The Little Details That Unfold: an interview with Michael Ross

Michael Ross, installation view of Chortle, from the exhibition Time Repair, 2023, Galería Mascota, Mexico City, Mexico 


Michael Ross (1954) is a sculptor based in New York City and his solo exhibition Time Repair is currently on view at Galería Mascota in Mexico City. At the time of writing this, it has been a few weeks since I had the pleasure of seeing his show. Its effects lingered on my visual perceptions days after. In an intimate yet spacious setting, Ross presents us with meticulous sculptures that seamlessly dialogue with the world outside the large, street-facing window of the gallery. Upon entering, I was greeted by the golden glint of War Film, which caused me to pause before moving towards the other six pieces that color the main room. Positioned in the entrance hall, the sculpture’s dual cylindrical adornments suggest we may approach the show in a cyclical manner. With every loop around the room, different scenarios played out between each of the wall-mounted sculptures, all under the watchful eye of the circular eponym piece in its central position on the back wall. Later on, after leaving the gallery, I recalled having peered up at Chortle through the window from the sidewalk below. Evoking a silhouetted landscape scene, its layers of flat, metallic pieces create a composition that subtly reflects the life around it.

In the following days, while staying with friends at the wooded western edge of the capital, I experienced other moments where the visual imagery of Time Repair would magically appear. On one morning drive down from the mountainous town of San Bartolo Ameyalco, riding in the back of the car, I noticed the blue banner of a preschool and its name Harlequin adorned with yellow ochre diamonds. This immediately brought to mind Ross’s Harlequin Trap. Seconds after, my gaze landed on majestic white fencing with rhombus shapes resembling the pointed pattern that wraps around the sculpture’s inner tubular form, and a path I’d been down before acquired a new delight with one visual cue playing off the next as we entered the waking city. On another evening, the rounded bushy forms of the unruly pine tree outside the guestroom window caught my attention after hearing its rustling in the wind just before a much-needed rainfall. It is with such moments that Ross challenges our impulse to stop the rust of time, inviting us instead to adjust our pace and enjoy the little details that unfold within life’s natural cycles.

Interview by Yolanda Fauvet


Michael Ross, Harlequin Trap, 2022, Metal, plastic, 2 1/8 x 5/8 x 3/4 in, courtesy the artist and Galería Mascota


Michael Ross, Pine Listener, 2022, Plastic, silicone, pom pom, 1 7/8 x 1 5/8 x 1/2 in, courtesy the artist and Galería Mascota


Time Repair is your second solo exhibition at Galería Mascota, the first being in 2019 followed by a group show in 2020. Can you tell us about your beginnings at Mascota and what brought you to Mexico in the first place?

Javier discovered my work at the 2018 NADA Art Fair, Miami, where I presented 4 small-scale sculptures. Javier and Karla were very enthusiastic about this project, and immediately proposed an exhibition at their gallery in Mexico City. Knowing of that city’s vibrant contemporary art scene, I was excited to pursue this opportunity.


The titles of your pieces range from very descriptive to poetic and even playful at times. I believe this can create a certain approachability to your work for the everyday person who may happen upon it and am curious what role naming each sculpture has in your overall creative process.

Each work begins with an idea, and this idea is often written down first, almost like a “script” for each artwork. The script can lead to a title, though a small single scrap of bent metal can inspire both an artwork and a title. I think the approachable aspect you mention can also relate to my use of common materials and components which are transformed in precise and unexpected ways. My subject matter is without limits, so I’m able to connect to a wider audience.


Michael Ross, Book Cake, from the exhibition Sogneurs de Gravite, Marcel at the Bit! (The Imitation of Marcel Duchamp), 2006, FRAC Languedoc-Roussillon, Montpellier, France


Please, talk to me about Book Cake! As soon as I saw this scrumptious piece in the 25th edition of zingmagazine, a big bubbly smile came across my face and my senses were immediately transported to the visual language of many of the NYC artists I’ve seen at the Dikeou Collection in Denver. For someone who didn’t grow up in New York, I’m wondering what major visual themes you think tie NYC artists together?

Book Cake was a sculpture I originally presented in the 2006 exhibition Sogneurs de Gravite, Marcel at the Bit! (The Imitation of Marcel Duchamp) curated by Emmanuel Latreille, which took place in Montpellier, France. Book Cake was a Duchampian gesture combining two loves – books and cake. I reimagined a chunk of a NYC telephone book and utilized a slice of pink plastic foam as frosting. Major themes tying NYC artists together? Well, today the artworld is big business, and I’d say ambition is the major thread binding it all together. It was a different kind of scene when I moved here in 1979. The expectations were different.


Thinking back to all the group exhibitions you’ve participated in, it seems the practice of incorporating miscellaneous and found objects in your sculptures has lent to being classified under an array of genres and art movements, including fluxus and bricolage. What has been your favorite grouping or the most memorable context your pieces have been shown in?

A particularly memorable context took place in 1999 at the SMAK museum in Ghent, Belgium, where my sculpture consisting of a small wall-mounted thimble containing dust, faced-off in the same room with stacks of giant lead books by Anselm Kiefer. There were no other artworks in that room, so it was a real David and Goliath moment.


Michael Ross, The Smallest Type Of Architecture For The Body Containing The Dust From My Bedroom, My Studio, My Living Room, My Kitchen And My Bathroom, 1991, dust, metal, 2.3 x 2 x 2 cm, Collection SMAK, Gent, Belgium


Did you grow up with art in your life?

I grew up in Buffalo, New York. Living with my grandmother, there was no real art in her home, but I did make countless visits to the Albright-Knox Art Gallery on the other side of the park. This is where I first saw Van Gogh, Soutine, Gauguin, Ensor, Ryder, Duchamp, Nevelson, Kline, Marisol, Johns, and Rauschenberg. These early sojourns were my self-education in art before heading to art school. The museum also had a very special room devoted solely to the works of Clyfford Still, whose fierce independence I greatly admire.


Time Repair opened at Galería Mascota on March 25 and will be on view through June 5, 2023.



-Yolanda Fauvet