Duane MichalsEven now, when he thought of her, it was her body that he missed. He wanted to touch her. from Person to Person
 (1974)

Quite frankly, Michals’ frustrates the piss out of me. His work is always so goddamn in-fucking-scrutable.

Take this. As with many of his prints, it’s unrefined, sloppy. But it works. And the reason it works had to do with the presentation.

Michals’ tends to present his photographs as a series. He also frequently imposes inscriptions on the image which tend to hijack mere archetypal readings. The inscriptions read like crib notes to the artists more than the audience. Their hurried, seemingly off-the-cuff character enact a strange sort of alchemy wherein the weary, ailing aspects of the image become assets instead of liabilities. 

For example:

This photograph is one of 15 photographs in a series entitled Person to Person which invokes Lynchian account of a relationship’s dissolution. (It’s a little Lost Highway (in structure), a little Mulholland Dr. (in content).

The image I’ve featured is beautiful–in spite of not being on speaking terms with mid-tones. Yet, what’ s interesting is the way the text colors the image with a wistful resignation.

Without seeing another image: the words re-contectualize the photo so that the audience understands that they are envisioning the lover for which the ‘he’ pines. He misses her and wants to touch his lover’s body but cannot. Something happened and they are no longer together.

As you browse through the series, the basic narrative is clearly presented in each frame. And with each additional frame, the story is implicitly re-stated and more details are sussed out.

In the end, although I really don’t want to, I can’t help but like Michals. He’s the type that prefers the prospect of two marshmallows later to one now. But unlike the rest of us, he somehow always manages to have one now and two later.

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