The press release for Mike Pratt’s solo exhibition casually compares his new paintings to sandwiches, quoting the artist as saying that he wanted them to be ugly but only succeed a little at that. Upon seeing these works, the sandwich metaphor indeed makes sense, as here are five substantial objects that are so tactile they almost seem edible—layered as any good sandwich should be. These works hold the middle ground between painting and sculpture, as they’re more or less rectangular and hang on walls while also stepping into space with a large boulder of epoxy putty jutting out, as in Night and Day, 2015. The blankets and fabrics hanging behind these pieces give the feeling that the works physically hover between floor and wall and, formally, between sculpture and painting. The basic material of all these works is brittle wax, with Styrofoam plates serving as structural support. Pratt then works upon the surfaces with resin, oil paint, epoxy, party glitter, or even an artificial bird, as in I like to know just who my friends are, 2015.
These self-consciously naive works are unhurried and easygoing, with an aesthetic that’s slightly uncomfortable in the apparently slapdash approach to artmaking. But the works also have a darker undertone that manifests itself in such pieces asSwimming with Dolphins, 2014, which has a Frankenstein feel due to its skin-like surface and rough stitches visible underneath a coating of wax, or in Sleeping Moon/Empty Bowl, 2014, which resembles at once a delicious chocolate-paste sandwich and a huge, scatological feast.