“The minute I started painting, I was fascinated by the paint, its color, its luminosity and how it could be mixed together and manipulated. It was an instant love affair, one that continues today.”
(American, b. 1943)
Part of the early Photo-Realist movement, Michael Beck’s advanced technical ability allows him to depict objects with stunning precision. Born in San Diego, CA, Beck moved to Oakland to attend the California College of Arts and Crafts in 1971. He was recognized for his talent from a young age and was award the prestigious James D. Phelan Award in 1973, with Wayne Thiebaud and June Livingston as the jurors. He has since been featured in numerous solo and group exhibitions, and his work can be found within many prominent private collections. In 2014 he was awarded a Pollock-Krasner Foundation grant as an artist of distinction.
Michael Beck’s artwork stands out for its distinct subjects of toys and objects from a previous era. These unique items include vintage rocking horses, toy cars, rockets, and bicycles. Toys are at once universal and highly personal, and Beck’s work taps into the shared experience of childhood with a nostalgic nod to the past. He explains that each object conveys its own story, which “invites viewers to conjure up narratives, even fantasies, of their own design, and the starting point is likely to be a shared memory of childhood or and idealized version of Americana”. The narrative aspect of Beck’s work is reinforced by his isolation of each object, which allows the viewer to contemplate and appreciate the item from a new perspective. Additionally, Beck paints each object as if placed under a spotlight, creating a deep shadow and making his artwork not only highly realistic, but also appear three dimensional. This spotlight highlights the geometric qualities of each object, illuminating the colors and shapes that make the item unique and rare. In this way, each hyperreal painting is a study of form while simultaneously creating a nostalgic connection that spans generations.