Mitchel Coffman seeks to rectify one of the great oversights evident in today’s contemporary art world: it has forgotten how to embrace its unabashedly masculine side.
His work aims to fill that void.
While masculine achievement – the building of roads, bridges, armies, corporations and skyscrapers– laid the cornerstone to the modern world, the glory of man and his virility has been subterfuged in recent times, dismissed as anachronism, in favor of softer, more neutered themes. Since the sexual revolution, masculine overtones have been whitewashed and banished from the collective consciousness, as if such things were an anathema. This, Coffman believes, is neither a service to art or man.
Through his larger-than-life canvases, photography inspired by the feats of men and massive sculpture, Coffman strives to affirm and celebrate all things uniquely male again. The work he produces often derives from acts of physical prowess, such as marathon painting sessions or timed fitness training runs in which he eschews the paintbrush for superior instruments, such as outsized tires or industrial equipment, symbolic of the wheel and male invention. In this way, he looks to illustrate the promise of the ordinary man and the underlying truth of the superhero myth.
The son of a toy store executive and English teacher, Coffman was born in Park Ridge, Illinois, and grew up in Miami, influenced by the cultural crosscurrents, rarefied artistry and unapologetic machismo for which the city has become famous.
Training under late Colombian muralist, Jorge Alvarez, Coffman learned how to transfer his vision to increasingly larger planes and venues, drawing from a broad range of media and everyday materials to convey his message. While working under Alvarez from 2004 to 2007, he finished his studies as an undergraduate at the Savannah College of Art and Design and received his M.F.A. there in 2009.
During this time, Alvarez, a professor at the Savannah school, succumbed to AIDS. For Coffman, the blow was tremendous. Alvarez had not only treated him as a favored apprentice, but also a son. Honoring his teacher’s legacy, Coffman continues to assiduously build his body of work. He has shown pieces in Boston, New York, Savannah and Miami.
Based in New York, Coffman, a dedicated athlete, spends his time painting, weight training, and splitting TV time with his designer girlfriend between World Wrestling Entertainment’s Monday Night Raw and episodes of Project Runway.
“From the smallest necessity to the highest religious abstraction, from the wheel to the skyscraper, everything we are and everything we have comes from…man.”
– Ayn Rand