Mike Mandel grew up in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles during a period of expansion and transformation of the landscape that included the appearance of billboards, strip malls, and miles of freeways. This experience informs much of his work which questions the meaning of photographic imagery within popular culture and draws from snapshots, advertising, news photographs, and public and corporate archives. Much of this work resulted in self-published artist's books including Myself: Timed Exposures (1971), Seven Never Before Published Portraits of Edward Weston (1974), The Baseball-Photographer Trading Cards (1975), and Making Good Time (1989). In 1977, Mandel and Larry Sultan collaborated on the seminal photographic book Evidence, a book comprised of file photographs from engineering, corporate and government agencies. Over a period of twenty-five years, Mandel and Sultan designed both temporary (billboards) and permanent (tile mosaic) artworks specifically for public sites. Their collaboration has been documented in a recent monograph Larry Sultan and Mike Mandel (2012). A publication of Mandel’s 1970s conceptual projects Good 70s was published in 2015. Since the early '90s Mandel's work has worked extensively on public art projects transforming photographic imagery into large scale glass and ceramic tile mosaic murals. Mandel's recent projects have been in collaboration with his wife, Chantal Zakari. Their book, The State of Ata (2010) speaks to the clash between Islam and secularism in Turkey. Their book They Came to Baghdad (2012) is a response to the Iraq War, and Lockdown Archive (2015) is a record of all the images uploaded to the web that relate to the military occupation of Watertown after the Boston Marathon Bombing in 2013.
...Much of my work questions the meaning of photographic imagery within popular culture and draws from snapshots, advertising, news photographs, public and corporate archives and online databases. Many of these projects resulted in self-published artist's books all made in the 1970s, and that have recently been reissued as a boxed collection, Good 70s in 2015. In 1977, Larry Sultan and I collaborated on Evidence, the result of a two-year investigation of images selected from institutional archives - government departments, the military, scientific research establishments, law-enforcement. As a whole, the book suggests a mysterious atmosphere of an unexplained technologically driven, dehumanizing future. This idea was made all the more potent because the photographs were not imagined or set up by us, but came right from these centers of technology.
Over the past twenty-five years, I have designed both temporary (billboards) and permanent (tile mosaic) artworks specifically for public sites.
My most recent projects have been in collaboration with my wife, Chantal Zakari. Our book, The State of Ata, 2010, speaks to the clash between Islam and secularism in Turkey. They Came to Baghdad, 2012, is a response to the Iraq War. "Shelter in Plates", 2014, is a series of faux commemorative ceramic plates designed with photos that call into question the extreme militarized response and unprecedented lockdown of thousands of Watertown residents including, we, the artists, who were ordered to shelter in place during the April 19, 2013 manhunt for the last Boston Marathon bomber. We address this same event in Lockdown Archive, a collection of images from the lockdown all found on the web and reorganized, in order to provide an encyclopedic documentation of public surveillance of the manhunt. I am at present working on a series of unexpected photographs that all derive from 40,000 negatives in the archive of Ansel Adams at the Center for Creative Photography in Tucson, Arizona.