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Mihail

SCULPTURE
BRONZE
AND
OTHER

UNTITLED WITH KEY


2010
masonry over steel mesh
The artist with the original plaster of
COMPANIONS, 1987
pix. Olof NY
THE QUEEN AND THE MIRROR, bronze, 1989.
In the background YOUNG WOMAN EXPOSED TO WIND, bronze 1989
Mihail was born in 1929 in Bulgaria. His father was a Protestant minister.
Mihail’s artist uncle had his studio in the attic of their house. Young Mihail admired his uncle’s
life stile, his beautiful models, the smell of paint, He attended the American Grade School, ate
ice cream, played with his friends and believed that the world was a very fine place. But when in
1940 his young Jewish school mates were forced to wear the yellow star and the German army
flooded the streets and the Allies started bombing Sofia heavily, and one Sunday morning the
Gestapo arrested his father for helping Jews flee the country, his happy and carefree childhood
ended abruptly.

A few years later, in 1944, the Russians rolled into the country.It was not easy for the son of an
“enemy of the people” which his father had been labeled with to attend University. However,
Mihail enrolled to study philosophy at the University of Saints Clement and Methodius in Sofia.
Two years later he was accepted at Sofia’s Academy of Fine Arts from where he graduated in
monumental sculpture in 1954.

Communist ideology was imposed along with Socialist Realism a strict and dictatorial art style.
What that particular style meant exactly is still shrouded in confusion, but it was a tool for mass
propaganda in the service of the absurd. There was to be only one Truth, the Soviet one.
Impressionism or any other western art movements were classified as “fraud”. The Academy of
Art was guarded by trusted armed volunteers during the night. And for Mihail there was a way to
circumvent the imposed official and political censorship of art - the national historical
perspective and images. During the eleven years (1954-1965) leading to his departure from
Bulgaria, he created public works of art that survived the tempest of the times, the viciousness
of the communism system and the anarchy that followed.

TUNISIA
The artist arrived in Tunis in 1965 and embarked on his new life of freedom, enchanted by the
exuberance of Tunisia’s Mediterranean colors, so different from the ones he was accustomed
to. Paul Klee on a trip to Tunis in 1914 was also overwhelmed by the intense light there, which
inspired his awakening to color.

In Tunis, Mihail exhibited with the artist group Ecole de Tunis. One of his sculptures, a portrait
statue of Ibn Khaldun, the 14th century Arab poet and philosopher, attracted President
Bourguiba’s attention. Bourguiba asked Mihail to sculpt his portraits and commissioned the
sculpture for the 150 meter long Carrara marble wall for the National Monument, The Martyrs of
Bizerte. Mihail carved the marble in Quercheta, Italy, where he met Henry Moore, Marino
Marrini and Isamu Noguchi who were working in the same quarry courtyard, and Jacques
Lipshitz at the nearby village of Pietra Santa.

Influenced by the culture of ancient Carthage, in 1967, the artist developed a group of abstract
symbols he called Sunday Morning. They became the basis of an extended series that included
prints, wood and bronze sculptures and other mixed media works. In 1971 the artist emigrated
to the USA and settled in New York, NY.
The cast in Africa

CAST THE SLEEPING ELEPHANT (1976-2009)


bronze
United Nations Headquarters New York
NEW YORK

Mihail longed for change. Life in Tunisia became like drifting in the past. In his mind bronze and
stone had become hopelessly permanent materials. Also the Bulgarian authorities had refused to
further extend his passport. So, he took a deep breath and in 1971 went to New York and settled
there with his wife Lilda and their daughter Iana as refugees and stateless people. They lived in a
raw loft space in Manhattan, E 17th street. and for the next 20 years this was his most meaningful
studio. For a long time he was not able to see his daughter from a previous marriage, Elizabeth,
who was still living in Bulgaria

Mihail resumed work on the Sunday Morning series. Nothing was to be permanent, all should be
burned, smashed, disposed of. He built floating paper roadblocks and wall configurations
(Columbia University 1973), painted on flattened umbrellas and exhibited with the Poindexter
Gallery in New York.
In 1974, Mihail became interested in casting from nature, not modeling but emotionally documenting what
was already there. After casting sand in the Sahara desert of southern Tunisia, grass in Alsace-Lorraine-
France,the Equator- Kenya, Street details in New York City,

And in 1976 the artist embarked on a project to cast a wild bull elephant in Africa.

In 1980 Mihail traveled to Africa where he cast a live, wild, bull elephant. The elephant was not harmed.
Mihail incorporated the cast of the elephant in creating this work of art given to the United Nations as a
gift by Kenya, Namibia and Nepal and inaugurated by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on October 18,
1998.

After the casting of the wild bull elephant in Africa, Mihail began work on the sculpture in an old
boathouse in Lloyd Harbor, Long Island (1980-1986). His renewed interest in figuration resulted in the
creation of a battery of sculptures. Among them: the Companions; the Messenger; large scale Sunday
Morning bronzes: the Mirror, the Stella, the King, the Queen along with several life size nudes. All of
them, cast in bronze, were exhibited in 1989-1990, in New York.

Mihail with his mother and Lilda


in 1979

The artist with his mother and Lilda


Botanical Garden, NYC, 1979

!
Hubert Graf and art dealer Thierry Morin, 2009

THE WARTHOGS, 1988, bronze


4 Wire sculptures
from Wire and Charcoal Series, 2009-10
THE MESSENGER, 1984 RECLINED, 1989
bronze bronze

the artistʼs Millbrook studio 1989-1993


THE MINOTAUR
works from the Minotaur Series 1979-2010
LITTLE BUDHA, 2010
gilded epoxy
YOUNG MAN WITH LEOPARD IN MIND,
1992
THE GOLDEN WARTHOG, 2009
gilded epoxy over steel net
FAUVE WITH BIRDS, 2010
Rhode Island studio

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