Studio Visit: Michael Anderson

michael anderson topOne of the highlights for me during the last couple months was hearing Michael Anderson shut down a pessimistic discussion about “no new types of painting.” His booming voice broke the ennui in the room with: “The future is really enormous and there must be at least 9 million new kinds of painting to be made.”  Michael is optimistic, and his art is too.  He was cool enough to let us into his studio, the Harlem Collage Shop, to check out what he is up to.  Using street posters and billboards gathered in NYC and other major cities around the world, Anderson makes super-sized collages, commonly 8 x 8 feet and up.  He collects the posters at night, which seems like a dangerous thing to do, but he’s a big guy and didn’t seem to give a shit, just citing his birthplace as the Bronx.


Above: The Harlem Collage Shop from the street.DSC_0068

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“Collage is all about collecting,” says Michael.  I asked if the cops ever stopped him. Once, he said with: “Wudda you think you’re doing?”  Anderson reminded them that street posters are illegal in NYC, so they told him it was OK, but he had to take all the posters.

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This is a really awesome piece entitled “An Oscar for the Maysles Brothers.” They’re old-school documentary film makers who have a theater around the corner from the Harlem Collage Shop.

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Teeming with life, his work seems to shift and stutter in the corner of your eye, hustling around, and dancing to reggae.

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I love this lady!  If you want to get the flavor of Anderson’s personality, read this  in-depth interview with him on Bad At Sports.

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Everyone loves M.J.  I see this and I think of the good Jackson who was cool as hell.  The background is made from Pepsi posters, bringing up the key moment when Jackson burned his head on pyrotechnics while shooting a soft drink commercial.  The double and triple images are trippy. When looking at one part of the collage, the other sections feel alive because of the multiple, shifting, stretching images.

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Here’s a work in progress.  The white paper is the back of another poster.  The finished works are made entirely from posters and Anderson’s secret glue formula.  Michael said that the collages tend towards being six or seven layers thick.

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Above: The view from the back of the studio, facing out towards the mean streets of Northern Manhattan (AKA Harlem).  The collage of a house on blue paper in the center of the photo is by Christopher Nels Johnson, who started The Onion newspaper.

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This is a detail of the collage technique. Check out the mini M.J. on the bottom left!

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Inside the collage shop, you can see the handy work of a world-class scavenger: an archive of street posters going back 17 years is housed in two enormous wooden storage racks.  Everything is sorted and organized; some by color, and some because they belong to a project planned for the future.


Anderson made two billboards for Target that were displayed in Times Square.DSC_0030

Anderson, The Mytholization of Nicky Barnes, 2009, collage from street posters, 32x24 in


Anderson has around 40,000 graffiti stickers, which he used to make a museum of stickers at the Ace Hotel.

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Anderson keeps color photocopies of the stickers in a binder, below.  It was obvious that he really loves these stickers, and has a lot of respect for Graffiti artists.

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“Her purple haze” (above) is currently on view in a group show at Marlborough in Chelsea..

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Above: “American Dreams”

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As I was walking out the front door, a random guy walked by in a mechanics outfit, and said “Hey Mike.”  Anderson said hey back, and then said to me: “Vote for me, I’m the mayor of Harlem.”

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