Gregory Steel was born in Detroit and raised by his maternal grandparents in the richly diverse neighborhoods of the Motor City’s East Side. From an early age, Steel was encouraged by his creative grandmother to explore his artistic abilities. During his childhood he was inspired by his grandmother’s innovative use of ordinary materials in constructing unique objects and arrangements. Her novel approach to environmental resources combined with her support were a positive influence in Steel’s artistic development. As a self-taught artist, Steel held jobs in various disciplines in order to support his work, but after many years of making art on his own he realized he needed a serious arts education.
Attending school part-time and working full-time, Steel received a BFA in 1998 from The College for Creative Studies in Detroit, and an MFA in sculpture from the University of Michigan, in 2001. After his studies were completed he took a position at The College for Creative Studies teaching sculpture and experimental media. Steel has recently taken a new position with Indiana University teaching sculpture and new media, and is also the director of exbitions for the campus.
The art of ideas is fundamental to Steel’s working process and is at the heart of his work to date. For Steel, art and life are not separate spheres. Instead, his art is only of extension of whom he is, and thus is fully integrated into his life. Navigating academic discourse and the Modernist dilemma, Steel soon came to depend on his instinct that art is an internal process. His influences include Marcel Duchamp, Joseph Beuys, Lawrence Weiner and Allan Kaprow. Experience, rather than individual created objects, is foremost in Steel’s work. To this end, Steel employs a variety of materials and techniques in his art, including video, object making, digital imaging, book publishing, installation, performance and new technology.
In 1994, Steel was diagnosed with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia. This has affected his work in ways that give him a greater focus and sense of urgency to complete his life’s work. As an idea artist, he views the various materials he uses as simply a way to fulfill the function of the art. Through this diversity, he resists easy categorization. Steel’s work cannot be pigeon-holed because it is integrated with his life, and as such, it is a richly layered and evolving experience. His concerns about issues of the human condition and social change, and his hope for humankind, are evident regardless of his final product. Whether Steel is collaborating in a ground-breaking physiological monitoring system with Cybernet Systems of Ann Arbor, or creating intimate and humorous tableaus replete with miniature figures in outlandish settings, his art emerges as thoughtful and timely. Steel’s work has been exhibited across the United States and Europe, most recently in China, Russia, London, and in Barcelona, Spain.
International Art Expo at the NOMAD, Bucharest Romainia
Video Festival, Spainish Cultural Center, El Salvador.
Repition & Ritual, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI
After Urban, Videofestival University of Pennsylvania, Philedelphia, Pennsylvania
10th Annual Detroit International Video Festival, MONA, Rochester MI
Liquid Room, International Video Festival, Cultural Communications Centre, Klaipede. Lithuania
Brooklyn Artists Gym, Small Works Show, Brooklyn, New York
Liquid Room, International Video Festival, New York NY
Attitude, experimental film & photography Festival,Magza Cultural Center,Bitola Macedonia
International Group Exhibition, Gallery 27, Cork Street, London England
Whitewater Arts Competition, Indiana University East
Xiamen International Exhibition, Xiamen University, Xaimen China
Fujan International Show , Fujan Province, China
Omma Center for Art Group Show, Hiana, Create, Greece
Rivers Edge Film Festival, Paducah, Kentucky
Indiana University Kokomo Experimental Video Festival, Kokomo, Indiana
Temporary Cities, International Center for Contemporary Art, Moscow, Russia
International Festival of Electronic Arts, Santa Fe, Argentina
Snap to Grid 2006, Los Angeles Center for Digital Art
International Video Festival, Carnubari, Romanian
Snap to Grid, Los Angels Center for Digital Art, Los Angeles, CA
Detroit International Video Festival ,MONA, Rochester, MI
Meeting With China, Xiamen University, Xiamen, China
Contrasts, Zero Project, Berlin
International Video Art Festival, Ferrara, Italy
2nd International Independent Video/Filmfestival, Vienna, Austria & Mainz, Germany
Videofestival, Kaliningrad Branch of the National Center for Contemporary Arts,
Profiling, 555 Gallery, Detroit, MI.
Summer 2004, Galeriazero, Barcelona, Spain
A History of Conflict-A Future of Hope, Frazier Museum, Louisville, Kentucky
Staff@ Work, Work Exhibition Space, Ann Arbor, MI
Santa Show, Warren Robbins Center Gallery, Ann Arbor, MI
All Area Show , Bay City MI
Actual Size, Detroit Contemporary Gallery, Detroit MI
Florence Biennial. Florence, Italy
International Group Exhibition, OMMA, Center of Contemporary Art, Hania, Create Greece.
Double Vision Work Exhibition Space, Ann Arbor, MI
Playground Warren Robbins Center, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
Third Dimension, Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center, Birmingham, MI.
Hear, Hear, ArtProTem, sound works show, Ann Arbor, MI
Summer 2002, Galeria d’Art Zero, Barcelona, Spain
Artists Take on Detroit, Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit MI, Collaboration, J. Wesner
Annual All Media Exhibition, Ann Arbor Art Center, Ann Arbor, MI
October International Competition, Armory Art Center, West Palm Beach, FL.
Actual Size, Detroit Contemporary Gallery, Detroit, MI.
Storefront Studios, Holland, MI
Street Art, Ann Arbor, MI
MFA Thesis Exhibition, Jean Paul Slusser Gallery, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
Haunt, Robbin Center Gallery, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
Hydra, Jon Paul Slusser Gallery, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
Noah’s Underground Show Ann Arbor, MI
Polk Art and Technology Competition, Birmingham Bloomfield Arts Association,
Scarab Club, Gold Medal Show, Detroit, MI
U-Shop, Ann Arbor, MI
Body in Question, Indiana Univ. Kokomo
International Video Festival, Indiana Univ. Kokomo
Contemporary Drawing, Indiana University
New media exploaration, Indiana University
Bet of America, Photgraphy
New Art International
NUVO Magazine, Indianapolis Indiana
Current in Carmel
Bay City Times, review
Ann Arbor News, review
Dizionario Enciclopedico Internazionale d Arte Moderna e Contemporanea
Ann Arbor News, Hear Here, April 23, 2002
Detroit News, Hear/Here, May 24, 2002
Ann Arbor News, U-Shop
Interview, WFUM Radio, Hear/Here, May 23, 2002
nterview, Michigan Public Radio, U-Shop
2005 to Present
Faculty in Fine Arts, Director of Exhibitions, Indiana Univ., Kokomo IN
Director of Work exhibition space, School of Art&Design, University of Michigan ArtProTem, Board of Directors
Adjunct Assistant Professor, College for Creative Studies, Detroit, MI ( Sculpture and Experimental Media)
ArtProTem, Board of Directors, Ann Arbor, MI
Adjunct Assistant Professor, College for Creative Studies, Detroit, MI, (Sculpture II, Sculpture I and Experimental Media.)
Adjunct Lecturer University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
Lecture “Public Art”, Ann Arbor Public Library
Lecture “Use of Sound as Artistic Media” Ann Arbor Public Library
Lecture “Video as Art”, Adrian College, Adrian, MI
Guest Lecturer, Center for Creative Studies, Detroit, MI
Michigan Mentorship Program, Mentoring Gifted High School Students
Graduate Student Instructor, Drawing II
Teaching Assistant, Figure Drawing, University of Michigan
Teaching Assistant, Drawing II, University of Michigan
Professional Graphic Designer and Photographer, Electronic Data Systems.
Guest Instructor, Art on the Move Seminars on Sculpture, Welding and Metal Work.
Freelance Architectural design utilizing sculptural techniques i.e. casting fabrication etc.
1990-present Freelance Video Producer/ Editor/ Director, Steel Labs, Carmel, Indiana
Sculpture Studio Tech, Macomb Community College, Mt.Clemens, MI
AWARDS & GRANTS:
2005/06 New Frontiers Grant, Indiana University
2003 /04 Associated Acedemician, Accademia Internazionale, Greci Marino, Accademia Del Verbano, Di Lettere, Arti, Sciences
1998 Benson & Edith Ford Scholarship, Center for Creative Studies, Detroit, MI
Center for Creative Studies Merit Scholarship, Center for Creative Studies,Detroit,MI
1997 Benson & Edith Ford Scholarship, Center for Creative Studies, Detroit, MI
Center for Creative Studies Merit Scholarship, Center for Creative Studies,Detroit,MI
1996 Scarab Club Gold Medal Show, Honorable Mention, Scarab Club, Detroit, MI
Galleria Zero, Barcelona, Spain
In his recent work, Gregory Steel continues to exhibit, both in video and in small sculpture, conceptual conundrums that intend to break down the boundary between art and life. A maker of videos, installations, books, drawings, and various objects of conceptual art ranging from the sculptural to the purely intellectual, Steel peppers life with every media in order to make a case for this delirious interpenetration into the world. In addition to his multimedia stratagems, one must also mention that much of Steel’s art is highly personal, thus entering his art is also entering his life.
In a recent series of tiny sconce-top maquettes for unattainable monuments, Steel has funneled former sculptural impulses into a quest to answer fundamental conceptual questions. In Pretending to See and Peril, In Anticipation of, Steel calls up the ghost of Claes Oldenburg by presenting a tiny vision of a monument for a local park, served up on a gilt baroque wall-sconce with all the pomp of a waiter lofting a tray of hors d’oeuvres. In these scenes tiny Laurie Simmons-type toy figures, emblematic of middle-Americans, confront the alien presence of what must look like, to them, a crustily-surfaced meteor having fallen into their paradise. But the alien object is quite recognizable to our supersize nation as a mouth-watering turkey leg, and so the scenario also dissolves into a picnic prank. Though it may be that, like Oldenberg, Steel proposes a gargantuan Pop icon as an idea for a monumental sculpture, the stereoscopic scale of the object more likely offers a hallucinatory answer to the nervous souls of bland cityscapes, who seek worlds in grains of truth in order to escape from daily life. That Steel has made Mid-America his home base means that his version of the nondescript is everywhere, as he lives in a “what you see is what you get” culture that may have led him to question the immortality of even reputedly great cultural icons. For example, in an additional piece entitled Trip to the City, all that the artist brings back with him, from the land of lavish MOMA logos and the hoopla of the Big Apple is a plastic museum bag commandeered to haul home fresh apples. Once again, the inflated is deflated, the simple is made precious and, again, everything is food for thought.
Another recent video of the artist’s reveals more clearly some of Steel’s sculptural concerns, though in stripped-down form. When I’m Not There is admittedly not an upbeat meditation, in the landscape of the literal and the minimal, about one’s mortality and the relationship of consciousness and mind to body and its presence in time. In his version of the eternal philosophical conundrum, “if a tree falls in a forest and no one hears it, does it make a noise?” Steel has left his video camera at home, running, while he leaves for work. When he is not there, what does the video camera see? Does anything happen, can anything be said to happen, when the eye and mind of the beholder is not there? Three vignettes retreat from a fantasy that something might happen - a full glass of milk, left on a kitchen counter, empties itself - to a mysterious wondering if what really happened did happen - a page of a coffee table book turns itself, though it might have been the wind and not some ghostly reader - to a sad realization that maybe nothing, or much, happens, and it all goes on in any case without me. These worries are raised by a long take of a corner of tile floor, where a nearly unnoticeable draft whirlpools up dust, and this microscopic riot continues long after one has resigned oneself to the fact that there must by now be no one behind Steel’s camera either. Flirting with the zero degree of perception laid down by existentialists and minimalists, Steel is really exploring life after death, and demands a visionary capacity in his viewer. As one wonders what is going on, or at what scale something is meant to be taken, or in what sense - literal or figurative - one must approach a work by, one thinks more of early Duane Michals or even the film director Roman Polanski (as, for example, in the film Repulsion) than the absolute literalists of mainstream American minimalism. Thus the sconces serve the recent sculpture not as metaphorical quotation marks, but as reminders that, in this new century, reality is constructed by how the perceiving mind frames, mounts, stages or presents it, even when that perception is merely implied in the art and technology we leave behind.
If you are interested in my work please contact me.