Punk Rock Nirvana: Matt Jones’s Multiverse
Matt Jones: Multiverse at Freight + Volume
March 31 –May 7, 2011
530 W. 24th Street, between 10th and 11th avenues
New York City, (212) 691-7700
Matt Jones’ Multiverse was a generously dense exhibition with works covering the entire gallery space including two floor-to-ceiling wall installations. Jones takes a fairly simple set of materials and through a process of contemplation and punk rock slapdash creates iconic wall pieces and propped figures. There was a video work titled Every Expression Possible (2011) that featured a masked Jones acting out many different faces and expressions against the background of a Karma Charger. As in his paintings, Jones uses repetition here to evoke a meditative calm.
But the work is also about contradictions, and these make for visual excitement. While Jones cites Buddhist practices and meditation as a source of creative energy, we see Wolverine masks and Black Flag logos (originally designed by Raymond Pettibon in the late ‘70s) which conjure a kind of brash male ego enterprise (the rocker, the comic book character), archetypal symbols that Jones has rescued from adolescence. He has dusted off these two icons, colored over them and reverently slathered them with Elmer’s glue.
The floor pieces were the most satisfying part of the show. The groupings of propped figures invited interaction. I arrived at the opening early and there were only a few visitors but I felt I had entered a crowded room. The figures were frozen in dynamic poses and emanated excitement. Propped paintings, frozen in animate gestural poses, act as stand-ins for viewers. Jones plays with materiality in ways that feel at once DIY and mechanical in their clarity of execution. The surfaces of these propped figures were treated exactly the same as the wall pieces hung nearly edge to edge along the perimeter of the gallery. Inkjet prints are cut to the shapes of the figures and then adhered to the plywood surface with glue. Jones works over the prints with alcohol-based marker and adds color and abstract patterns. The final stage of the process is several coats of thinned Elmer’s Glue spread over the surface that acts as a lacquer, sealing and unifying the surfaces. The result of Jones’ serial method is a borderline-obsessive repetition of themes and characters that is like a visual chant–we see black and white lines repeated in the Karma Chargers and the recurrent characters throughout the works. A hum of patterns fills the room.
Jones succeeded at pulling off a sense of serenity in a room dense with punk-inspired plywood cutouts. Karma Charger (2011), a large inverted wedge of plywood covered in Xerox sheets of black and white stripes, is a mandala that assists in bringing about a moment of Nirvana. The idea with this construction, according to the artist himself, is that the viewer basks in front of the device, imbuing it with his own psychic energy and that the subsequent viewers in turn exchange the other viewers’ meditative experience. When staring into the pattern for several minutes my peripheral vision dissolved, my eyes softened and my mind quieted. I didn’t expect to be brought into a kind of guided meditation when entering the exhibition but was pleased to find a few moments of quiet contemplation and visual pleasure.