BELOW SEE LEVEL | Guest Writer: JAN MAJOR
Have you ever heard of the old Ultraman television show? I hadn’t until I met Mike Rader, creater of the marvelously odd experimental film Man Vs. Ultraman, which was thematically inspired by the series, and whose exhibit, showcasing art he created for the film, can be seen at the Christopher Henry Gallery at 127 Elizabeth Street, New York City until January 6th. The award winning film plays in loop on the second floor of the gallery. Next to it, you can see the original set and some of the figurines Mr. Rader used in the film. There’s a landscape of grass, mountains, and an alien infested tree overhung by the sun, a cloud, and a massive mask-like canvas that was the ultimate representation of the Man vs. Ultraman saga. The film and related exhibit are about the subconscious struggle within an artist’s mind. They depict two different facets of the artist’s psyche battling it out for dominance. Much of the artwork has been partially destroyed, such as a cloud which has a hole punched through the middle or the giant mask-like canvas which has repeatedly been repainted layer upon layer upon layer. When asked, Mr. Rader called the act of damaging his work cathartic.
One of Mr. Rader’s signatures as an artist is canvas that has been painted then dissected and redistributed throughout the space. This is best represented on the first floor of the gallery where a collage of canvas covers the wall and slinks over parts of the floor. The mix of pinks and whites reminded me of the inside of the human body. In fact, when asked, the artist described it as the “engine room of the mind”. It is supposed to depict the subconscious drive that inspires the conflict in the film upstairs, although only brief representations of it can be seen in the actual movie.
In it’s totality, the exhibit can be seen as an exploration of the brain of an artist, containing both the desire to create and the need to destroy. Almost every single piece of artwork in the exhibition has been cut, hit, or repainted. The film shows an artist working, buildings being built, an infrastructure being designed, and then how it’s destroyed and yet again, rebuilt. The exhibit features work that has been battered and changed, the final product is one that is intentionally damaged and the dichotomy between creation and destruction is constantly being depicted, prompting the age old question: In the end, are these two opposites really the same thing?