Miller Gallery is pleased to present New Work by Matthew Metzger, the third solo exhibition by the Cincinnati based artist. Metzger’s paintings and sculptures conjure landscapes and figures of the mind, yet in their materiality and surface they seek to express the physicality of the natural world. The exhibition explores various themes of balance in weight, material, value and scale.
Metzger works out every aspect of his production with great precision. Beginning with the fabrication of his own stretchers and canvases, he often leaves the natural linen and hemp unprimed and exposed. The artist’s paints are hand-made from earth and metal pigments, combined with walnut oil and beeswax. Yet, for all the precision the paintings are not pristine or perfect; rather, they are marked with a nuanced imperfection evidencing an erudite sensitivity toward material and touch. Even more than past work, the overall effect of the paintings is toward unity, with the field built up in an all-over combination of earth and oil ultimately coalescing as if they cannot be disassembled, much like the earth itself.
Each of the paintings is unabashedly a landscape. One of Metzger’s goals is to reduce his paintings to the point that the viewer’s eye has difficulty locating any points of focus or reference. As a result, any natural analogues suggested by these works, whether of sky, mountain, forest or sea, exist more in terms of experience and mood than in any definite imagery. Metzger’s subtle layering, surfaces and color suggest how one might actually feel standing in a landscape, in the phenomenological sense. As critic Jonathan Kamholtz has observed when discussing Metzger’s work, “there is so much moisture in [Metzger’s paintings] that just looking at them must be good for one’s complexion.”
Metzger’s sculptures, in opposition to the paintings, are figurative. He insists it is crucial to consider the sculptures in relation to the paintings rather than in isolation, and when done so the sculptures place the human form amidst the sublimity of landscape much in the tradition of northern Romantic painters such as Caspar David Friederich, and Chinese literati painters who often placed almost imperceptible figures amidst vast, misty landscapes. When considering the latter tradition, it is also interesting to consider Metzger’s sculptures in relation to Chinese scholar rocks.
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