Rock of Eye
Essays by Andrea Andersson and Tina Campt, interview by Brent Hayes Edwards and afterword by Cameron Shaw
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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 Saka, Alta Journal: Art Issue
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 the artist
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. He has exhibited nationally and internationally and is currently a Lecturer of Visual Arts in Program at Princeton University.
Montes-Michie’s critical gestures of veiling are both protective and defiant. Desire isn’t banished from the frame, and this is the joyful knot of the work. He beholds his subjects with tenderness and dresses them in their rebellious threads … Montes-Michie calibrates invitation and opacity to map the fraught and necessary space between pleasure and resistance.
—Laura Larson, Photo-Eye
For [Montes-Michie], collage is an expression of dual consciousness, of two or more realities existing in the same space at the same time.
—Sharon Mizota, BOMB
In Montes-Michie’s scenes, Black men are given these luxuries that historically have been withheld: privacy and agency … In a moment when conversations around the policing of Black bodies in public space continue to gain momentum, Montes-Michie’s quiet scenes of interiority, of “reclamation”—to use Tina Campt’s word from her essay in the book—dramatically change the context.
—Megan Liberty, Brooklyn Rail
About to Happen
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