Art & Life with Michael Voyage Chicago
Today we’d like to introduce you to Michael Goro.
Michael, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far.
I was born in the USSR in the mid-sixties. As unfortunate as it sounds there were at list two redeeming qualities. I was born in St. Petersburg (the cultural capital of Russia) and my father was an architect and a good fine artist. He took me to Hermitage (still one of my favorite museums in the world) on the regular bases and encouraged me to make art since the early age. Our apartment was decorated with hi-quality reproductions of the old masters. Since the early age, I had a feeling that I was existing in two realities, one gray repressive Soviet system and the other full of art, Greek mythology and warm family gatherings. From the early age, I’ve learned to live with contradictions. In hindsight, it laid a good foundation for being an artist. As F. Scott Fitzgerald put it “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function”.
I’ve first established myself as an artist while in the Soviet military. It didn’t take me very long to figure out that being “an artist” was better than digging trenches and I put my skills to good use painting large portraits of Lenin and laying out propaganda.
Continuing in my dad’s footsteps I went to college for architecture. It was the late 80’s, the time when democratic changes in the USSR were gaining momentum. It became legal for the citizens to make a leaving outside of the government jobs. I took on drawing portraits on the street. It turned out to be unexpectedly lucrative but most importantly truly exciting. My drawing has dramatically improved and I’ve developed a clientele of people who came to my studio to be drawn and painted. In addition to that, I made my first urban linocuts and watercolors that I sold through the galleries in the city. By that time I lost any interest in becoming an architect while still being drawn to architecture as a source of my artistic inspiration. I see the built environments as suppositories of human experiences.
I left Russia for Israel in the early 90’s. It was an easy decision to immigrate. I’ve never felt quite at home in the Soviet Union and I was skeptical it would ever change for the better. I was on a quest for my personal and artistic freedoms. I wanted to experience the world that I thought I would never see growing up behind the “Iron Curtain”. I have discovered intaglio printmaking while leaving in Jerusalem. I was mainly inspired by the old masters such as Albrecht Durer, Giovanni Battista Piranesi, and Rembrandt van Rijn. My early education in printmaking mainly consisted of long hours spent in the museums and libraries studying the original work by the old masters with the magnifying glass. This research took me to London, Paris, New York and eventually Chicago. I was discovering the world and the printmaking techniques at the same time. Ultimately I’ve completed my formal education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign receiving MFA in printmaking. While still at school I’ve started exhibiting internationally and my work has found its first recognition.
I’ve moved to Chicago in 2000. It was a deliberate choice to make Chicago my main residence for many years to come. I was taken by its architecture and strong Bauhaus traditions. Every walk through the city is a visual symphony of static and moving shapes. I feel very fortunate that all the destinations of my daily routine are within my walking distance. I live in River North, my studio is in the historic Fine Arts Building, and American Academy of Art where I teach and the Art Institute that I frequent are right across the street from each other. Chicago has become the main source of my artistic inspiration. About four years ago I made a transition from etching into oil painting. It was exciting to rediscover color after mainly working in black and white for over 20 years. It gave me the greater capacity to be spontaneous and expressive with the medium. My latest show at the Union League Club was the outcome of my visual journaling and newly discovered means of expression.
It looks like this narrative is becoming the description of my artistic adventures. It is not accidental. I don’t really separate myself from art making. In my work, I see myself as a storyteller. I develop emotional narratives about human experiences deriving from architectural forms and material objects. I explore humanity through its material traces but not as an archaeologist or a museum curator but rather as an anthropologist, that is someone seeking to discover and capture the process of history by focusing on the objects that are still in use.
I take advantage of my academic schedule to spend extended periods of time continuing my journey of artistic exploration that has taken me around the world – all across Europe, North and South America, and Asia.
Can you give our readers some background on your art?
My story is a vivid illustration of the end of the last century – a time of deconstruction, discontinuity, and dislocation. My artistic practice is a continuous creative search for raw authenticity in urban environments and human forms that are constantly changing. Individuals change as they experience life and cities develop and/or decay through time. People and places have history and experience. Cities are weathered by time and through use, taking on a personality of their own from the people and the elements that have interacted with them. It is a combination of all of these factors that creates authenticity. Looking for the subject matter I find simple things that we see every day, things that become symbolic once they are taken out of context. I experiment with the juxtaposition of places, faces, and architectural designs that reflect my diverse personal experiences.
How do you think about success, as an artist, and what do quality do you feel is most helpful?
I believe that ultimately success is measured by the quality of the work that the individual produces. It is always subjective though. The social credentials and commercial success are easier to measure but are not always well aligned with the true talent and artistic significance. When I’m at the studio I measure success by the well placed splash of paint, when things seem to just happen by themselves without my involvement. Moments like this give me a sense of invincibility, a sense of freedom from doubt and necessity to control every shape and line. Outside of the studio I feel successful when I connect with the audience. It gives me real satisfaction to see people resonating with my visual interpretations of the mundane.
What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?
I usually keep my website up to date with new work and information on the upcoming shows and events. It is www.mgoro.com. The easiest way to see my recent work in person is to email me via my website to schedule a studio visit. I also post on (www.instagram.com/mishagoro). My work in Paris is represented by Chris Boïcos Fine Arts, in London by Printroom Studio and by Galleria Bellinzona in Milan. My work will be at the Other Art Fair Chicago at Mana Contemporary the last weekend in September. The next solo show will open at Il Bisonte Gallery in Florence in June of 2019.