The word “ravel” is ambivalent, meaning both “to become tangled” and “to untangle.” The term captures something about what makes the work of Mike Andrews so compelling. Andrews creates raveling works in which opposing elements—handicraft and machine fabrication, the industrial and the organic, sloppiness and precision, drawn surfaces and sculptural spaces—are materially entangled and conceptually intertwined.
In Golden Gallery’s showroom on Newport Avenue, one is greeted by “Can We Get Vertical?” At seventy eight-inches tall, the scale of this sculpture’s steel armature evokes human dimensions and depths, an impression bolstered by the knotty, intestinal bundles of multicolored knitted yarn enwrapping and spilling from the steel joints. One drooping tubular tendril reaches the floor in an overflowing display of handicraft. The slender strands of steel evoke the hand-drawn line, a fact made all the more salient by juxtaposition with Andrews’ exuberantly messy collage-drawings, also on display. But here the lines are made dimensional and elegant, with any trace of the hand erased; the joints are seamless and the paint smooth. The tension between the vertical stability of the fabricated steel frame and the limp yarn succumbing to gravity is revisited in “Not so disco,” a hunching, ambiguous mass of fabric and yarn propped up by a hidden internal armature. Somehow cozily grotesque, this heaping, vaguely biomorphic concoction, like other works in the show, is in the vein of “sloppy craft.” Yet for all its yarny discharges and loose ends, this piece is a far cry from the abject and regressive contrivances of, say, Mike Kelley. Rather, Andrews is meticulous and precise, even and especially in his sloppiness; his excesses convey a strategic engagement with (as well as delight in) all the tactile possibilities of his materials. His will to precision is most obvious in his animated work “Shrug it off,” where digitized lines and angular geometries, drawn with the help of software, emerge and transform organically—a complex entanglement of hand and machine.
Andrews’ dis/entanglements reach industrial proportions in Golden’s auxiliary space (now closed for renovation), where one was confronted by “Let’s get out.” This sculpture consists of a massive, boxy frame of powder-coated steel supporting the loose weave of a sagging network of knitted and tangled yarn. The soft, semi-architectural grid hemmed in by the rigorous geometry of the cleanly fabricated square makes the piece at once monumental and not. Here as elsewhere, the source of fascination lies in Andrews’ practice of raveling: he at once interweaves and renders distinct various techniques, materials and concepts. As with the grid of yarn, the conflicts in these relations are not so much resolved as more or less contained, affording the dual pleasure of tension and its loosening. (Jeremy Biles)
Through January 23 at Golden Gallery, 816 West Newport.e