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Mike Arata Past and Present: LA Art in the 90s

Sculpture, activities, photo, drawing, painting, installation.
Michael Arata

Your shows at Miller Durazo? “Killer Rainbows. I mostly remember random openings. It was a nice gritty time to get together with other artist and complain, dialog, plan and socialize. It was more like an art club.

“Life was bleak in the mid-nineties. I was teaching for low income and the future did not look promising. Things got much better as we approached the millennium. I was making “Pet Space” sculpture and photos. This included the colorful and grayscale rainbows. Content oriented.” How has your art evolved now? “Same, just more edgy content. read more

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Michael Arata, “Spanking Machine,”, 2001-04, Lambda print

If you saw Michael Arata’s work around the mid-90’s, most curators would have told you he’s headed to hell in a hand basket. In fact, I can still recall a group show organized by Bill Radewic (“Documenta”-1996) in which Arata was outfitting gray scaled rainbows with machine guns. Arata referred to those particular pieces as “killer rainbows”-which was remarkably ironic. You see, at the time, most exhibitioners that were fortunate enough to grace the same halls as his work, esteemed him as anything but “killer”. As it turns out, the “Rainbow” series would lead to more art-this time, with greater maturity and significance.
In his most current exhibition entitled “Pet Spaces”, Arata builds upon the past with a series of photos posing as himself. In most of the photos he fills in the negative space between his legs and arms with color, assigning each of these “pet spaces” with fabricated dummy eyes. His poses mostly consist of him executing routine tasks like praying, making love, and playing games. In a few instances, he travels outside these safe boundaries by practicing ballet or posing in the same stance as a Victoria’s Secret model. read more

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ARATIKA: Film by Eric Minh Swenson

MAT GLEASON, LOS ANGELES, CA — Michael Arata embraces the abject with the pleasant sentimentality of a proud uncle. The subjects that most people would cringe from and few artists would ever consider are his preferred topics. Be it photographing his own daily bowel movements or diligently painting portraits of convicted child molesters, Arata is an earnest, hard-working artist whose monastic studio practice makes the unpleasant ordinary. Unlike shock artists who mine such territory for its PR value, Michael creates with no hype in mind; he seems guided by a determination to make the reviled into something ordinary. Most Los Angeles artists give lip service to the late Mike Kelley. While emulating the slacker aesthetic of Kelley’s work, few artists seek the anti-sublime affect that it had on viewers. Arata is heir to that legacy of using simple, mundane materials to make the ickier things in life a central subject in art. The reactions viewers have had to his work vary — some collectors purchase it, others experience a reflexive vomit response. While he may not be the first artist to ever explore the theme of beastiality, he certainly found an original theme in adding the sainthood of deflowered sheep. In an art world glut of conflating high fashion with fine art, Arata examined the negative space in between the arms and legs of the supermodel and made spooky sculptures to be mounted for a couture pose. The possibilities are infinite — if it makes you recoil in shame, horror or disgust, Michael Arata is working on it in his studio to compelling results. For more info on Eric Minh Swenson or project inquiries visit his website ART FILM SERIES: read more

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