Victor Matthews & Paolo Nicola Rossini
1–27 June 2013
A Collateral Event at the 55th Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia
Nearest vaporetto stop: Santo Spirito line 6; Zattere lines 2, 5.1, 5.2; Salute line 1
Hours: 1–9 June, 10am–7pm; 11–27 June, 11am–6pm
Closed on Mondays except 3 June
Curated By Natalie Clifford
Catalogue contributions from Francesco Clemente, Salman Rushdie and Kathleen Goncharov
Nuova Icona and Space SBH present an exhibition of work by Victor Matthews and Paolo Nicola Rossini exploring through painting, sculpture and photography the theme of transition.
Left: Victor Matthews, Ice Frozen Cold I (detail), 2013. Acrylic and wax pencil on canvas, 157.5 x 296 cm. Right: Paolo Nicola Rossini, ‘Still’ Life #8, 2013. Pigmented fine art giclée, 150 x 230 cm.
Rossini’s photography developed from the need to find a deeper conceptual approach to his work and a personal way of seeing and representing reality through landscapes (in the loosest sense of the word), elements, people and various still life. His multilayered images appear as suspended in time and space, almost indefinite as moments collide.
The photographs melt their subjects together within each image, which combination changes the identity and reality of what the viewer sees, making the work seem more like a painting. This overlap creates a real distortion of the space. Rossini creates the illusion of depth and engages the viewer in seeking recognizable imagery by inventing a familiar yet simultaneously anonymous terrain. This process aims to catch reality in its transition—a suspension between past and present—the transition of spaces, subjects and moments. The viewer is drawn to explore the abstract layers of information and Rossini seeks to engage us in the game of duality; creating a false imagery that lies somewhere between reality and illusion.
Matthews’ paintings transcend from his dreams. He probes his subconscious in order to unravel universal perceptions of reality, memory and the world around us. His “white paintings,” which reference the New York landscape, have a serenity and simplicity about them which is innocent and playful, demonstrating Matthews’ cherished relationship with his city and affording the viewer an intimate look into his psyche.
The interplay of what appear to be shapes become apparent as iconic landmarks—water towers and bridges, cars, sidewalks, fire hydrants—these objects are immediately recognizable to every inhabitant as shared visual terrain; the very essence of Matthews’ old Brooklyn neighbourhood. The paintings have a Modernist sensibility and based on a palate of white, the texture of the acrylic plays against the raw-colored linen canvas, demarcated by a strong presence of the two-dimensional—of line—which winds its way through his city charting the cartography of his subconscious mind.
Like the man himself, we dance along the joyful, happy strokes that punctuate the canvas—affirmative and present, effortlessly gliding, guiding our way through the metropolis. But it is in the balance and silence of these elegant works that Matthews’ poised approach and focus are apparent, revealing the inner calm which is Matthews to a T. He is an artist at peace with himself. The paintings personify a purity within him that transcends time and space.
Matthews and Rossini challenge the transition of image from the mind’s eye, externalizing it through their painting and photography. The works suspend themselves on the edge of innovative creative and philosophical thought, and dare to ask where our interaction between the physical world and our imaginative life, begins and ends.
This is the first collaborative exhibition of the artists and is curated by Natalie Clifford.
Both artists are represented by Space SBH – Contemporary Art Gallery.
Nuova Icona is the sponsoring institution of the show.
Transitions is a Sponsored Project of Artspire, a program of the New York Foundation for the Arts.
Written by Jenifer Vogt on 30 August 2013.
The work of artists Victor Matthews and Paolo Nicola Rossini, now on view in Transitions at the Boca Raton Museum of Art, at first glance appears dramatically different.
Yet Kathleen Goncharov, curator of exhibitions and audience engagement, who organized the show, sees a common theme in their work.
“Both artists afford the viewer a glimpse into their subconscious and their dreams and memories. Whether it’s fleeting moments, or the passage of years, they both deal with what’s transitional,” Goncharov said.
Goncharov’s vision brought Matthews’ and Rossini’s work together as an official collateral exhibit at this year’s Venice Biennale. The show contains about 30 works, including Matthews’ large-scale paintings and assemblages and Rossini’s large-scale photographs.
From there it came directly to Boca, where it opened to one of the largest crowds the museum has ever seen. Part of the draw was a special appearance by Matthews’ close friend, DJ John “Jellybean” Benitez, who rose to fame in the mid-’80s as Madonna’s BFF.
It was in the ’80s, too, that Matthews’ star began to rise as he traveled in a prestigious circle of artists that included Francesco Clemente and Jean-Michel Basquiat. There, too, is when I first met him as an aspiring teenage gallerina sneaking into the city to attend art gallery openings. I was drawn to his imagery and to his easygoing, tranquil manner.
I remember his dealer telling me that his work had just been purchased by Susan Siedelman, who directed Madonna in Desperately Seeking Susan. Though we eventually lost touch, as I went off to college, I marveled at his rise to fame and kept clippings in my scrapbook of articles about him from The New York Times.
The same easiness and likability that drew me to Matthews, over the years has also impressed a number of important collectors and celebrities. Jay-Z owns his work and Matthews counts Russell Simmons as one of his close friends and he also sits on the board of three of Simmons’ charities. Clemente, who contributed to the show’s catalog, wrote, “…Matthews is a gentle-man, both in the way he accepts the world….and in the way he embraces the narratives of his subtle sensibility, surfing, a bit dandy-like, along the crest of a gentle ripple of paint.”
Matthews’ series of grid-like white paintings featured in this show demonstrate a lively inner life. He’s got a Joyce-like, stream-of-consciousness style. He does not prepare preliminary sketches. His work goes directly from his mind to the surface of the canvas, or towards constructing his assemblages. The resulting works depict movement, whimsy and rhythm.
“I have these impulses and feelings that are in me,” he explained. “They’re hard to verbalize, but they’re in my thoughts, my dreams at night and my daydreams. I paint on the raw canvas because you can’t erase, so the lines are genuine, and you can’t predict the outcome.”
While white often symbolizes calm, for him it’s more nuanced. He said, “There are so many different tones in it.” In the same way, there are different layers beyond the surface of his narrative paintings and assemblages, which depict his personal iconography and signature style. There are the symbols of his Brooklyn childhood: water towers, bridges, bicycles and Converse sneakers. “I’ve been wearing them since I was a kid and saw Dr. J wearing them in TV commercials,” he said.
You feel the rhythm of New York City, with all its interesting micro-narratives, playing out in paintings such as, Earth Ice Frozen Cold I and Earth Ice Frozen Cold II, both made earlier this year for this exhibit. Salman Rushdie, who also contributed to the catalog, wrote, “They are ludic, affectionate dreams of New York, like portraits of an all-white Oz, with a white brick road snaking through a white metropolis…”
Yet within the city frenzy, Matthews holds onto that noteworthy inner calm. This is evident in the signature eye that appears throughout his work. The eyes evoke the Hindu “third eye,” a symbol of seeing beyond the surface, of wisdom and clarity. Then, there are also the allusions to Buddhism — the statue of the Buddha and the Shambala encircling the Tree of Life. This is an artist who, despite fame, despite celebrity, values his serenity amidst the clamoring.
This underlying calm ties into the surface of Paolo Nicola Rossini’s photographs, which are also layered and nuanced beyond their surface. That surface is mystical and enticing, beckoning the viewer into a cosmos-like world of light and color. Works, such as Shape #2 and Still Life #8 seem like the impressions of something that was once there, fleeting, transitional.
Though they might appear staged, Rossini creates these images without the aid of software. “It’s actually long-exposure pictures of movie frames. The subjects are captured in short movies with a video camera,” he said. “My process is to photograph a movie composed of various images, some of which appear longer than others, and it creates a single photo where all the elements come together in a unique alchemy.”
The underlying imagery, blurred beyond recognition, contains scenes of empty spaces, landscapes, natural elements and lights. Sometimes, there are people, but their features are not discernible and they’re merely impressions of a human presence.
In Rossini’s work, “nothing is sharply focused or defined and much is left to the viewer’s imagination,” Goncharov said. “The muted palette and subtle tonal changes create a mysterious presence whether the subject is nature, people, or cities of the world. These pictures argue that whatever we see and remember might just be a mirage.”
Transitions is an enticing exhibit, not only because of the individual talents of each artist, but as a result of the juxtaposition of the two. While each individually portrays their inner monologue, collectively these form an intriguing dialogue.
Matthews’ work speaks one visual language, while Rossini’s, by contrast, speaks an altogether different one, forcing further comparison and contemplation. And with the theme of the show itself, there’s also an interesting visual “transition” from one artist’s world to the other, resulting in a thoughtful journey.
Jenifer Mangione Vogt is a marketing communications professional and writes about art and Italian culture. Visit her blogs at http://www.fineartnotebook.com and http://www.cosibuono.com .
Transitions: Victor Matthews and Paolo Nicola Rossini was on view at the Boca Raton Museum of Art until Sept. 22, 2013
The Venice Biennale (La Biennale di Venezia) – currently presided over by Paolo Baratta – has for over a century been one of the most prestigious cultural institutions in the world.Ever since its foundation, it has been at the forefront in the research and promotion of new artistic trends. In Venice, it organizes international events in the field of the contemporary arts that are amongst the most important of their kind in the world.The 55th International Art Exhibition will take place in Venice from June, 1st to November, 24th 2013 at the Giardini and at the Arsenale (preview: May 29th, 30th and 31st 2013), as well as in various venues throughout the city. “The Biennale will again use the “dual” form defined in 1998: a great International Exhibition directed by a curator chosen for this purpose and the National Participations.”The title chosen by Massimiliano Gioni for the 55th International Art Exhibition is: Il Palazzo Enciclopedico / The Encyclopedic Palace. A celebration of the desires and representation of each country and nationality that participates. It may certainly be said that in them the countries reveal the role attributed to contemporary art as messenger of their present and their cultural wealth.
This project is open to the general public and entrance is free. The exhibition will run through the entire month of June and will be open daily in order to facilitate visitors. The project has been approved by the Venice Biennale committee to participate as an official collateral event of the biennale – arguably the biggest celebration of visual arts on the calendar. The project is to be curated in a garden courtyard area and ground floor of a building so it is easy to access for all. The venue is very important as it is located in the Accademia/ Dorsodoro area which is a central hub for the arts – with neighboring institutions such as the Peggy Guggenheim Museum, Museum of Bellas Artes and the Punta della Dogana – the museum housing the François Pinault private collection. This area is a place of learning and culture and attracts visitors of all ages and nationalities. We have committed to renting the space for nearly 2 months. This so that the artists will work with art students to help create and develop the project and the installation of the proposed pathway/ vortex and garden sculptures which will be site specific. The art students will be working alongside Victor Matthews – and will have insight into his working methods as well as be learning about the logistics of creating a show of this scale. Victor will be building stretchers and stretching canvas for works for this exhibition. They will be an integral part of the creative process. The event is of enormous cultural significance as it brings together nations from all over the world to celebrate all that is valid and current in the visual arts. We really want to embrace the values and validity of different art forms and contribute two wonderful contemporary artists work to share with the visitors of this event. Last Biennale drew over 300,000 visitors and this work will be seen by a huge international audience who will be able to appreciate it.
The Show : ‘Transitions’ and ‘About the Artists’ and their work:
As the Venice Biennale’s President Paolo Baratta together with curator Massimiliano Gioni –have this year decided to emphasize the importance of the different national pavilions and the theme of the ‘Encyclopedic Palace’, so we wanted to put together the works of two seemingly very different artists – one homegrown Italian photographer and an American born and NY based painter – Victor Matthews. Despite their different backgrounds, artistic mediums and geographic separation their artwork tells their stories – each canvas and photo a testament of human experience. Both artists question universal themes such as life, memory, dream and the subconscious, time and space but departing from the same starting point arrive at different destinations yet both exploring the theme of transitions.Rossini’s evolution toward an artistic approach to photography started in late 2007 and he was initially drawn to common and yet mostly ignored subjects such as manholes, cigarette butts,abandoned objects, as well as decadent buildings. He was driven by a need to give dignity to these subjects and express their continued potential as being fascinating, interesting objects.His attention then evolved to a deeper conceptual approach and to a personal way to see and represent reality with landscapes (in the loosest sense of the word), elements, people, various still life becoming his subjects; in the works they appear as suspended in time and space,almost indefinite.His photographs are achieved by overlapping and melting the subjects with photos of raw surfaces which combination almost changes their identity and makes the works look more like paintings; The overlap of sequential images melted together create a real distortion of the space. This process aims to catch reality in its transition, a suspension between past and present; transition of spaces and subjects is the main theme of the body of work; they loose definition and color, details tend to disappear; Concept, style, subjects, processes come all from the inside and from deep personal inspiration;being self-taught has been very important in this process of intimate expression, enabling Rossini to be unconditioned by any specific previous teaching and be guided only from the inside.Photography is not the final goal but a means of representation; the works look more like a painting of a reality seen from the mind more than the eyes and the camera lens.Rossini’s photography is ethereal. Bringing together many moments in time simultaneously reveals compositions of many passing moments. The works raise the question of the passing of time, our own mortality and the choices we make in any given moment and how the outcome of these affects our lives. The possibilities are infinite in this world in our lifetimes and it is only through experience that we gain knowledge. Rossini’s photos make us think about the concept of time. They are abstracts images full of movement, energy and life. They capture the transition of one moment in time to the next.Victor Matthews’ work similarly questions a lot of the same universal themes. He is drawn to the motif of the vortex which for Matthews is representative of everything in life being intrinsically linked – nature, the environment, animals, people, weather; we are all drawn together as one and all sucked into one universal experience – life. For Matthews it’s all about the light and the way it feels and ‘a magnetic light’ which inspired the vortex body of work.“The tones of the plants and the tones of living organisms are so vivid. I feel that we are all tones- as in the humans, the planets, and the universe – we are all tones that are pulled into an unknown vortex.”The Vortex series is energetic – paint spirals into a central point – and you get a sense of a great expanse being drawn in and at the same time perpetually expanding. The vortex is a powerful force that pulls in the light bringing tones and elements together. Like a black hole in space we are sucked in further to explore. Matthews’s colors more often than not are hot – combining scarlets, ocean blues, emerald greens and yellows. At other times dark moody blues and purples dominate.In contrast, are his white paintings which reference the New York landscape – they have a serenity and simplicity about them which is innocent and playful and demonstrate Matthews intimate relationship with his city. The interplay of what appear to be shapes become apparent as landmarks – recognizable to every inhabitant as shared visual terrain: water towers and bridges, cars, sidewalks, hydrants – the very essence of the New York landscape. The paintings have a Modernist sensibility. Based on a palate of white, the textures of paint play against the raw-colored canvas demarcated by a strong presence of the two-dimensional — of line. The constant, fluid construction of shapes is both conceived and created in the same moment. As Brice Marden has observed, Victor Matthews has “the line”. Distinctive of Matthews’ work -each piece marked by the eternal presence of the line – which has a fluidity, strength and beauty of its own and which he has mastered.This exhibitions is an invitation into Matthews’ psyche – like the man himself, we are drawn to the bright splashes of color from the outside which are inline with Matthews’ cool cat exterior.On further exploration the balance and silence of the elegant white paintings and monochrome vortex pieces are representative of his poised approach and focus – revealing the inner calm which is Matthews to a tee. Matthews is an artist at peace with himself. The paintings transcend from Matthews dreams and he explores the idea of the subconscious and what is reality,memory and our perceptions of the world we live in.
Space Gallery has secured a wonderful spot for the exhibition. Located in the heart of the Accademia/ Dorsodoro area adjacent to the Peggy Guggenheim museum. This zone is the hub centre point for arts in Venice – a stone’s throw also from the Pinault collection housed in the Punta della Dogana.It is the most important area for the arts and therefore attracts all major visitors.
About the artists
International artist Victor Matthews was born in Brooklyn in 1963 and currently lives and works in New York City.He attended the High School of Art and Design and received his BFA from the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale. His work has been exhibited in numerous solo exhibitions in the US and abroad, including the 48th Venice Biennale, Museum Sala Uno (Rome), Stephen Wirtz Gallery (San Francisco), Perry Rubenstein Gallery (New York), and The Sculpture Center (New York). His work is in the permanent collection or the Museum Overholland (Amsterdam), Cornell University (Ithaca NY), Museum Ludwig (Cologne), New School (New York), and Museum Nuova Icona (Venice), as well as in the private collections of Russell Simmons, Brice & Helen Marden, Francesco & Alba Clemente, Vera List, Nathaniel Rothschild, President Mogae of Botswana,Ronald Perelman and Salman Rushdie, among others.
Paolo Nicola Rossini
Rossini’s evolution toward an artistic approach to photography started in late 2007 and he was initially drawn to common and yet mostly ignored subjects such as manholes, cigarette butts, abandoned objects, as well as decadent buildings. Rossini was driven by a need to give dignity to these subjects and express their continued potential as being fascinating, interesting objects. His attention then evolved to a deeper conceptual approach and to a personal way to see and represent reality with landscapes (in the loosest sense of the word), elements, people, various still life becoming his subjects; in the works they appear as suspended in time and space, almost indefinite. The photograph is achieved by various approaches. One approach is overlapping and melting the subjects with photos of raw surfaces which combination almost changes their identity and makes the works look more like paintings; At other times pinhole photography is used, with long exposures that extend the perception of time in a single shot, catching the movement and the changes in the scene. Here the overlap of sequential images melted together create a real distortion of the space.This process aims to catch reality in its transition, a suspension between past and present; transition of spaces and subjects is the main theme of the body of work; they loose definition and color, details tend to disappear; Concept, style,subjects, processes come all from the inside and from deep personal inspiration; being self-taught has been very important in this process of intimate expression, enabling Rossini to be unconditioned by any specific previous teaching and be guided only from the inside.Photography is not the final goal but a means of representation; the works look more like a painting of a reality seen from the mind more than the eyes and the camera lens.