'Dismal Dreaming'

solo exhibition by Michael Ashkin

April 22 - June 5, 2016

Related publication:

were it not for

published by FW:Books 2019


Press Release:

Cathouse is proud to present a dual gallery solo exhibition of recent works by Michael Ashkin spanning both our FUNeral and Proper spaces. 'Dismal Dreaming' opened first at Cathouse FUNeral on March 26; it continues at Cathouse Proper opening Friday, April 22 with Ashkin’s new extreme series of over 500 black and white photographs, each printed 4x5”, that intensively pursue failed developments, forgotten spaces, and the dregs of American capital in select areas of California. Considering the sheer volume of photographs, each is a surprisingly taut compositional idea that repeatedly and deftly locates a place (California, but not) suffused with regret and longing. There are no snapshots here, each is investigative and discursive but also, in equal measure, haunted and uncanny. Ashkin has worked with large photo grids in the past, and also photo book editions ('Garden State', 'Long Branch'), which focus on a particular place. 'Dismal Dreaming' is this and more as it pushes us toward an intelligent but obsessive infinity of seemingly endless dread. 

At Cathouse FUNeral is a new material direction for the artist: constructed photo spray-paintings. The new paintings on corrugated cardboard and course grit sandpaper evoke interior and exterior views of industrial or institutional settings that are installed, here, with a sensitivity to narrative. Mostly black and white, the paintings are not realistic, but rather deceptively photographic, and are carefully constructed with layered stenciling techniques that leave a trace in paint of what is depicted (a miniature light post, a rendered parapet). With this exhibition, Ashkin brings his already formative engagement with photography, sculpture, installation and video to bear on the language of painting.

Select Biography:

Michael Ashkin's work spans various media, including sculpture, installation, photography, video, poetry, and text. His work addresses the role of aesthetic representation in the economic and political production of space. After receiving a BA from the University of Pennsylvania and an MA from Columbia University in Middle East Languages and Cultures, he worked in the business world for eight years before choosing to become an artist. He received an MFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1993. Since then he has shown extensively nationally and internationally including the Whitney Biennial (1997), Greater New York (2000), Documenta 11 (2002), and Vienna Secession (2009). His most recent book, Long Branch, was published in 2014. He has been awarded two Pollock-Krasner Fellowships (1997, 2012) and a Guggenheim Fellowship (2009). He is currently Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Art at Cornell University.


Michael Ashkin installing 'Dismal Dreaming'