Mike Childs


Curated by Cameron Martin

December 8, 2005 – January 28, 2006

“…. this exhibition contains the most sophisticated articulation

to date of Mike’s personal sensibility and particular view of the

complex space of the urban world.”

—Cameron Martin

Growing up in Toronto during the 1970’s, artist Mike Childs experienced a city in the perpetual motion of demolition and rebuilding. Now, living and working within the heady atmosphere of New York’s present building boom, the constant reworking of a city’s skyline continues to

hold a certain fascination for the artist. Constantly absorbing and incorporating new influences, Childs’ architectonic investigations of pattern and color constitute his most recent series of acrylic paintings. Grid-like patterns formed by the clusters of Midtown Manhattan buildings, their individual exteriors, combined with the arbitrary patterns and color formations found within Pennsylvania Amish and Gee’s Bend quilts, are among the rich mosaic of visual references which have informed the seven paintings and two drawings selected for his first solo exhibition Quilt making represents a homespun, feminine vernacular, whose idiosyncratic compositions of form and color, along with shifts of scale, provides Childs with the ideal counterbalance to the disciplined formalism and elitist underpinnings of his academic training, and the totemic  masculinity of architecture. An inveterate collector of sensations and information, and a self described “junk collector” of simulations, Childs is able to explore the innate contradictions in how patterns are formed by often looking up at Midtown office buildings at night, and tracing the random grids of light produced by the assortment of lit offices.

Childs’ approach to painting though is more rigorous than spontaneous, requiring him to work from sketches, re-visit, and re-work a painting over time until he achieves the necessary results for completion. In many ways, this ability to review and edit over long periods of time relates to his love for discovering the strange hodge-podge progression of buildings which chronicle periods of downturn and renewal along the main streets of once-celebrated Northeastern cities and towns. Though lacking the hubris and brio of New York’s and Toronto’s corporate structures, Childs views these hidden architectural gems, located in places like Atlantic City, NJ; Buffalo, NY; and Worcester, MA, as mausoleums with a hidden language buried within them, to be resurrected and reinterpreted in the artist’s mind into fragments of beauty. Rendering unusual pattern discoveries into pen and ink drawings on post-card size paper, he later sifts through these drawings and uses them as building blocks for his larger scale work. During his wanderings, Childs also looks for color relationships. Wonderful color passages catch his eye in some very unusual places, such as piles of building materials stocked next to or on top of each other found at construction sites.


Color is the most delicate aspect of creating imagery, and is the most instinctive part of what he does. The title flaventhrone 2005, a particular color designation for the sky, came from a vast color chart located inside an unusual pigment store he frequents, whose color offerings are vast enough to help him match the colors in his head. Color functions in Childs’ paintings like the sounds produced by musical harmonies. Having long been interested in minimalist composers like Steve Reich or Philip Glass, he finds that certain parallels exist between their use of repetition in the patterns of their musical forms and his own relationship with patterns.


Though his architecturally-influenced abstraction has passed through many phases, the spirit of renewal remains a constant underlying force in his work. “The act of making an image,” according to Childs, “really defines, as do our contemporary cities, the notion of undetermined boundaries being drawn. Each limitation of scale seems immediately surpassed by some new innovation and each new idea requires the cleared space in which to work.”


Heidi Cho Gallery is pleased to present Picture Imperfect, a solo show by Mike Childs in which he exhibits his most recent work.

Modern architecture is Mike Childs’ most immediate inspiration for his abstract painting. His paintings are intended to answer a fundamental question, that of the human position as it relates to architectural development. Mr. Childs’ journey has been rooted by a personal dynamic in which he searches for an answer of what abstraction means for him. He has moved from a strict geometric approach toward one which incorporates a more organic language, all the while maintaining his talents as a prolific colorist.

A birds-eye mapping of a developing land, Rolling (2007) depicts a crossroads between pathways (the journey) and the dwelling, or destination. The composition is defined by intercrossed sections and empirical roads; rivers of colors flooding the surface are filled with inversed U-shaped structures which paraphrase, in a creative and stimulating way, actual suburban developments. These areas are built using a subtle palette of color stratification. The section borders are created with an effortless technique that keeps the internal rhythm flowing and lightly contrasts with the rigid structural dwellings that proliferate throughout the planes. Rolling moves and dances in the space.      

Flaventhrone (2005) can be considered a key development within Childs’ body of work, having grown out of his formal research into geometric abstraction. Its structure is based upon a relation of positive and negative values, through which Childs implements colors of varying intensity. A warm color palette associates this work with a “spring and summer” state of mind. Meanwhile, 4:30 (2008) is similarly constructed but uses a cooler palette of colors. Childs revisits the compositional structure in which geometric components of the piece are embraced by an organic form, building an internal tension and resolving it with a quieted colorist balance. Flaventhrone is infused with the joy of color and life, while 4:30 is a metaphorical reflection of that winter light that comes without consent through Childs’ studio window. It lives as an ephemeral moment, offering a natural rhythmic opening into the mysteries of the night, transgendering from yellow to purple, from gray to black. The trajectory from Flaventhrone to 4:30 completes a cycle of life translated into a sophisticated abstract language. 




RHV Fine Art 

RHV Fine Art is please to announce an exhibition of drawings, collages and mixed media paintings

by New York based Canadian artist Mike Childs.

In over 15 years of studio practice Childs has developed a minimal, mainly abstract language of

patterns, symbols, structural logic and colors derived from photographs of Modern buildings he has

taken of buildings in Toronto, Canada and New York City. Of particular interest to him is what he describes as, “a

fascination with the half-built, often found at construction or demolition sites.” This fascination is revealed in his work

through introductions of large biomorphic color fields that create visual tension and subvert the geometric

structure of the painting. He views each painting as, “either on its way to being finalized, or on its way to being half

destroyed.” This coupling of opposites, biomorphic with geometric or irrational with rational, or the built with the

unbuilt is for Childs a method for embracing and subverting abstraction in an effort to find meaning in contemporary

image making.

This constantly changing urban environment and how humans negotiate this space is of main concern to Childs.

His work is an examination of a culturally dictated perspective as revealed in image making. Mike Childs received

his BFA from the University of Guelph, Canada, and an MFA from Florida State University. He is the recipient of

several awards including a Pollock-Krasner Grant and a Lower Manhattan Cultural Council Project Award. His work

has been exhibition nationally and internationally. He maintains a studio in the Harlem neighborhood of Manhattan.

RHV Fine Art