ArtAccess magazine May 2001
Alec Clayton: Artist and Writer
...Mihalyo's invented forms are uniform in muted colors, and his images are more unified. Mihalyo, known as the master of the O.K. Hotel mural (which mural is now, post-earthquake, sadly back in his studio), has created a unique iconography of sticks and twigs. There are other images as well -most notably a pair of twin flying barns that looks monumental and is deceptively tiny -but it is his series of paintings of limbs that stands out here. Mostly small paintings measuring 8 x 12 inches and 10 x 16 inches, these paintings are of surrealistic landscapes constructed of bunched, stacked, or interwoven twigs. Not precisely identifiable, the twigs can be seen as tree limbs or branches, or perhaps as noodles or worms, that weave in and out to form, variously, fantastical buildings or landscapes or tunnels or otherworldly monoliths. Generally oriented with sky and horizon to create a sense of place, the twigs are painted in earth tones, sometimes with reflected blues around the edges. The paintings are precisely and lovingly rendered to create the look of out-of-focus photographs with soft, halo-like edges. The unity of color and form and the reductive quality make the surrealistic imagery even more surprising, because, despite the unreal subjects, they look almost like photographs of bunches of twigs or stacks of hay in brown fields.
One of the more intriguing aspects of Mihalyo's branch paintings is that they are small in scale but monumental in concept. They look best in groups, and one wonders if they would hold up as well as individual pieces at that scale. Are they simply studies for larger paintings? Yes, actually they are. A few larger paintings are included, and they can be viewed side by side with the "studies." The larger paintings are more reductive and, I believe, more successful.
Thatch is one of the larger paintings. In it a briarpatch of twigs almost obliterates the form of a sleeping nude which seems to grow out of the branches. This is a powerful and beautiful painting, much stronger than the study for it. In the study Mihalyo has used blue along the edges of the limbs; in the larger version there is no color but for the soft brown of the limbs and the woman's body. Mihalyo's most powerful painting in the show is a departure from the branch series. Trojans at the Harvest is a painting of the Trojan horse made of wood with a barrel body. Instead of an army marching out of the horse, there is an army of hands holding giant heads (aptly described in the press release as "Goliaths of Earth"). They are marching in military formation, and each head is asleep, cradled in the hands in the way people typically rest their heads in hand. If it is an army of destruction, it is a mindless army, comically horrible...