Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Drawn Habitats

Linda Matalon, Untitled [diptych], 2019, graphite and wax on paper, 50 x 76 inches

Exhibition Review

Linda Matalon
Emmanuel Barbault
325 Broome Street
November 5 - December 20, 2019

Linda Matalon’s thoughtfully installed exhibition of careful yet strong graphite and wax drawings is called “Canto,” ostensibly as an homage to the poetry and sensibility of Dante.  Certainly, the works have enough suffused brightness to merit the epigraph from The Divine Comedy in the gallery catalogue:  “When the dawn opened, and the night was not.”  But “canto” also translates to “I sing,” and the drawings do come across as arias with sensitively rendered shapes emerging, off-center, from densely layered fields of marks and diverse visual textures. 

The overall effect of the erasures, oily saturations, small rips and abrasions, smudges, and shadowy underlayers is of a thoroughly lived-in world.  The shapes that populate this world — many of them proto-circular, though no circle is closed or even close to round — appear hopeful in an effort to find their form, yet register a slight sadness in their inevitable incompletion.  Such is life.  Life also emerges from the drawings — which range from a small, older sample to mostly medium-to-large works — when they are examined over time.  Lines that are in dialogue with the primary shapes can be seen lurking beneath the picture plane, behind more defined forms. 

Linda Matalon, Untitled [diptych], 2018, graphite and wax on paper, 30 x 44¾ inches

The cumulative experience of the drawings takes hold after sitting on the bench in the center of the gallery, which Matalon designed and produced for the space.  The wide, thick, buffed wood — and the raw wood support underneath — complement the drawings, so that the furniture becomes part of the overall installation and architecture.  A visible seam in the milled surface even echoes the compositional structure of some of the drawings (including one duet of large, erased photographs), which consist of adjoining sheets of paper.  

Installation view, Linda Matalon, Canto, 2019

These drawings are daring without having bravado.  Their smudges and waxiness have much in common with large drawings by Roni Horn and older paintings by Brice Marden (especially his unfinished bottom sections).  Their palette, layered density, and reference to an Italian classic suggest the work of Cy Twombly.  Florence Derieux's catalogue essay suggests a connection to Eva Hesse, which fits the sense of fragility in translucent materials.  Still, Matalon’s formal language expands on her own unique vocabulary.  After spending time in this beautifully considered exhibition, everything else I looked at — not only the outside world, but other exhibitions — seemed garish.

— Karen Schiff

Linda Matalon, Untitled [diptych], 2019, erased photograph, 16 x 45 inches

No comments:

Post a Comment