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Introducing Michael DeSutter

Tappan is excited to welcome Brooklyn-based artist Michael DeSutter to our roster! Michael creates intricate collages derived from archives of vintage magazine and book clippings. Each piece is unique in shape and color, and despite the numerous sources from which each collage comes, he manages to make each work feel unified and communicative. We love getting lost in these collages, and loved getting to know Michael even more in our interview with him. 

Describe your work in 3 words.

Flip. Clip. Paste.


Tell us a little bit about this series on Tappan?

This current series is the result of my last several years. During that time, I didn't allow myself to fully explore abstraction in the way I wanted; it often felt difficult to relate to. Most of my early pieces had abstract elements but were always grounded with a recognizable character.

This series is about embracing abstraction and the beauty of movement in formal elements of recognizable source material.


Last gallery show you went to?

I recently went to see Martin Creed at the Park Avenue Armory. I really appreciate the breadth of his conceptual work, and the humor.


Best gift you’ve ever received?

The countless sketch pads my mom got for me when I was growing up. As long as I can remember, I always had a pad with empty pages to fill with drawings. Oh, that’s why I like to make books!


What is your favorite quote?

I don’t know if I can choose just one, but these three resonate with me:

"Derive happiness from yourself, from a good day’s work, from the clearing that it makes in the fog that surrounds us." - Henri Matisse

“I photograph continuously, often without a good idea or strong feelings. During this time the photos are nearly all poor but I believe they develop my seeing and help later on in other photos.” -Harry Callahan

"Large thoughts depend more heavily on small thoughts then you might think" - Nicholson Baker (Size of Thoughts)


What country do you wish to visit?

After watching Heima, a 2007 documentary about Sigur Rós’ tour around remote parts of Iceland, I knew I had to go there. Nine years has passed since that realization, but I’m finally making the trip in December—braving the cold to see the Northern Lights.


What makes you laugh no matter what?

My girlfriend’s rapping. We met on a dating app, and one of the lines in her bio that got my attention was “…rap music, rapping at karaoke, rapping in the shower…” It never fails to make me laugh.


What's one accomplishment you're most proud of?

In sixth grade, I won a $50 savings bond for getting the highest score on a US history test given by the Veterans of Foreign Wars.


What’s the first thing you do when you begin formulating an idea for a piece?

I just start clipping. It’s always served me well to actually explore an idea versus overthink it. There’s only one way to find out.


Tell us about some of your favorite artists.

My background is in photography and graphic design, so many of my overall artistic influences stem from those disciplines. The brash, raw expression of Robert Frank in a time when America wanted things sugar-coated. The formal elements of László Moholy-Nagy’s work and the way he challenged me to look at things from a different vantage point. Robert Rauschenberg, who wasn’t worried about how archival his work was; he needed to express himself. And Hannah Hoch, wow!


What’s one habit you wish you could break?

I recently stopped biting my nails…


Who was your favorite teacher in school?

My fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Bauerband. She was really passionate about what she taught and it was infectious.


What's one thing you still have from your childhood?

So many things. They live in a few Tupperware containers in the corner of my studio.


What else are you working on right now?

Fabric sculpting. I’ve starting playing with draping and hardening fabrics to create some of the same movements I clip from fashion magazines.


When do you make your best work?

I make my best work after taking time out to cut clippings from magazines, so I don’t have to search for specific pieces after I’ve started the composition phase.


Regarding your method of making, is it a case of the material or method dictating the idea of the other way around?

In my my mind, it’s purely method. I see formal lines in each clipping and connect them according to these lines. It doesn’t matter if it’s new or old material, photographic or comic illustrations, I take the same approach.


Is art making therapeutic for you?

Of course, yes!


What motivates you?

A physical need to create something everyday.


What’s your studio philosophy?

I have one rule: I don’t clean up at the end of the day. Why have a studio if I have to straighten up after I’m done working? 


Silence or sound while creating? If sound, what?

Music is usually the first thing I turn on when I arrive at my studio. For the last year or so, I primarily listen to Rap Caviar on Spotify, or some days I listen to Grime.


Any advice to aspiring artists?

Don’t be afraid to get started, even if you don’t know the perfect method for exploring that thing inside you.


What’s next?


Explore Michael's collage works