Rock of Eye

Troy Michie

Essays by Andrea Andersson and Tina Campt. Interview by Brent Hayes Edwards. Afterword by Cameron Shaw.

These works refuse dominant rules of visibility that dictate who gets seen, how they are made visible, and who is legible as what and by whom … Michie’s multi-faceted works challenge us to look and see differently. They make passive looking impossible and visual mastery implausible.

—Tina Campt from her essay in Rock of Eye

While Rock of Eye is rooted in opacity and seeks to evade a kind of visual capture—the need for Black men to be pinned down or stripped bare—it never obscures the elegance and vivacity of its subjects. Rather, it revels in contradiction, ambivalence, beauty, queerness, time, and place.

—Rasheeda Sake, Alta

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To tailor a garment by “rock of eye” is to rely on the drape—on experience over mathematical measurement—in the fitting process. It is a kind of drawing in space—a freehand, an intuition, a trust of materials. Published on the occasion of Troy Montes-Michie’s solo exhibition at the California African American Museum (February 16–September 4, 2022), Rock of Eye is an artist’s book comprised of altered, collaged and drawn source materials, some familiar from Montes-Michie’s recent large-scale paintings and collages that center on the Black male body and his series tracing the social history and form of the zoot suit, others opening new avenues of investigation.

Rock of Eye is a tactile and sensuous artist’s book, recalling the forms of both magazines and swatch books. Troy Montes-Michie begins the sequence—of works altering material from vintage erotic magazines, French tailoring magazines, found photographs, sewing patterns, and more—with portraits that serve to distort the white gaze of the Black queer body, and inverting the boundary between hyper-visibility and invisibility. In the book, these striking disruptions metamorphose into woven abstractions and then into landscapes. His stitches are scars, reparations, suturing histories and geographies; his cuts and folds both pattern and map. These images create thresholds for new crossings: his needle hits rock. A study in the ambiguity between portraiture and landscape, Rock of Eye reflects Montes-Michie’s experience growing up in El Paso, Texas, navigating borders and the spaces between them.

 

About Troy Montes-Michie

 

Through assemblage and juxtaposition, Troy Montes-Michie (b. 1985) engages black consciousness, Latinx experience, immigration and queerness. Utilizing textiles, garments and archival paper, from newsprint to pornography, Montes-Michie subverts dominant narratives by placing past and present in confrontation. Through his use of contrast patterning, a technique of camouflage, Montes-Michie investigates the ways in which bodies of marginalized communities are frequently erased and fetishized. Montes-Michie holds a BFA from the University of Texas at El Paso and an MFA from Yale School of Art. His works has recently been included in exhibitions at the Institute for Contemporary Art (Richmond), The MAC (Belfast), The Shed (NY), The Whitney Museum of American Art, and Contemporary Art Museum (Houston). He is currently a Lecturer of Visual Arts in Program at Princeton University.