The Softest Bullet

11.03.16 – 16.04.16
Galerie Sebastien Bertrand presents its second solo exhibition of New York based artist Michael Hilsman.
The exhibition’s paradoxical title The Softest Bullet relates to some of the sympathetic opposites that seem to reappear in Hilsman’s work: mysticism and realism, fragmentation and embodiment, abstraction and solid form. The exhibition is comprised of recent paintings, which, like previous work, employ the use of the figure and still life. The images within these formats disorient themselves, become shuffled and seem to breed new logic.
More so than his previous work, the paintings in The Softest Bullet capitalize on the notion of fiction. That is, these paintings contain characters and scenarios that are constructed, imagined, and do not rely only on the rudimentary source material of observation. Though containing narrative elements, almost all of these works make use of illusionary devices that serve to obscure and complicate this narrative. Hazy smoke, clothing as disguise, veils of foliage, the screen of a fence are all part of a painterly apparatus which shields the viewer out yet reveals small glimpses of a larger hidden story.
« There is something clumsy about these works that exceed the accidental (falling from a branch, banging a knee, etc.). They reference a larger gracelessness of the body as a form and a vessel, lumbering through space and coming into contact with food, weapons, prophylactics, other bodies. Hilsman describes his own paintings as making reference to the ways in which "our absurd bodies can hold us back." We joke about how to dress them, what they emit, how to contain their trust. If we were for a moment to see them anew, as if for the first time, we'd surely recognize our bodies as both belonging to us and being totally foreign, as both totally efficient and ludicrous things. 
The problems of embodiment and fragmentation have something to do with each other, of course. With net-art and neo-formalist paintings on the rise − art that, in its most reductive terms, describes a certain numbness or passivity − Hilsman's work prompts us to confront and name our bodies. Recently a friend told me that, when surfing the internet or while on the computer for long stretches, she tends to forget that she has a body altogether. These paintings surely promote and describe the opposite feeling: a sensitivity toward the body, even as (or perhaps because) it comes apart.». Carmen Winant, 2015.
 
Michael Hilsman was born in Los Angeles in 1984 and currently lives and works in New York. In 2006 he earned a BA in Studio Art and a BA in Sociology from UC Santa Cruz and earned a MFA in Art from Hunter College in 2012. His work has been included in numerous periodicals including Modern PaintersThe Huffington PostThe Village VoiceLe Point (France)The New York TimesArte Mondadori (Italy)New American Paintings, and The Boston Globe. He has held exhibitions both nationally and internationally, including a solo exhibition The Opposite of Love at Louis B. James, New York and a two person exhibition, Emotions at Moiety, New York. He has published art criticism including a catalogue essay for the exhibition “The Power of the Ornament,” at the Belvedere Museum, Vienna. His work was included in a book published by Thames and Hudson, Nature Morte: Contemporary Artists Reinvigorate the Still Life.
Galerie Sebastien Bertrand has recently published a monograph titled Man Fall Down and Hilsman has released a vinyl record with original music also titled Man Fall Down.
La Galerie Sébastien Bertrand présente la seconde exposition personnelle de l’artiste new-yorkais Michael Hilsman.
Le titre paradoxal de cette exposition, The Softest Bullet (La plus douce des balles), rappelle certaines des drôles d’oppositions qui abondent dans l’œuvre de Michael Hilsman : mysticisme et réalisme, fragmentation et incarnation, abstraction et forme concrète.
Comme dans ses travaux précédents, la nouvelle série de peintures associe figures humaines et natures mortes. Les images saisies dans ces formats sont comme désorientées, mêlées les unes aux autres, sources de logiques inédites.  
Bien que dans la continuité de son travail antérieur, ces peintures explorent un peu plus la notion de fiction. En réalité, elles contiennent des personnages et des scénarios qui ont été imaginés et construits ; ils ne dépendent plus de la seule observation des éléments donnés. Bien que composées d’éléments narratifs, ces œuvres reposent bien souvent sur des « trucs » d’illusionniste pour mieux obscurcir ou complexifier le propos. Fumées brumeuses, tenues de camouflage, voiles de feuillage ou barrières campent un ensemble pictural qui tient le spectateur à l’écart, bien qu’il puisse saisir d’infimes parties d’un récit tant révélé que dissimulé.
« Il y a quelque chose de maladroit dans ces œuvres, qui va au-delà de l’accidentel (tomber d’un arbre, se cogner le genou, etc.). Elles font référence à quelque état disgracieux immanent du corps humain, comme forme et comme vaisseau, un corps qui se déplace lourdement dans l’espace et se heurte à des aliments, des armes, des produits prophylactiques, voire à d’autres corps. Hilsman lui-même est d’avis que ses peintures relèvent des différentes façons « qu’ont nos corps absurdes de nous retenir ». Nous blaguons sur la manière de les vêtir, sur ce qu’ils émettent, sur notre capacité à freiner leur élan. Si nous pouvions les voir avec un regard nouveau, comme pour la première fois, nous verrions sûrement nos corps à la fois comme nous appartenant et comme étrangers, à la fois efficaces et vraiment grotesques. 
Il va sans dire que les problèmes posés par l’incarnation et la fragmentation sont liés. Face à l’essor de l’art en ligne, face à ce « net-art » et aux peintures néo-formalistes – art qui, en termes sévèrement réducteurs, est empreint de torpeur, voire de passivité –, le travail d’Hilsman nous engage à nommer et à appréhender nos corps. Il y a peu, une amie me racontait qu’après avoir longuement surfé sur Internet ou longuement travaillé à l’écran, elle en venait à oublier qu’elle avait un corps. Ces peintures portent et instillent une sensation diamétralement opposée : celle de la conscience du corps, même si – voire parce que –  il se désagrège. » Carmen Winant, 2015.

Born in 1984, Los Angeles.
Lives and works in Pasadena, CA.
 

Education

2012
MFA, Hunter College, New York

2006
B.A. in Art and B.A. in Social Change in the Arts, UC Santa Cruz and Delhi University, Delhi, India
 


Solo and Two Artist Exhibitions

2020     
Introductions: Michael Hilsman, White Cube, Online Exhibition

2019     
Pictures of 'M.' and Other Pictures, Almine Rech Gallery, New-York

2018     
Independent Art Fair, Two artist exhibition with Yarisal & Kublitz, Galerie Sébastien Bertrand, Brussels, Belgium
New Pictures, Galerie Sébastien Bertrand, Geneva, Switzerland 

2016    
The Softest Bullet, Galerie Sébastien Bertrand, Geneva, Switzerland

2014    
Emotions, with Jesse Wine, Moiety, New York (two person exhibition)

2013    
Boneflower, Galerie Sébastien Bertrand, Geneva

              

Group Exhibitions

2020     
Animal Kingdom, Alexander Berggruen, New York, NY, US
Portraits & Some Standing Figures, Galerie Sébastien Bertrand, Geneva, Switzerland

2019     
Still Life: An Ongoing Story, Galerie Sébastien Bertrand, Geneva, Switzerland 
             
2016    
Snow Show, curated by Carey Denniston and Kyle Dancewicz, Rzeplinski, New York 
Summer show, Galerie Sébastien Bertrand, Geneva, Switzerland

2014     
Group show, Galerie Sébastien Bertrand, Geneva, Switzerland

2013     
Yes! But Less (curated by Daria Irincheeva) Apt 16, Newark
CISCO SYSCO SISQO, La Fonda, Rockaway Beach, New York
Moon Over Mountain Pass, Trailer Park Proyects, San Juan, Puerto Rico
100 Little Deaths, BravinLee Programs, New York

2012    
Un Lugar en la Horoptera, Asociacion Cultural Mediodia Chica, Madrid, Spain
              


Bibliography

“Man Fall Down.” Monograph, published by Galerie Sébastien Bertrand, 2015
Nature Morte: Contemporary Artists Reinvigorate the Still Life Tradition, Michael Petry, published by Thames and Hudson. 2013 (Forthcoming)
The Huffington Post, “12 Must See Painting Shows,” November, 2012.
Modern Painters, “Two For the Weekend,” Indrisek ,Scott, November, 2012.
Modern Painters, “100 Artists to Watch,”pgs. 65-66, Dec/Jan 2012
Le Point (France), “Interview: Michael Hilsman,” Virginie Lauret, pgs, 90-91, January 2012,
Boston Globe, “Monstrously provocative portraits,” Cate McQuaid, February 9, 2011
New American Paintings Blog, “11 Painters to Watch in 2011,” Evan J Garza, January 10, 2011
Modern Edition Blog, “New Art Talent”, December 2011
The Huffington Post, “Tomorrow’s Art Stars Today,” Steven Zevitas, April 18, 2011
Paperbag Journal, Issue No. 2, January 2011.



Published Art Criticism

«Dan Herschlein’s Safe as Houses», riotmaterial.com, March 2016
A Moment in Time: Fragmentation and Reformulation, Rashid Rana (monograph contribution) Mumbai, 2011
The Power of the Ornament (Die Machts des Ornaments), exhibition catalogue, Belvedere Museum, Vienna, Austria, 2009
Hanging Fire: Contemporary Art from Pakistan, exhibition text excerpt, Asia Society Museum, New York, 2009
 


Awards and Honors

Dedalus Foundation MFA Grant Nominee 2011
Artist-in-Residence, Hungarian Multicultural Center, Budapest, Hungary, June-July 2009
Visiting Faculty, Beaconhouse National University, Lahore, Pakistan, July-August 2008
Alumni Lecture Honorarium for introduction talk to Hank Willis Thomas: Signifying Blackness at Sesnon Gallery, UC Santa Cruz
Katherine E. Metz Painting and Drawing award, Spring 2006
Chancellor’s Undergraduate Internship Award Program Participant at Sesnon Gallery 2005
Irwin Project Grant recipient 2004, 2005, 2006
College Honors for individual major, Social Change and the Arts, 2006