I can imagine the ladies running The Hole had a bit of a chortle over the idea of pairing two sculptors with the same name: Matt Stone and Matthew Stone. Had the work of these two gentlemen not been so damn well-suited the name thing would have been obnoxiously trite. As it happened, each artist mounted a solo show in the gallery: Matt, an American, presented Residuum in the rear room, while the British artist, Matthew, used the main space for Optimism as Cultural Rebellion.
Visitors encounter Matthew’s work first, and it sets a calculating tone with the subdued energy of a low-watt bulb. In a muted palette borrowed from the Old Masters, Matthew makes inkjet prints on wooden panels, which he then cuts and hinges enabling them to be folded into various formations. Works lean up against walls and balance precariously inside or on top of plinths without sides, tops, or bottoms. Some pieces are uncut; these hang on the wall like paintings or occupy the floor as a mattress would.
The subject matter of all these artworks is a tangle of naked body parts, mostly limbs and torsos, but there are tilted heads, rubber necks, and bare feet as well. The largest piece, L’Origine des Mondes (2011), juxtaposes a vagina post-bikini wax with an unshaven armpit, explicitly referencing Gustav Courbet’s racy crotch shot. Courbet’s painting was the size of a pillow. The intimacy of its scale was part of the work’s erotic charge. Matthew’s version is as big as a queen-size bed. It doesn’t function to stimulate erotic desire so much as provide an opportunity to ponder it.
From a formal point of view the correlation between the tangled bodies and the bent and folded panels on which they are printed is clever and interesting. It unites the two dimensional space with the three-dimensional object very cleanly. Matthew’s figures are less arresting. They don’t strain or grasp or sweat as would befit the creaturely reality of an orgy or a scrum. They just sort of lay on one another in uncomfortable apathy.
Matt’s work is much more lively and sensual. Everything Matthew made could have been pre-planned—it was so logistically precise—by contrast Matt’s work appears to reach completion only when intuition tells him it’s time. Seed Crystal (2011) is a perfect example. A web of purple, pink, and blue spandex stretches across a network of steel rods inside of which goopy resin comingles with bubbly mounds of multihued polyurethane foam. It looks like a cocoon from which some psychedelic creature recently emerged. His Prism (2011) is set of hollow triangular straws about ten feet long that lean against a wall like John McCracken’s Planks. These long tubes, filled with a sloshing rainbow of polyurethane foam, call to mind those colorful sand-filled bottles kids make at craft fairs. As befits a nod to an exemplar of the Fetish Finish aesthetic, Matt’s plastic shafts are perfectly smooth. At the top, however, the cleanliness gets messy: foam oozes out and trickles a little down the sides.
In addition to these major works there is a series of smaller Fragments (all 2011), inconspicuously placed on the floor, in a corner, and tacked to the wall. The Fragments are composed of the same stuff as the large sculptures. They are minimally engaging on their own, though they add to the explosive sensibility of Matt’s Residuum, as if spurted from one of the main pieces.
Both shows could have felt one dimensional without the other, though isn’t that always how it is when you spend time with a well-matched couple? One compliments the other in ways that make them both seem more complete. The seam-bursting exuberance of Matt’s kaleidoscopic efforts adds some excitement to the obsessive control and restraint demonstrated in Matthew’s sculptures, which themselves cool the mood on the fiery temperament of Matt’s luscious objects.
~Charlie Schultz, a writer living in New York.
Images: Matt Stone, Campfire, 2011; Matthew Stone, installation view. Courtesy The Hole.