Wendt Gallery is pleased to present Victor Matthews: Alter Ego Paintings — the artist’s first solo gallery exhibition in New York since 1992, concurrent to an exhibition of his work at the gallery’s Laguna Beach locationl.
Born in Brooklyn in 1963, Matthews is a graduate of the New York’s High School of Art and Design. After earning a BFA from the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Matthews moved back to New York in 1984 to set up his first studio on Saint Marks Place in the East Village. Inspired by artists Keith Haring and Richard Hambleton, who made the city streets and subways theirs, Matthews began to paint outdoor murals — especially on walls above parking lots where he could work at night undisturbed. In the studio, the artist credits the late Keith Haring with teaching him the finer points of stretching canvas. Matthews’ work from this period exhibits an eclectic array of influences from Ferdinand Leger to graffiti taggers.
Interested to expand beyond the solitary experience of studio painting, Matthews includes large installation work as a forum in which he can also express personal and socio-political commentary. He has enjoyed acclaim in particular for two large-scale, powerful installations: There’s Not One Day that Goes By I’m Not Reminded I’m a Black Man at the 48th Venice Biennale in 1999 and Beyond Metamorphosis which occupied an entire pier at New York City’s Armory Show and a large stretch of Manhattan’s Battery Park in 2004.
Heart and soul, however, Victor Matthews is a studio painter. The technical challenges and emotional charge of his large-scale projects brings Matthews back to the studio invigorated and ready to paint. Inspired by the urban landscape, his ever-expanding personal iconography is pieced together in his paintings as if in a mosaic. Water towers, bicycles, fish, eyes, sneakers, fire hydrants and pigeons emerge from what appear at first glance to be abstract canvases. He has also always explored the spiritual and technical aspects of painting, influenced by an intriguing mix of painters from Arshile Gorky, Philip Guston and Francesco Goya to contemporaries Brice Marden and Francesco Clemente.
In his new body of work, Alter Ego Paintings, the artist begins each painting with his trademark graphite on canvas drawings. Like a Zen master, his hand moves unbidden across blank canvas until it stops. Next he applies a heavy impasto of white paint on a raw canvas that has been primed only with a transparent layer of rabbit skin glue. This heavy application of paint infuses the otherwise duo-tone canvases with depth and texture. Many collectors have noted that Matthews’ work reveals itself slowly and new imagery emerges in the work upon multiple viewings.
Matthews’ large pastels are a dramatic counterpoint to his significant fields of pure mosaic. Surprisingly serene and contemplative, yet chromatically vibrant, they glimmer like stained glass amidst a cathedral of white.
Matthews’ work is included in the permanent collections of: Cornell University, Ithaca, New York; Nuova Icona Cultural Association for the Patronage of Contemporary Visual and Performing Arts, Venice, Italy; The National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center, Wilberforce, Ohio; The New School University, New York, New York; Sala 1 – International Center for Contemporary Art, Rome, Italy.
Victor Matthews currently lives and works in New York’s TriBeCa with his cat, Untitled.