Harris Lieberman Gallery is pleased to present an exhibition of new work by Matt Saunders. Steeped in the world of film, Saunders's work in painting, animated film and photography engages private histories and archetypal gestures - intimate performances and whole careers - all drawn into a material narrative of translation and constant flux.
In the main gallery, Saunders will install a group of large photographs produced from painted "negatives." Starting with a single image of actress Asta Nielsen, based on an early Twentieth Century Russian collectible card, Saunders made a series of paintings with oil and silver ink on both sides of large mylar sheets. These paintings were then contact-printed to produce the photographs on display, a process that preserves the scale of the originals and inverts their tonality, while conflating their multiple layers and varied materials. Opaque passages of paint become light. In some cases, Saunders overpaints parts of the photographs with the same paint or ink used to make the negatives.
Nielsen figures in these photographs as an opaque image, caught in a post at once rapt and confrontational. Often cited as the first international film star, she was the leading lady of Germany's pre-war film industry and played roles ranging from a prostitute to Hamlet. In Saunders's hands, the actress appears as both a mute placeholder and a changeable emblem of an era.
A single picture of Hertha Thiele, a contemporary of Nielsen's and
recurrent protagonist for Saunders, occupies a series of silver paintings on mylar in the back room. While past work offered various glimpses of the actress's career, these new paintings foreground the seriality of Saunders's process. The various transpositions Saunders effects between cinema, painting and photography become stories in their own right,telling of the elusive lure and endless circulation of moving-images, and the way we live with them in time.
Matt Saunders's work has been featured in recent group exhibitions at the Deutsche Guggenheim, Berlin and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Saunders has a forthcoming solo exhibition at The Renaissance Society, Chicago and will be in a forthcoming group exhibition at the University of Michigan Museum of Art. He received his MFA from Yale University in 2002.