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Matt Saunders

Harris Lieberman Gallery
89 Vandam Street, 212-206-1290
February 4 - March 4, 2006
Reception: Saturday, February 4, 6 - 8 PM
Web Site

In the main gallery, Matt Saunders presents a new two-screen animation, his first 16mm film work. The film is a portrait, inspired by an anecdote about the Finnish actor, Matti Pellonpää (1951-1995). After Pellonpää’s early death, the director Aki Kaurismäki (in whose films Pellonpää was a regular, and something of an alter-ego) continued to cast the actor’s still photo, a gesture of extending his friend’s filmography past his life. Saunders’ film assembles more than a thousand drawings made with ink on mylar from a short sequence (essentially a still image)of Pellonpää from Kaurismäki’s film Ariel. Divorced from a traditional storyboard, the animation follows the process (including the boredom of repetition and the transformation of image) of the drawing. On one screen, the actor is still, while his image swirls in a jittery miasma; on the other screen, the ink recedes to make a shallow space in which he shifts, blinks, and peers around. As the sequence of drawings repeats at subtly different speeds, a soundtrack, made in collaboration with Berlin-based musician Billy Davis, keeps pace with the projectors and provides a voice addressing the mute, flickering pictures. The subject of the film becomes the artist’s engagement with the image, while at the same time presenting a tender and melancholy moving portrait (akin to a screen test) of the actor, re-animated by the film, but only able to live within it.

Accompanying the film are two new groups of paintings. A series of small-format works made with oil and metallic ink on mylar present a loose portrait gallery of men whose faces, in one way or another, launched their careers. Ranging from an aging Jean-Paul Belmondo to a beatific, young Joe Dallesandro, from Helmut Berger to Buster Keaton, the paintings consider the uncanniness of time and image trapped in a medium. In the smaller back gallery, these themes are echoed in larger paintings. Here, images play across shifting formats, on mylar and on canvas.
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