Over The Counter Culture

‘Over the Counter Culture’ with Phantoms in the Front Yard…

… a group exhibition at the Gordon Smith Gallery in North Vancouver, BC. held October to December 2015. The following four paintings, sculpture and oversized needles and pills for the installation piece called ‘The Fix’ were Michael’s contribution to the show.


“For their 10th biannual themed exhibition, Vancouver-based figurative collective Phantoms in the Front Yard explores drug culture and its impact. Whether legal, illegal, pharmaceutical, naturopathic, synthetic, or cultivated, drugs have an ever more varied presence on our media, conversations, and society in general. From their use and misuse to their purpose, promise and prominence, they are tied to a still wider spectrum of societal issues.

Over the Counter Culture makes reference to propaganda posters, contemporary advertising, fictional and technical literature, and historical print and painting styles, to explore the evolving complexities circling the perceptions and uses of drugs in cultures past and present.”


This Won’t Hurt a Bit. 22 x 18 inches, oil on linen, 2015. a

Where There’s Smoke… 22 x 18 inches, oil on linen, 2015.

Sleeping Modernist. 18 x 22 inches, oil on linen, 2015. a

Happy Train (AKA The Little Engine that Could And the Big Engine That Did). 22 x 18 inches, oil on linen, 2015.


Founded in 2010, Phantoms in the Front Yard (PITFY) is a Vancouver-based figurative artist collective focused on figurative work in the Canadian contemporary art.

The group brings together the work of Vancouver artists Michael Abraham, Jeremy Birnbaum, Andrea Hooge, Paul Morstad, Jonathan Sutton, and Jay Senetchko; as well as satellite members Bruce Pashak and Caroline Weaver. Pennylane Shen curates the group.

Inspired by an offhand comment by a group member about his dog Phantom’s whereabouts, the name captures the essence of the group’s purpose: to address the fact that Modernist and Postmodern schools of thought virtually ignore the importance of figurative work, effectively banishing it to the back yard. With each exhibition, the Phantoms help bring figurative work back to the front yard of contemporary art.

With a goal of creating art for all, not just academics and industry veterans, the collective opens its doors to members from a broad range of career stages. This diversity provides a variety of perspectives and an exciting opportunity for each member. Emerging artists gain insight from experience, and established ones are invigorated with new ideas.

PITFY exhibitions feature works by collective members and two invited guests who have the potential to join the collective full-time. This model adds a dynamic element to group relations, with every participant assigned specific duties to help make the show a success.

PITFY exhibitions occur annually in alternative venues independent of a gallery or institutional settings. This format allows complete freedom to determine which work will be shown and how. Contrary to group shows curated to reflect a unifying theme, PITFY exhibitions are unified in the artistic process itself. Group members take turns choosing each show’s theme, which other members are free to interpret in their own manner. The subject matter is developed collaboratively in group meetings, resulting in work that is often outside of, and sometimes even contrary to, each member’s normal subject matter and process. This inspires experimentation and new possibilities, often resulting in work that is very diverse in nature, yet unified on a common theme.

The October 2015 show theme was chosen by Michael:

“From reefer madness to angelic elixirs, from escapism to big business; This is an exploration of drugs, and their depiction in our culture, from their use and misuse, their purpose, promise, and prominence.  Whether legal, illegal, pharmaceutical, or ‘all-natural’, there are issues of psychological and physical health, dependency, freedom of choice, pleasure, and sway that reach all demographics.

Images in the show include images styled after propaganda posters, modern-day advertising, and historical print and painting styles to explore and expose the complexity of the issues related to drug evolution in cultures past and present.

Images can explore any content related to all aspects of drugs, including the celebration of cures, the understanding of science and research, the somatic vacations, the downfall of vulnerable and the not so vulnerable, selling of ‘magical’ cure-alls, the pleasure-based selling off to the ‘playful’ lifestyle, non-consequence based exploration of youth, profit-driven corporate and gang culture, and tax revenue and job creation., and the misinformation of vaccines to name a few.”  – MA, 2015

You can see more of the groups work from this and other Phantoms’ shows at Phantomsinthefrontyard.com

Global Head Spin, 2015, Bronze (Available in Green Patina or Polished Bronze) Edition of 9, 24h x 14w x 12.5d a