Thursday, March 10, 2005

Matthew Brown • Untitled • 2005 • oil canvas • 75 x 36 inches

Matthew Brown’s untitled paintings were of single plants isolated against nondescript backgrounds. Both artists’ plant selections are the kind you’d find out in the prairies of outlying suburbs. So maybe the work is about the wonder of nature and the Midwest’s simplistic beauty. OK, but I really love the work for the formal qualities.

Brown’s paintings are alkyd and oil on canvas, the are incased in glossiness, and barely seem like they have a fabric support. The images are magical and mysterious, like prehistory encased in amber. The colors are a little off beat in the current “in” mode, but also very traditional and representational, so a play between wild and buttoned down occurs. I find this very interesting. Up close, especially, the paintings seem aching to go wild like a Peter Doig or Daniel Richter. But they are held back, constrained to the fine linear areas of the plants’ mass, held in place by the smooth atmospheric backgrounds. These works are pretty, I loved looking at them. I think that is a wonderful thing, to find a group of paintings to get lost in for a little while. To tie it into the prairie/nature thing, it’s like taking a walk in a forest preserve.

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