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Matt Wycoff, Before And After

Hogar Collection
362 Grand Street, 718-388-5022
April 17 - May 18, 2009
Reception: Friday, April 17, 6 - 9 PM
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The Hogar Collection is pleased to announce the upcoming exhibition by Matt Wycoff, Before And After. In his first solo exhibition at the gallery, Wycoff will present sculpture, painting and works on paper that work within and reinvigorate formal, minimal, and conceptual art making strategies. This new body of work begins from the assumption that form (the physical things around us) is the foundation from which consciousness builds language and ideas for communication. Historically, this assumption establishes a lineage that begins with form and ends with communication–it creates a movement, or a directional flow, from pure, or pre-linguistic form, to language and ideas that can be communicated. This transformation is a process of approximation, grouping, categorization and generalization. In other words, it is a process of naming. It privileges efficiency and universality over specificity. It does not ask the question, What is this? It asks the question, What is this like?

Writers and critics, such as Ludwig Wittgenstein, have argued that this transformation from form to language in the modern consciousness happens almost, if not, instantaneously. Others have gone further and argued that the relationship between form and language can no longer be undone–that we cannot look at a book, and not also simultaneously think, book. The title of a biography about the artist Robert Irwin, “Seeing Is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees,” gets at this idea succinctly. The title implies that, “to see,” is to have an experience of something that is, for a moment, outside of, or before, language. The title recognizes language as an impediment to detail and specificity, which, it assumes, are essential to “seeing.”

One way to think about formal abstraction in contemporary art is as an attempt to slowdown the speed of this movement from form to language. Formal abstraction privileges experience over communication¬–it is an opportunity to revel in the question, What is this? Within a particular frame of reference the answer to this question has become “it is art.” The answer, it is art, negates the original intent to deny classification. In other words, the artwork intended to elude categorization is inevitably categorized into language. This oscillation creates a backdrop for the exhibition, Before And After. The individual works in the exhibition are attempts to get at this pervasive, and rather perverse, feeling of both knowing and not knowing.

Wycoff’s approach is keenly aware of Modernism’s failure to elude reference, but also seduced by the romance of its approach to form. His work operates on a horizontal plane, moving laterally, rather than attempting to push a progressive narrative. In his book, “The End of Art,” Donald Kuspit famously recognized such a strategy as the end of art’s self-realization, and a literal end to art. Moving past the question of the end of art, what seems clear is that some basic ground rules have been established. The Modernist strategy is incomplete. Works of art cannot, for example, escape the tendency of consciousness towards approximation and the implication of language. Every mark is made by a body, and on a surface, each with their own particular and varied histories, references, and meanings. On the other extreme, to do the opposite and insist that art must serve a more quantifiably functional role (think activist art or relational aesthetics) seems somehow equally negligent.

Our understanding of larger cultural transformation is almost always predicated on a shift from something to something else. The dichotomy between Modernism and Post-Modernism is the most relevant example. What emerges when these frames of reference are shifted or set aside is the possibility for a kind of lateral aesthetic, which moves freely among its referents without getting bogged down in establishing its sequence or framing its opposition.

The individual works in the exhibition, Before And After, harmonize with this strategy, but also allude to broader structures and cultural tendencies. One might think of advertising and the culturally ubiquitous before and after photo, with its promises of transformation, or, of the media’s insistence on framing news in terms of its relation to historical events. The terms pre/post 9/11 or pre/post Katrina are succinct examples of this tendency. Similarly, our most pervasive narratives are also framed in terms of their relation to historicized events. The reference points B.C./A.D, Post-Apocalyptic and After the Fall are all phrases that depend on a concise dichotomy.

Wycoff’s works do not seek to elude this dichotomy, rather, they aim to create experiences whose internal logic illuminate the larger structures by which consciousness transforms experience into meaning.

Matt Wycoff was born in Anderson South Carolina in 1980 and currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. He is a McDowell Residency Fellow, received a Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts Residency in both 2007 and 2009, a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Travel Grant and a Leon Levy Foundation grant. He has had solo exhibitions at The Leedy-Voulkous Center and Dolphin gallery, both in Kansas City and Rare gallery in New York among others. As well his work has been included in numerous group exhibitions at venues such as the Brooklyn Arts Council, Fellows of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, Blue Barn Theater in Omaha, La Esquina in Kansas City, H&R Block Art Space in Kansas City and Farenheit gallery in Kansas City, MO. He received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Kansas City Art Institute, Kansas City, Missouri, May 2002.
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