Exhibition Review: Neophyte
By Ilana Jael
Ringing in the spring at The Hole, located a few streets south of Chelsea’s art district on the Lower East Side, is the work of a creator who harnesses photography like none before him; Matthew Stone, breezing into the space for his fourth solo show, entitled Neophyte. The over 20 works on display came about through a unique fusion of forms as Stone first took pictures of “paint strokes made on glass” and then used various software to “sculpt bodies together in three dimensions using layers of these painted marks.” The resulting images are strange collages of fragmented but more or less identifiably human figures mixed with disembodied scrambled limbs and shadowy Inexplicable splotches that evoke ocean, sunset, and infinity all at once.
Stone has taken great pains to ground these otherworldly creations, choosing to have them “hung at a height that aligns with the same grey floor”, thus implying the pictures are “windows into a universe that exists beyond the walls of the gallery”. Though they are not realistic in the least, they adhere to our laws of “light and gravity”, remaining as conceivable as they are impossible. Stone is also passionate about the spirituality of art-making, and finished off his latest artistic offering with freely available hand-painted bottles of healing “plant-medicine” flower essences placed under and atop his canvases.
But one thing his universe does seem to be missing is clothing; the result is a plethora of nudity and even outright masturbation depicted in Touching and Touching II. But these sexual under and overtones come across as less vulgar than exploratory, even innocent. Unlike most of us would be, Stone’s characters seem not ashamed in their nakedness but proud and confident, peaceful and sublime. The almost orgiastic versions of these characters seen in Play, perhaps the most awestriking of the bunch, seem to be in perfect harmony with one another despite their evident racial differences and occasionally ambiguous gender characteristics, part of a utopian vision of togetherness and spiritual melding.
One could walk away from a show like Stone’s and its strange, uneven creatures reflecting on our fragility; or our porousness; the colors that go into us, or the holes life has torn. But one could also take Stone’s Thinking about thinking, which presents a man whose face is almost entirely obscured by shards and swirls, as a warning on the dangers of such unending intellectualism. Though analysis of these complex, intricate works could go on for pages, it may be beside the point. In so painstakingly assembling them, Stone has done all the hard work for us; and his images are perhaps the most effective, the most healing, when we stop trying so hard to interpret them; when we simply surrender to their undeniable beauty, and enjoy.