There are very few artists in this world that I would lay a Jerry MacGuire-esque "You Complete Me" line on, but Wisconsin-based sculptor Michael Rea is one of them. Somehow, when I became aware of his work, it was like a long lost Michael Rea-shaped puzzle piece was put back in its proper place. Holy crap! Have you seen his work? Have you been holding out on me all this time?
MIchael Rea is the real deal. He creates elaborately carved and constructed wooden sculptures based on his obsessions....movies, weapons, space and rocknroll. Each piece is better than the one that came before it--witness the above piece, a wood and fur Manet tableau that sometimes contains a real-life pretty lady. How in the world can one human being be this productive? I would suspect the answer lies in being stuck for half the year in the tundra that is Wisconsin, but that's another story.
If Martin Puryear had grown up on a diet of nothing but Star Wars and Kiss albums, I suspect the result would be similar to Michael Rea. Fecal Face has an incredible interview with him posted on their site. Rea comes off very similar to his work--a perfect mixture of humor, earnestness, enthusiasm and sarcasm. His demeanor is every bit as perfectly crafted as his work. The Contemporary Art Center of Virginia will be putting on a new Rea exhibition entitled "Wood I, Could I?" in April. I remember a weird childhood pull-toy that was made out of wood...some kind of crazy anteater beast on uneven wheels. Michael Rea evokes a similar wonder at the limitless possibilities that old fashioned wood carving and joinery holds. What will he dream into wood next?