The instantly recognizable red-and-white scuba “diver down” emblem alerts boaters to keep their distance as a diver is in the water and near the surface. Designed in 1953, it is now commonly emblazoned on stickers, t-shirts, flags, and other products.
For Chicago-based artist Matthew Metzger, the logo also provides formal and philosophical groundwork for exploration in a new painting commissioned for the Smart’s sculpture garden. Metzger (University of Chicago MFA 2009) sees the image as a memento mori that reminds us both of the body’s limited capacity to occupy a space and of our fleeting mortality. He is also interested in the emblem’s formal connections to hard-edge abstract painting of the 1950s and 60s through its color fields and emphasis on shape and dimension. In a thought-provoking new painting that references art history and popular culture, Metzger recreates the “diver down” logo while maintaining its emblematic proportions, within the constraints of a large canvas that fills the horizontal dimensions of the Museum’s entryway.