A little over a year ago, the New York City-based Asya Geisberg Gallery opened a new exhibition named ‘Quiet Earth’ featuring new works by American collage artist Matthew Craven. Unfortunately we missed the inspirational display at the time, but recently our friend Merijn at …,staat pointed it out to us and we have been infatuated by the haunting works from that moment. The exhibition featured a series of works on paper, combined together rhythmically repeating a flattening of time and scale. In the imagery, Craven combines found images of antiquity with abstract hand-drawn patterns of ambiguous origin, and often subsequently painting walls to emphasize aesthetic choices that personalize his project. Ever-curious and controlled in his choice of placement and mark, as per usual the artist created enigmatic combinations, that despite (or maybe because) their encyclopedic nature, always succeed to engage our gaze and force curiosity about each specific reference and composition.
Craven always begins his imagery on an aged background, often vintage movie posters with yellowing tape, finding images in old books that are never glossy. As his collages compress millennia by placing the prehistoric next to the modern, they shift around time: the distance between the image’s creation and our grasp of its significance, the hours searching for appropriate materials, the cultivation of isolated fragments before evolving into Craven’s artistic universe. Several of the works use the landscape, colorful and present, to form a dialogue with the silent man-made artworks, adding an exciting visual layer. It seems as Craven is saying that we exist today because of our pre-historic past, and all cultures share the same planet. From a greater distance, the differences melt away (which too many people seem to forget now a days!), and just as all landscapes share underlying structure and forms (hence the quietness of the earth, possibly), so too do Craven’s stone temples, monuments, and patterns. The result is a highly fascinating series of work forming a quest through human history without ever losing our interest on an aesthetic level. We can’t wait for more aesthetic journeys from the mind of Matthew Craven.
The origin of each image takes the viewer on a trajectory. Is that a Brancusi sculpture, an African wood carving, or a Neolithic tool? Buildings grow comically tiny, amulets loom large, faces could be temple friezes or wax seals. Mirroring, outline, repetition, and odd composition push the work beyond an ode to antiquity. Above all, Craven relishes in patterns and ideas reappearing in different eras, suggesting a unity of inspiration.
Matthew Craven uses found images collaged onto obsessively drawn patterns to suggest the primacy of geometric abstraction in our visual vocabulary. Often buying several copies of the same vintage textbook, he repeats images of ancient art and archaeological remains to mirror geometric patterns inspired by decoration of North and South American indigenous origin. Attentive to physicality, his laboriously hand-drawn pieces are on the backs of old movie posters, adding another layer of age. Craven’s fusions erase particularity, implying that patterns and perhaps histories across cultures start to reflect rather than oppose each other.
Matthew Craven was born in Michigan. He earned a BFA from Michigan State University, and received his MFA from the School of Visual Arts, NY. He has exhibited widely in the United States and abroad, including solo and two-person exhibitions at David Shelton Gallery, Houston; DCKT Contemporary, NY; Allegra LaViola Gallery, NY; Marvelli Gallery, NY; Gallery Hijinks, San Francisco; Packing, Detroit; and Get This! Gallery, Atlanta. Group exhibitions include Muster-Meier, Switzerland; Richard Heller Gallery, Los Angeles; Perry Rubenstein, NY; and the Hole, NY; among others. Craven has been reviewed in The Brooklyn Rail, Art Critical, The Huffington Post, and Burnaway, and has curated exhibitions at DCKT, Asya Geisberg Gallery, and Nudashank.
Credits top image: ‘EARTH/TOTEM. (headband)’, Ink and Found Image on Found Poster, 44″ x 34″, 2016
For all information on the Asya Geisberg Gallery see here
For more work by Matthew Craven see here