Between the Lines, an Aquatic Autobiography



Born in Sarasota, Mike Solomon was, is and always will be “a water kid,” just as the shoreline will always be his haven. From the banks of Phillippi Creek, where he learned the art of watercolor at age four from his father, artist Syd Solomon, to the shores of Midnight Pass and all the surfing in between, the younger Solomon enjoyed an affinity for the water just short of gills. But with college came the siren song of the California coast, and, though surf trips and watercolor remained, Solomon wouldn’t call Sarasota home again for decades. With his latest solo exhibition, Mike Solomon: Native Shore, opening tomorrow night at Alfstad& Contemporary, the artist celebrates a return to the waters that started it all.

A series of rectangular pieces bearing horizontal stripes of color viewed as though through a morning mist or evening haze, the work presents in Solomon’s style, minimalist and understated, but belying deep autobiographical currents. Comprising layered sheets of frosted polyester film, each strategically striped with acrylic paint and stacked to take advantage of the material’s imperfect transparency, the process may seem a far cry from his watercolor beginnings, but not so, says the artist. “Watercolor is foundational to that,” he says, “because it’s a certain type of seeing—seeing through the layers and seeing how layers are applied.”

And to hear Solomon talk, the work in Native Shore seems almost fated, as though his time in Sarasota left its indelible imprint on his artist’s heart—a little horizontal line across the atria, perhaps. Once working for years in just cross-hatching, this latest series sees Solomon playing with only repeated horizontal lines. Shorelines, he says, and horizon lines. And, in his eye, emblematic of his hometown.

Building his pieces like a sound mixer layering tracks for a new song, Solomon brings forward the colors he wants to pop and mutes the others. The “essential ingredient to all visual art,” he says, color is that “incredible force” that only the visual artist can wield, and Solomon has been surprised at the colors he found within himself, like old memories of the sea. “The palette is just coming right out of me,” he says. “The palette that I’ve been seeing all my life and that I returned to, emerging out of me.”

The result isn’t something that quite “hits you over the head,” Solomon admits, but his aim finds something more meditative and quietly rewarding. “As you keep looking at them,” he says, “they reveal different ways to look.”

Mike Solomon: Native Shore opens tomorrow night, March 15, at Alfstad& Contemporary, with an artist reception at 5:30pm. The show runs through April 14.

Pictured: Selection from "Native Shore" by Mike Solomon. Image courtesy of Alfstad& Contemporary.

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