EXHIBITIONS

Matthew Monahan

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Matthew Monahan

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27 Apr, 2012 to 01 Jul, 2012

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This was the first solo exhibition in Canada of work by Los Angeles based artist Matthew Monahan. The survey for the first time brought together three distinct phases of his practice: early works using drywall, more recent pieces from the series utilizing large sheets of glass and industrial ratchet straps more usually seen securing heavy loads, and these combined with new works in cast bronze often standing atop columns or structures made from materials found in the foundry – bricks from smelting ovens, large sheets of metal. Running throughout was Monahan’s interest in the interplay between two and three dimensions, between drawing and materiality, infused with personal mythology and a self-reflective look at the conventions of museum display. Selected from work made during the past eight years, Monahan’s figurative sculptures and drawings evoke artifacts from another time or era. With their battered, weathered surfaces and contorted, fragmented bodies, they could be ancient totemic figurines, tribal masks or chunks of Greco-Roman statuary. But instead of marble, wood or stone, Monahan imbues less weighty materials like Styrofoam, wax and paper with a sense of substance, meaning and artificial patina. Some figures perch on rectangular pedestals of unfinished drywall, whose raw edges and exposed fixings interrupt any impulse toward preciousness; others are contained within glass cases simultaneously acting as container, plinth and discrete element within the overall sculptural composition.

In works such as Seeing brightly (attended by the dim) or Fourth Street Souls (both 2006) figures made of wax or carved foam blocks are placed on drywall stands or are partly contained within glass boxes. In others such as Odalisk (2009) or Rubble Friends (2005 – 08), folded and collaged drawings and photocopies or fragments of figurative elements sit on chunks of polystyrene foam attached to large sheets of glass held upright with bright orange industrial straps. Here drawings or prints are often used as the former for a mould – twisted constructions create volumes containing expanding foam that gives physical three-dimensionality to the drawn image. Other components are bound together as if for transportation. Apparent decay or objects which are somehow in a state of becoming juxtaposed with pristine industrially produced material, suggests that the works are still in progress, and in some cases, they may be. Monahan constantly recycles the detritus of his own studio; a practice that accounts for the wide time frame attributed to some of the pieces reflecting the temporal uncertainty that makes Monahan’s work appear both resolutely contemporary and yet timeless. Within the studio debris, chaos and visible disorder reign. However these impressions are not wholly true. Individual pieces are in a constant state of being reconfigured once process is set in motion. A fragment might sit for a while on a block of foam, then move to perch on top a pile of other fragments, or be collected together as a series of cutoffs or discarded objects. Elements transpose from one place to another, and then find a discrete area where they rest a while as works arrive at a state of completion once undergoing several phases of development.

There is a sense that Monahan’s practice reaches across time, cultures and geographies, and evokes the classicism within European traditions, on occasions recalling more modern figures including Rosso, Rodin and Brancusi in both methodology and form. Within the studio a diverse range of processes is in evidence – casting, carving, assembling, fabricating, drawing and folding. Works emerge from what has been described as the ‘rubble of his [Monahan’s] own creation’. Drawings are photocopied, redrawn, cut and creased to become form; objects appear fractured, partial or ruined like sculptures on a tour ofRome, and all the while they are seemingly unfinished with indications and signs of their making visible.

Within this ambiguity, Monahan plays with the conventions of museum display, most powerfully in his use of glass or the conflation of object and support. As much attention is given to the intrinsic qualities of the plinth or container as to the thing itself. Datong (2005–2007) is a large rough-hewn figure lying on its side, topped by a clear, rectangular glass sheet. Similar to works in which enclosed vitrines become part of the overall sculpture, Datong blurs the boundary between artifact and protective case by placing the object of study literally ‘under glass’ as a structural support. The glass sheets and ‘vitrines’ are at once a sculptural component, a display mechanism and a device for viewing and contemplation of other elements within the overall work. This intermingling of the object and its container calls the neutrality of the display into question, suggesting that the romance of antiquity and the primitive is nothing but an historical fabrication. In creating his own artifacts, Monahan reminds us how the past is constructed and revises it according to his own unique vision.

 

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Artists/Participants:
Matthew Monahan  



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Related Learning

Los Angeles based artist Matthew Monahan gives a formal lecture on his work exploring the major themes in his practice. This talk coincided with Monahan’s first solo exhibition in Canada and highlights Monahan’s interest in the interplay between two and three dimensions, between drawing and materiality, infused with personal mythology and a self reflective look at the conventions of museum display.

Presented in partnership with Graduate Studies at Emily Carr University of Art + Design.

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Artist Talk | Matthew Monahan


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Related Learning

Artist Matthew Monahan is interviewed by Curator and Educator Heidi Reitmaier about his work and his exhibition ‘Matthew Monahan’ at the Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver, April 27 to July 1, 2012. Video by Adrian Buitenhuis

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Video | Matthew Monahan


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Renowned art historian and writer, former chair at UC Santa Cruz and the University of California, Catherine Soussloff is the former Head of the department of Art History, Visual Art and Theory at UBC, ignited a conversation drawing from the disciplines of historiography, theory and philosophy.

This series invites cultural and critical producers to present thoughts and ideas rooted in their own interests and practices, and invites audiences to join in the conversations that will explore relevant contemporary issues, theories, ideas and culture.

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Catherine Soussloff: Death, Benjamin and Melancholy


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Anthropologist, curator and UBC Professor Nicky Levell’s interests are located in the interdisciplinary folds of anthropology, theoretical museology, material culture and critical curatorial studies. She responded to Matthew Monahan’s work.

This series invites cultural and critical producers to present thoughts and ideas rooted in their own interests and practices, and invites audiences to join in the conversations that will explore relevant contemporary issues, theories, ideas and culture.

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Nicky Levell: Art Through Anthropology


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Related Learning

Artist Peter Gazendam drew from his own practice as he toured the Matthew Monahan exhibition, and talked about the many practices of sculpture and its contemporary relationship within history and art.

This series invites cultural and critical producers to present thoughts and ideas rooted in their own interests and practices, and invites audiences to join in the conversations that will explore relevant contemporary issues, theories, ideas and culture.

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Peter Gazendam


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Landon Mackenzie: Map Room; The Act and State of Drawing. As part of Draw Down 2012, the city wide initiative, artist and educator, Landon Mackenzie orchestrated a day of drawing for visitors at the Contemporary Art Gallery. Rooted in her own practice and critical thinking, Mackenzie invited everyone to explore the potentials of drawing and mapping as an act and state of being. This event was made possible with kind support from Opus Art and Framing.

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Workshop | Draw Down 2012


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Related Blog Posts

Matthew Monahan is interviewed for Life on Mars the Carnegie International in 2008. Matthew Monahan’s first Canadian solo exhibition opens at the Contemporary Art Gallery on Thursday April 26 and continues until July 1, 2012.

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