Almine Rech⎜Paris, Matignon is pleased to present Michael Hilsman's second solo exhibition with the gallery, on view from February 24 to April 2, 2022.
Los Angeles, city of mirrors, what Jean Baudrillard called a “paradisiac and inward-looking illusion,” is everywhere and nowhere in Michael Hilsman’s paintings. The Southern California landscape in which the artist was born and raised – and where he lives and works today – appears in his work as a space for self-reflection. Like the fabricated façades of a movie set, the works’ primary illusion is their appearance of flatness, which only enhances their metaphysical depth. Bodies study their own contours in a limitless expanse. Loneliness is as abundant as sunshine. Lush gardens and empty horizons, bathed in crepuscular light, are places where the subconscious will roam.
“Man On Bed” the work from which this exhibition takes its name, is deceptively flat in both form and title. Like an analyst’s couch, the titular lounger is a device for day-dreaming. Its pink upholstery is a ground upon which Hilsman has rendered – with unsettling detail – a man’s feet protruding from beneath a blanket. Light glints off each nail and the second toe on the left foot bends at the tip, revealing a broken phalanx. Bony and elongated with sallow skin, these alien appendages are a metonym of modern man’s estrangement from his own body, a corpus increasingly objectified and pathologized. They illustrate what Hilsman describes as his effort to “foreground the physical in order to highlight the unseen.” The blanket, meanwhile, occupies central ground in the painting, a white surface applied to a canvas that’s no longer blank, its many folds inviting the projection of our mind’s eye. Like the Shroud of Turin, it bears the impression of an otherwise invisible body, a talisman of art’s power to stimulate the imagination in the midst of alienation and spiritual emptiness.
— Evan Moffitt, writer and critic