StatementMy recent work has its genesis in my observations of a paper recycling plant located next to my studio building in St. Paul, Minnesota. Out my window I can see a never-ending stream of semi trucks pull up next to the plant and disgorge mountains of used cardboard boxes, packing materials, and bales of compressed paper. The paper is dumped in a concrete yard, forming a constantly shifting landscape that rises and falls, spreads and recedes as the days pass. Every so often, the piles must be sprayed with a water cannon to keep them from catching on fire or to prevent the wind from scattering the paper across the neighborhood. Despite the constant bustle of activity in the yard, the piles never disappear.
Since making a series of paintings and drawings of the paper plant, I have visited scrap metal yards, a bottle factory, and a neighborhood recycling facility. I am fascinated by the piles of scrap material at these sites, which uncannily resemble the natural landscape in their structure and complexity, textural and topographical variety, and cyclical rhythms and patterns.
Recently my focus has shifted from broader views of the sites to close-ups of the scrap material itself. Sorted and organized by type, it tends to resist categorization and orderliness – the wind blows the paper out of its neatly defined piles and stacks, scattering it across the yard; crushed into cubes, the rusted metal bends and twirls, creating organic rhythms at odds with the rigid geometry imposed upon it. The imagery is rich with associations -- life and death, growth and decay, order and chaos.
Michael Kareken received a BA in Visual art from Bowdoin College in 1983, and his MFA degree from Brooklyn College, CUNY in 1986. He also attended the Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture (1988) and the Yale Summer School of Music & Art (1982). After graduating from Brooklyn College, Kareken lived and worked in New York City until 1993, when he moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota. Since 1996 Kareken has taught at the Minneapolis College of Art & Design, where he is a Professor of Fine Arts.
Kareken is the recipient of a 2010 Bush Artist Fellowship and a 2009-2010 McKnight Foundation Artist Fellowship. He has also received grants from the Minnesota State Arts Board (2007, 2000, 1996), Arts Midwest (1994), the New York Foundation for the Arts (1990), and the Vogelstein Foundation (1993), as well as a residency fellowship from the Millay Colony for the Arts (1988). He has received three Faculty Research Grants from the Minneapolis College of Art & Design.
In 1997 Kareken received The Louise Nevelson Award for Art and The Childe Hassam Purchase Award from the American Academy of Arts & Letters, and has also received awards in printmaking (2002, 2000) and drawing (1996) from the National Academy of Design.
Kareken has exhibited his work in numerous group and solo exhibitions regionally and nationally, including New York, Los Angeles, Seattle and Santa Fe. His work is held in the collections of The Walker Art Center, The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, The Minnesota Museum of American Art, the Frederick Weisman Museum of Art, and the Minnesota Historical Society, among others.
See more work by Michael HERE