Mike Solomon’s view of Sarasota

by Mark Ormand, Pelican Press  

April 12, 2006 — Man-made changes in the landscape of Sarasota have been an issue since the Calusa Indians created settlements off Sarasota Bay. Mike Solomon, who now lives in East Hampton, is showing a body of work he calls “Sarasota Elegies” at Greene Contemporary on Pineapple. They are based on work he made in response to changes he saw here in 1982, when he lived on Siesta Key.

The work from the ‘80s was made with picture postcards scenes of beaches and sites in Sarasota he marked with wax crayons. His 2006 work is substantially larger in scale and he has used the newest technology available and a sophisticated printing process to create works that are pigment ink on rag paper with UV varnish. The transformation in scale and materials has altered many aspects of the earlier work and indeed created objects that are profoundly different.

The “Elegies” have the power of paintings and in fact, from a distance appear to be paintings on panels. With close inspection even the trained eye is confounded by the texture of the surface. The camera that scanned the postcards from the ‘80s has enlarged the dot pattern of the original postcards and the areas that were covered with wax remain opaque. The surface has a grain and a richness that is more like a canvas.

In “Leggy” Solomon has turned horizontal postcards on their sides. Roads and tree trunks are subverted and provide the foundation for orange, magenta and blue crayon lines that are elegant and lyrical. In “Passageway” Solomon takes us on a trip where we feel like we are doing rollovers in a barnstormer traveling over the barrier islands. His colors of white foam, sea blues and greens, contrasted with orange, level off the vista to an abstract view that rivets us.

In “Causeway” he has used the same postcard three times with the middle one reversed. Each is slightly different in the line and gesture that floats across the surface. Stacked one over the other they read as a coherent integrated formal composition that is solid and balanced.

In “Sunset Scribble” we have to search for traces of the skyline of New York or the fronds of palm trees. Solomon unites four postcards with the blue line of the crayon. In “Dance of the Sea Cows” we want to thread through the tangle of lines to find the freedom of the water beyond.

Through the transformative aspect of Solomon’s process to rethink his ideas from the ‘80s, he has managed to produce more profound statements that address the current disruption of the natural beauty of Sarasota to a denser and more opaque environment where we must work harder to see water and sky.