Mike Hein’s sculptures combine found objects with molded plastics (acrylic, plexiglass). They replicate commonplace items like t-shirts, plastic bags, and potted plants and are rendered in varying degrees of playful abstraction. Above all, his work reflects his interest in the physical properties and connotative potential of his materials.
A look through his portfolio reveals a few distinct visual strategies at work. In pieces like Blurry Plant (2011), for instance, Hein's subjects are rendered as abstract plastic forms, their tactile qualities replaced with slick, colorful surfaces. The objective in these works is not to render a faithful likeness, but rather to reimagine the subjects as graphic entities, light-hearted in tone and rigid in form.
At other times, the sculptures take on a more minimal appearance: the colors become more understated, the forms less embellished, and found objects begin to enter the mix. What's particularly interesting about these pieces is that while they at first seem staid and uniform, a closer look reveals an active and meticulous engagement with the surface. In Beachwood (2011), for example, Hein carefully scrapes away the form's exterior, allowing a series of colored gels to show through the acrylic in a subtle gradient, while in Driftwood (2011), his manual approximation of wood grain is dynamic, even gestural.
In all of this work, Hein emphasizes the physical qualities of his plastic materials. It's when those elements take on a subtler role, however, that the work is perhaps most interesting. Take The Basics (2011), in which he encases a group of found objects (including a plastic piece of pizza and a package of Salvia Divinorum) in clear acrylic and stacks them in a vertical configuration. While the objects in this piece are upfront and unobscured, the acrylic remains the activating element, its effect on the found items no less transformative.
Hein's work has been exhibited at Edward Thorpe Gallery, Brooklyn Arts Council, and Rawson Projects in New York, and Acuna Hansen in Los Angeles. He lives and works in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.