Parker's Box


Herr und Frau :
Mike Rogers

September 14th - October 21st, 2012

In his latest solo exhibition at Parker’s Box, Los Angeles-based artist, Mike Rogers provides a cocktail of works that are likely to intrigue the spectator, not least by their diversity. At the same time, perhaps more than ever before in Rogers’ work, his latest feature-length film, along with recent colored pencil drawings and new sculptures, all provide oblique but insidious irony in relation to the mundane experiences, hopes and aspirations of much of our lives – perhaps especially those lived in the depths of America. This has been the trademark of Rogers’ practice over the years - flirting constantly with his own brand of self-mockery towards the middle-aged, suburban, American male that he is, while at the same time establishing quirky and compelling esthetic protocols that the artist extracts from unlikely sources lurking within the superficial banality of his subjects and their content.

The title of the exhibition, Herr und Frau is drawn from what is perhaps the most ambitious work in the show – a feature-length, subtitled film in German, whose protagonists are two crudely carved marionettes in the title roles. It’s interesting to note that while Herr means Mr., Frau means both Mrs. and woman – a quirk that recurs in numerous languages, indicating their linguistic roots in times and cultures when a man’s “wife” was his “woman”, and all “women” were necessarily expected to be “wives” hence the two words being one. Some might suggest that the film evokes nostalgia for those past ages of male “superiority”, though that’s perhaps hard to believe in the light of the male character being shown as a vulgar, belligerent and surely “inferior” animal, guided by his base desires (TV, beer, sex…). So is this a work of observation, or are we to suppose that Mike Rogers’ own life is the incarnation of the sordid and dreary side of contemporary existence that we see depicted? Or, on the contrary, is he an existentialist male feminist and highly critical of his own sex? Or then again is his film an attempt at achieving redemption…?

Perhaps some clue might be found in the strange decision to produce his film entirely in German, in the somewhat stilted language of phrasebooks, or books intended for language learning. Rogers, who does not speak German, wanted to accentuate the awkwardness and primitive nature of modern human relations, and felt that he could best do that with the guttural tones and rhythm of German, boosted by inane language learning repetition and phraseology! Adding to the mix is the set’s dominating flatscreen TV, showing an endless stream of televangelists and a Spanish game show featuring buxom hostesses and contestants

Rogers is perhaps most of all a master at laying bare his true subject with uncanny and subliminal clarity by presenting something very like its opposite. This is a complex process, undoubtedly enhanced by strong elements of intuition, irony and wry humor as flamboyantly demonstrated in The Third Eye, Rogers’ extraordinary 2008 comic book jaunt through the west coast contemporary art scene.

Rogers’ exhibition also presents two sculptures that seem to be doing everything they can to make sculpture disappear up its own glorious creek without a paddle. Once again, the artist takes what can only be termed the lowest common denominator of American living-room bad taste and turns it into kitsch abstraction, complete with mirrors and colored fairy lights, the whole thing politely averting itself from our critical gaze by hiding inside upturned wooden boxes hanging from the ceiling on chains. Looking from the outside like some kind of a hybrid produced by the fusion of an electrified instrument of fetishist torture and a medical electrode chamber, these sculptures seem at first sight to have eschewed all of the esthetic and formal qualities that any self-respecting artist would be expected to follow. When contemplating this ugly hanging box, we realize that by ducking under the rim of the box, we can raise our head inside it. Here we experience a claustrophobic chamber of mirrors reflecting each other to infinity, and adorned with a multitude of points of colored light emanating from the tiny fairy light bulbs, pushed into the space through holes in its walls.

The two sculptures carry titles of scientific reference: Quadrupole and The Cambrian Explosion, thus tying them to the suggestion that they are perhaps scientific models rather than objects of decoration. That said, their objecthood gives these works a concrete reality that certainly makes them also feel like abstract expressions of gaudy items of home decoration. The Cambrian Explosion is hung in the main gallery and is surrounded by the artist’s most recent series of colored pencil drawings representing views of the science laboratories of a noted Nobel laureate. The mechanism mentioned above wherein the work actually validates itself and its resonance through the fact that realism and abstraction end up imposing themselves as one and the same – also operates in these drawings, though perhaps in the opposite direction. Here, Rogers’ meticulously detailed renderings of the laboratories are transformed by the addition of quite obsessive decorative marks, covering almost every available surface – surfaces that in the real lab are clinically uniform and empty. The highly functional scientific facility thus becomes as manically decorative – and challengingly kitsch- as the sculptures.

Mike Rogers’ universe is often thought of as a particularly wacky one, but it nevertheless holds a mirror to our own, and the complementary components of his new exhibition take us gently by the hand and lead us on a tour that visits the enthusiastically busy decorations of Quadropole and The Cambrian Explosion, followed by the intensely intriguing detailed renderings of the “Biology Lab Series” drawings, to finally reach the screening of Herr und Frau in the back gallery. The film perhaps more openly explores some of the artists underlying preoccupations and launches the spectator into a world that may even prove embarrassing should it become too close to comfort to the things that we experience or know.

Mike Rogers is represented in Europe by Rachmaninoff’s in London and by Cosar HMT in Düsseldorf, Germany. Among his most recent notable exhibitions have been those in 2011-12, when, along with his London-based collaborator, Dustin Ericksen, he showed the important ongoing work Cups (1996-present), in a prestigious touring exhibition in Germany including showings at the Künsthalle, Düsseldorf and Künstmuseum, Stuttgart among other venues. The work was also shown in a different form at the Museo Carillo Gil in Mexico City.


Herr und Frau, 2007, still from video,
Video and Super 8 transferred to DVD, 100'.


Quadrupole, 2011, mirror, foam balls,
lights, metal chain, wood, 19 x 19 x 18 inches.


The Cambrian Explosion, 2011, mirror,
foam balls, lights, metal chain, wood,
20 x 20 x 20 inches.


Tip Room Facing South from The Biology
Lab Series, 2011, colored pencil on
paper, 14 x 20 inches.


Flow Cytometry Room from The Biology
Lab Series, 2012, colored pencil on
paper, 14 x 20 inches.


Large Equipment Room from The Biology
Lab Series, 2012, colored pencil on paper,
14 x 20 inches.

Parker's Box
193 Grand St. Brooklyn, NY 11211