Michael Stamm: "so super sorry sir!"

16 January - 6 March 2021
  • Shulamit Nazarian is pleased to present ​”so super sorry sir!”​, a series of new paintings by New York-based artist Michael...

    Shulamit Nazarian is pleased to present ​”so super sorry sir!”, a series of new paintings by New York-based artist Michael Stamm. This will be the artist’s first solo exhibition with the gallery.

    The paintings in “so super sorry sir!” revel in their idiosyncratic, contradictory attitude toward morality, sexuality, mental health, and the contemporary political landscape. An unlikely cast of characters––ranging from the Devil to an anthropomorphic hand––play at virtuosity, aspire towards goodness, and attempt to experience a coherent feeling. At once clinging to life and hurtling toward annihilation, the artist questions what self-actualization looks like in the face of an overly righteous and emotionally precarious world.


    "SO SUPER SORRY SIR!", 2020

    Acrylic, pumice, photocollage on canvas wrapped panels with artist frame
    40 x 30 inches

  • The Devil appears as a surrogate for various archetypes––a conspiratorial friend, a scorned enemy, or at times, the artist himself. He is at once a foe to be vanquished and a sly, picaresque hero, providing an infinite set of entry points for the viewer to project their own definitions of “right” and “wrong”. In the titular painting of the show, “so super sorry sir!”, the Devil takes the role of a hysterical martyr, at once offering his patriarchal tormentor a flower, while stabbing himself with a sword. The painting reimagines a memory of a forced apology extracted from the artist by a homophobic teacher. Instead of flatly submitting, the Devil flamboyantly and sibilantly disobeys. Deploying icons of the Virgin Mary interspersed with images of historical gay villains, the work indulges both the aggression of sarcastic defiance and the kinky masochism of self-flagellation. Throughout the exhibition, the Devil, ever at odds with his environment and always nude, plays out this colorful iconoclasm of being a queer person. This dissonant, ever changing position associated with queerness may deny an easily resolved identity or moral stance but, ironically, is exactly what allows for the possible reconciliation of conflicting desires.

    • MICHAEL STAMM, Gay Dead Satan, 2020
      MICHAEL STAMM, Gay Dead Satan, 2020
    • MICHAEL STAMM, Devil's Dodge, 2020
      MICHAEL STAMM, Devil's Dodge, 2020
  • In this video, Artforum speaks with Michael Stamm about devils and queerness in "so super sorry sir!".

  • Turbulent aspects of the artist's own life inspire literal forms in the paintings ECT and Ketamine, titles of treatments for severe mood disorders. Here, the body is abstracted into outlines and shapes, reduced merely to a structure or vessel to be filled, effected and redeemed by external forces. In ECT (short for electroconvulsive therapy), fractured images of sunrises and sunsets suggest the ecstasy of returning from darkness, an ineffable capacity for pleasure that simultaneously evokes a sense of pain. In contrast, paintings such as Submission and Defiance use the body to evoke a quieter state of contemplation. Hands are anthropomorphized into the body itself, recalling intimate moments where we find ourselves on our knees such as in prayer or surrender, or standing in opposition.



    ECT, 2020

    Oil and acrylic on canvas wrapped panel with artist’s frame

    45 x 32 inches

    • MICHAEL STAMM, defiance, 2020
      MICHAEL STAMM, defiance, 2020
    • MICHAEL STAMM, submission, 2020
      MICHAEL STAMM, submission, 2020
  • Throughout Stamm’s practice, text highlights the talkative self-awareness implicit in his paintings. Whether functioning as the headspace of the artist, of the subject, or an omniscient voice, the use of text animates a thought into an object. In Ketamine, for example, a K-pop music video the artist watched during an infusion, inspires words written along the frame which read “Fun! My heart melts! Fun! Sweat Drips Down! Fun! Feels Dizzy! What’s wrong with me?”. Circling the figure like a lasso, as would a song maniacally stuck in our head, the text reminds us how obsessively and to what length we will go on our quest to induce a feeling of happiness.

  • In the painting April 14th, 2018 (RIP David Buckel), the literal representation of Walt Whitman’s text Leaves of Grass, connoting sensual praise of the human condition, contrasts the painting’s depiction of the death of well-known LGBTQ rights lawyer David Buckel*. Here, two men relish in a post-coital glow and read poetry to one another, their bourgeois interior punctuated by a lap dog, orchids and a bottle of poppers. Through the window and the tangle of body parts is the central focus of the painting, a man participating in self immolation as a final act of social and political protest. The friction of the two scenes questions what acts of radical opposition lay on the margins of queer intimacy and history—what hardness may, tragically, make queer intimacy possible. This painting, like many others in the show, attempts to complicate what acts we see as good, what feelings are worth celebrating, and what characters we ought to commemorate.



    *David Stroh Buckel (June 13, 1957 – April 14, 2018) was an American LGBT rights lawyer and an environmental activist. Senior counsel and marriage project director at Lambda Legal, he represented clients in many major LGBTQ rights related cases and was considered one of the architects of the freedom to marry and marriage equality movement”. At the time of his death, Buckel had become heavily involved in urban composting efforts. On April 14th, 2018, before dawn, he self-immolated in Prospect Park to protest the overuse of fossil fuels.

  • Together, the paintings in “so super sorry sir!” attempt the relatable quest of searching for peace and clarity by reconciling conflicting dimensions of our identity and autobiography. Facetious ‘sorry’s’ are counterbalanced by self-reflexive indictments of white gay men’s excesses. A desire to conform and be perceived as “good” caves to a desire to stand up to an authority figure for having misbehaved, or for being gay, or for failing to project or experience happiness. Each work is part of a larger ambivalent prayer and perhaps, in the end, such a fraught and uncertain prayer is the only kind that exists.


  • About the artist

    About the artist

    Drawing at once from design, literature and autobiography, Michael Stamm probes the need for genuine human relationships in a world that is somehow both increasingly interconnected and deeply alienated. Exploring themes of identity, physical and spiritual wellness, self-actualization and self-doubt, Stamm’s practice playfully oscillates between distanced, abstract contemplation and erratic, self-conscious confession. Stamm’s paintings and drawings critically consider the popular tenets of our time with a wry sincerity, reconciling hope and skepticism in an era that requires large doses of both.


    Michael Stamm was raised in Evanston, Illinois. He received his BA from Wesleyan University and an MA in English Literature from Columbia University before earning an MFA from New York University in 2016. 


    Stamm’s first solo exhibition, Just Like This Please, was presented at Thierry Goldberg Gallery, New York in 2016. His work has further been included in several group exhibitions, including shows at Underdonk, Brooklyn; ASHES/ASHES, Los Angeles; and Galerie Tobias Naehring, Leipzig. His work has been featured in Art in America, The New Yorker, Artforum, among others.


    Residencies include the Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture (2016) the Vermont Studio Center (2016), for which he was awarded the John Imber Painting Fellowship, Yaddo (2016), the Mountain School of Arts, Los Angeles (2017) and the MacDowell Colony (2018). Stamm received the New York Foundation for the Arts annual NYSCA/NYFA Artist Fellowship in 2018.

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