Micheal Cross Trinity
Los Angeles Gallery
Critique of the Art of Cross Trinity
Cross Trinity's paintings fall into two groups. The first group of paintings has a great presence, with large forms, often circles, frequently arranged symmetrically along the vertical axis. In Trinity's paintings, round is symbolic of completeness, like the totality of a person or the essence of an idea. Completeness is intrinsic to a circle. If broken, it ceases to be.
The round shapes stand for the spiritual side of persons. Depending on their point view, the viewers may see some as glowing, some dirty, some screwed up. The floating orb in the painting Halcyon is covered with exquisite silver leaf. This one glows. It also reflects the viewers back to themselves and invites introspection. In Love Absent, the round shape is hemmed in by rigid geometry. Its surface is carbon, a deep, dull, matte black that absorbs all light and symbolizes loss and self-absorption. The various kinds of backgrounds around the circles are significant. Often filled with textures or dots or shapes, they represent forces that are active all around us, even when we are oblivious to them because we are absorbed in our own inner struggles. This is evident in Impervious, where dark heavy lines slash across the face of the orb, like a wound or a scar. But the space around the circle is populated with dots that are like networks and systems, or maps of our dances, or representations of the cosmos.
There are also paintings with arcs and curves interrupted by grids, like 9 Cock-n-Bull Stories. The curved elements seem to be what is left from broken circles. They suggest softness or a feminine side, working in opposition to rigidity. The grids are like our desires to contain, control and keep what we have, but that is always thwarted by constant movement that makes things hard to pin down or unstoppable cycles that bring sweeping change. These paintings seem to be always looking for closure, but there is none.
Many of Trinity's paintings reference cycles, using elements like revolving orbs or wave peaks and valleys or repetitious patterns. Cycles can be short, with clear reiterations. Other cycles are of increasingly long duration, raising the question that as something approaches the infinite, can we know if it is a cycle or not? In Trinity's paintings Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3, life has a beautiful wave to it. In Close As I Can B, the orb is ever moving, ever revolving. It has a dark side and a light side, and both sides compose its completeness. To Trinity, this alludes to the fact that life gives us struggles with questions like "Am I good enough?" or "What are my guiding forces?" or "What are my principles and do I live up to them?" or "Can I prove myself to others and does that really matter?" or "Who are the 'winners' in life, and what have they really won?"
Trinity's work is full of the color, which for him asks the question of whether emotions or intellect rules our lives. Color's wildness and brilliance are his ways of getting at the sexual energies or confronting the crazy parts of our lives. His process-oriented paintings are physical, aggressive, and highly textured. Layer after layer of paint obscures, accumulates, or emphasizes the structures and forms below. Materials are important. Oil paint provides the rich deep colors and the brilliant titanium whites. Precious silver leaf and gold leaf provide the glow and reflection in many paintings. Iron oxide brings the incredible rich, earthy red of rust. Carbon represents the organic and the dead.
The second group of Cross Trinity paintings is marked by rectangular fields filled with active, agitated, or pushing lines and shapes. In Gyro, large round green scribbles are barely of any substance. They are linear, porous, unsolid, against the flaming red background. Seemingly they are the product of almost unconscious, compulsive activity. But the scribbles accumulate, becoming like the paths of electrons around a nucleus, and then like an electron cloud. Gyro suggests that enough of such activity creates substance, that energy becomes mass, that eventually a planet or self would be born out of that energy and the flames. The flames have a sexual energy.
The painting Consanguineous seems to be a field of small rivulets or streams, or perhaps of arteries and veins full of blood. Consanguineous means to be related by blood or to have the same ancestry, suggesting that humans have similar structures or perhaps even share kinship with the land and the rivers. This shares attributes with the belief systems of some tribal peoples who live close to the earth. In Australia, the Aboriginal people's Dreamtime is a system of beliefs, symbols and pictorial representations that contains their mythology, their accumulated knowledge, and their spiritual practices, as well as the location of food and water necessary for survival in a harsh environment. Their paintings often feature earth tones, bright colors, dots, and patterns. Interestingly, many of Trinity's paintings contain intricate dots, as in Impervious, Dancing, and Rara Avis. Also, the macro and the micro are often suggested by patterns. The painting Finding Myself places the vast universe with stars and planets right next to wandering footprints in the dirt.
A final painting to examine is Wampum, which in most common parlance means money, and indeed it may represent an ancient buried coin. But for the native peoples of North America wampum were beads, which were medium for exchange, elements of personal ornamentation, and items used for ceremonial or spiritual observances. Unlike simple money, wampum represented value in many forms and for many purposes. In Trinity's Wampum, the floating sphere has stripes that seem like layers of gravelly sedimentation. It seems at once to be a hovering planet or a little bead. The large is linked to the small, and the object of true value seems to be the dirt beneath our feet.
Out of this composite of elements and ideas and materials comes Cross Trinity's body of work.
Artist, Writer, and Professor of Studio Art in the School of Fine Arts of the University of Southern California
April 8, 2010