MIAMI––Arkansas-based artist Mathew McConnell wrapped up his latest exhibition February February this July with Mindy Solomon Gallery (June 2 – July 21, 2018). The exhibition––the artist’s first solo exhibition with the gallery––featured 56 new contemporary, two-dimensional, ceramic renderings.
February February consists of two nearly-identical sets of 28 earthenware tiles finished with bone charcoal and graphite. As visitors enter the exhibition, they are presented with a repetitive line of tablet-sized works circling the space. From the center of the gallery, with their light-absorbing surfaces, the works appear as voids or placeholders. They are virtually indistinguishable from one another. Drawing closer, textures and dimensionality emerge and previously anonymous surfaces now reveal finely reproduced details and compositional strategies. Moving in either direction around the gallery, viewers encounter 28 unique pieces before the sequence repeats itself. Works hanging in one half of the gallery are signed, the others are left unsigned.
The production of work for February February began with the collection of hundreds of images from exhibitions occurring in February of this year from contemporary art websites such as Contemporary Art Daily and Art Viewer. Throughout the month, images were downloaded, printed, and spread across a table adjacent to the artist’s workspace, where he was simultaneously producing models (rendered in cardboard, tape, foam, fabric, and other readily available materials) using the collected images as an expanding palette of compositional possibilities. These initial stages of collecting images and making models occurred fluidly and intuitively, each model being quickly resolved before beginning the next. With the completed models in hand within four weeks of starting them, the following months were dedicated to transforming the models into precise earthenware facsimiles via plaster molds, and carefully burnishing their surfaces into a deep black-metallic finish.
The exhibition continues McConnell’s long exploration into the persistent problems of invention, originality, and creative influence in art making. Using duplication as a primary tool for exploring these questions, McConnell works directly from images of contemporary art—selecting, stealing, stretching and manipulating sources—wringing them for inspiration for his idiosyncratic processes. His practice exists in an emphatically tight loop of influence and response, enabled by the connectivity of our digital era. Most important in the sources he chooses is simply the impetus they provide for the production of “new” work. The resulting forms vary between recognizable images, strategies and tropes commonly found in contemporary art and forms seemingly outside the sources they claim to derive from.
About the Artist: Mathew McConnell (b. 1979, Johnstown, PA) holds an MFA from the University of Colorado, Boulder, and a BFA from Valdosta State University in Georgia. He has held numerous solo exhibitions and his works have been included in group exhibitions in China, Australia, New Zealand, and in many venues across the United States. He has been subject of feature-length articles in Ceramics Art and Perception, Ceramics Monthly, and New Ceramics. In 2012, Mathew was granted an Emerging Artist award from the National Council on Education in Ceramic Art. He has been a resident artist at the Archie Bray Foundation, Anderson Ranch, and Greenwich House Pottery, and served as the Artist in Residence and Guest Lecturer of Contemporary Craft at Unitec in Auckland, New Zealand in 2010. He is currently serving as an Associate Professor at the University of Arkansas, where he oversees the ceramics area.
Text from the gallery.