Venice, CA––Visiting Matt Wedel’s exhibition, Everything is everything, (L.A. Louver November 14, 2018 – January 5, 2019) reinforces Matt Wedel’s importance. I viewed his earlier exhibition in the venue as well. Ceramics and sculpture seems to have been richest in abstraction and poorest in figuration. Wedel is an exception and if I were to list the top five contemporary artists in his genre, he would be there.
Part of the strength is the scale of his work and that they are fired in one piece. Trying to create scale by assembling smaller elements can work but generally I see this not as an aesthetic benefit but an acknowledgement of the maker’s kiln size. It can work, but more often it undercuts the sculptural power of a work. You can learn more by listening to his podcast interview in Casita Confessions.
What we see in this exhibition is new, a touch of darkness, it is not present in every work, nor overwhelming and depressing but it is there. After all nature is under assault. I see it in two major pieces on the exhibition such as where the plants rather than being erect with fecund vigor, have drooped. Also with the Tree pieces there is a series where the flowers are black with a sense of underlying foreboding. That is my take, Wedel’s may be different. Also bear in mind that Wedel is not a botanist, his work is also a critique of society and a melding of sculpture and painting as he states.
Dealing with culture in the context of nature and landscape, these newer works are an extension of exploring paint as sculpture, as well as sculptural action. As these parameters collapse, you enter this way of thinking: ‘Everything is painting, and at the same time, everything is an act of sculpting.’
Wedel’s gallery explains this work eloquently (notice how press releases have become more scholarly):
Wedel’s subjects suggest the natural world and classical figuration through representation of flowers, trees, landscapes and portrait heads. In a sequence of modestly-scaled Flower tree sculptures, the artist begins the table top forms by creating multi-leaved plants in monochrome white porcelain. Atop these structures Wedel daubs vibrantly colored abstract swaths of porcelain like heavily impastoed paint. As if captured in suspended motion, the color configurations appear freshly bestowed, partially obscuring the meticulously articulated petals that lie beneath.LA Louver
My take-away as I left the gallery were a series of heads and his drawings. Nine heads on wall shelves in the gallery. Their detail is pared down into a featureless, domed pillar. The painting on these is perhaps the lushest in the show, alive, smudging, sparking and life-giving.
“Nine porcelain “Portraits” line several shelves. Imagine a medieval battle helmet that extends from the top of the head to the base of the neck — and includes no openings to see, hear or breathe through. Or a domestically scaled lingam. Or a miniature traffic bollard.”David Pagel, LA Times
Wedel was ambivalent about showing his work on paper. I am pleased that he relented. These drawings have an economy, just blue and black for instance. The heads have an almost brutal sense of mass and project a sense of 1930’s modern heroism and power. Heroic is a perfect work to end this review. It applies to the physical presence of the sculpture, the aesthetic dynamism and courageous ambition in Wedel’s art.”
And what of the enigmatic title, Everything is everything? Foe the answer to that I turn again to Pagel:
“To meander through Wedel’s sculptural cornucopia is to practically hear him pondering questions that come to mind in the studio but do not usually come up in public, such as: “Can a figure be a landscape?”, “Can a portrait be anonymous?”, “Can color be a sculptural substance?” and “Are the most effective gestures free of ego?””David Pagel, LA Times
See more images from Wedel’s exhibition here.
Visit Wedel’s excellent up- to-date website here .
Read more about Wedel in past Cfile.Daily posts here.
Listen to his podcast interview with Garth Clark here.
About the artist: Matt Wedel was born and raised in Palisade, Colorado, and first began working with clay at the age of two. Under the guidance of his father, a functional ceramicist, Wedel developed an early passion for making sculpture. He earned a BFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois, and an MFA from California State University, Long Beach where he studied with Tony Marsh. Wedel went on to teach at the University, and has since taught at Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada; Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, Rhode Island, University of Colorado, Boulder and Ohio University, Athens. In early 2012, Wedel moved with his family to Albany, Ohio, where he built his own studio and an oversized kiln.
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