers over the head with it but rather invite them in and share my ecological message after they’ve entered a more receptive headspace.”
Michael Loveland: One Way is on view at LnS Gallery in Coconut Grove from February 24 thru April 8th, 2023.
This piece was published in partnership with Oolite Arts as part of a project to increase critical arts coverage in Miami-Dade County.