Mathew Zefeldt confronts the remaking of classical ideas at the juncture between the original and the replica. The heads of Greco/Roman sculpture are subjects for most of the work. Through a painstaking process of hand-painting repeated images of the sculptures, Zefeldt questions what it means to make a sculpture into a painting. Conversely, sculpture made of painted stacked, two-dimensional panels of wood and heavy impasto made into three-dimensional sculpture swing the conversation from two-dimensional to three-dimensional and back again, further blurring the lines between sculpture and painting. Using a playful and contemporary aesthetic, the work pushes canonical art history toward the disruption of eras.
Several of Zefeldt’s paintings incorporate “portraits” of classical sculpture heads repeated one by one on the canvas, aligning them in a circle as well as placing more of them within the circle where eyes, a nose and a mouth would be – ultimately forming a face. Doing so drives Zefeldt’s concept into the realm of the literal and at once the absurd – a sculpture becomes a painting of a sculpture becomes faces which become a face. Consistency with imagery and application is indicative of the dedication to a persistent ideology that epitomizes the recursive nature of his process as the title of the exhibition suggests: “What Are I”. In addition to the repeated subjects and materials, color plays a major role in Zefeldt’s work – activating it – either all colors of the rainbow together or in monochromatic patterns.
Glowing purple, vivid lime green, saturated cherry reds, pungent yellow, and the occasional florescent orange impart a playful demeanor. Monochromatic red or black gingham plaid patterns trick the eye. When viewing the work as a whole, a visual space is created where mid-last-century consumer Americana collides with present day infatuation for nostalgia in all of its false hope for the future while at the same time paying homage to the past. Each piece nestles between the hand-made while also referencing technology.
The implied ease of replication mimics the printing press or dittos. The graphic designs and patterns are reminiscent of textiles rapidly woven on giant electronic looms. Some of the backgrounds quiver and vibrate, as if lit or simulating a screen shot of glitches from a television screen caught between channels. In compliment, Chris Pew’s work is exactly that – visual electronic data re-scripted to create abstract digitally generated moving and still abstract compositions.
“80 Milliseconds in the Past” is a single channel digital video of moving geometry and the title is also the title of his portion of the exhibition. Rectangular, smeary and pixilated shapes move in and out and across the small screen. Nearby are photographic stills of similar work. As the title suggests, Pew’s concepts are grounded in the past – in those ambiguous moments that are fractions of time just prior to when the next thing happens in our lives. Together, Zefeldt and Pew are embarking on a discursive endeavor that is not merely aesthetically stimulating, but one that is marked by time.
This exhibition was curated by Svea Lin Soll from Swarm Gallery, Oakland.
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-Contributed by Leora Lutz