I first became acquainted with Michael Amter’s work a few years ago when I had a solo show at Gallery Aferro in Newark, New Jersey. He had a video showing upstairs while my show of paintings was on the ground floor. I get bored in galleries pretty easily, and art videos seem to push my patience past its limit.
But Amter’s work was different. These were not the usual slow-moving, easily dismissed art videos. There was a whole set of cartoony symbols and relationships in his tightly edited work that made a kind of strange, sometimes creepy sense, though I could not precisely decode them. I also could not stop watching.
The first link, Fall from Grace (sample) is a very short clip from his piece Fall from Grace that he showed at Gallery Aferro in his later solo show of the same title in 2011. This exhibition was mesmerizing – it not only included the aforementioned video, but numerous graphics and ink drawings that had a painter’s touch fused with a love of comic and animation art. The show investigated his issues pertaining to his manic depression by couching it in a mythic good vs. evil framework. With its artful repetition of key images that were both cute and threatening, I felt as if I had walked into a world that inspired both paranoia and a childlike delight.
The second link, 東京, is a short video that uses music of Maki Kinoshita. It’s a more stripped down work than the aforementioned “Fall from Grace”. Its spare, melancholic beauty acts as a cathartic meditation on the passage of time and space.
I’ve used words like creepy, paranoid and melancholic to describe Amter’s work and these are all apt. But while these characteristics would seem to point to a very closed down, oppressive experience, the work is instead peculiarly open and mind-expanding. His work should be a bummer. It’s anything but.
For more examples of Michael Amter’s work, please go to: www.michaelamter.com
His video work can also be experienced in various permutations on YouTube