Matthew Stone is a wonderful artist and shows just how lucky we are at Musée that the definition of "photography" is so wide and ever changing. Stone paints, or rather smears, colors onto glass and then photographs the results. Had he stopped at painting on the glass then we would be less inclined to feature him, and that would be a pity. The Armory show was this weekend, March 11th, and there I had the honor to meet one of my favorite artists: Tsuyoshi Maekawa, lately of the Gutai group/movement. Generally not star struck, I fumbled and bowed and forgot completely to get him to sign anything. This clumsily worded side note is not as totally irrelevant as it first seems, as my first impression of Stone's work was that it bore a similarity to Maekawa's.
Not similarly colored, or similarly composed, or even sharing a medium; just a sense of shared sensibility. The idea of Stone's studio is what interested me. How large was the glass? How thick how accurate are the pictures? Is the glass heavy? Light? Does he break it afterwards (I sincerely hope he does, but ultimately that is neither here nor there).
There is that word again. Smeared. Say it sibilantly, drawn out and accent the 'd'. Your mouth will inform you how barely contained frustration can give rise to moving blobs of color onto other blobs.
With our present day awareness, the arts as we have known them up to now appear to us, in general to be fakes fitted out with a tremendous affectation. Let us take leave of these piles of counterfeit objects on the altars, in the palaces, in the salons and the antique shops.
The gallery's own description of the work references Michelangelo, semen, and the Renaissance; using words like joyful, masterly, and invokes the image of a dancer. I cannot picture Stone pirouetting in his London studio, shirtless, but for dungarees, gleefully rubbing paint onto glass while his brushwork reminds the viewer simultaneously of Canovaesque sculpture and Lichtenstein. Thankfully, this is not a review of a press release. I would offer another comparison instead: Maekawa, who, in my opinion, is far more valuable.
They are an illusion with which, by human hand and by way of fraud, materials such as paint, pieces of cloth, metals, clay or marble are loaded with false significance, so that, instead of just presenting their own material self, they take on the appearance of something else. Under the cloak of an intellectual aim, the materials have been completely murdered and can no longer speak to us.
What little is still left of vitality may be found in primitive art...due to skillful application of paint the deception of the material had not quite succeeded if it could even be murdered at all.
The beauty of Stone's work is not in paint but in glass. The glass is painted, the glass is photographed and the glass is printed onto wood. It may be going against everything that Maekawa does, but the respect for material is the same. It is for this reason, not another boring study of blended color, that Stone's work is good.
Review by John Hutt
Photos by Chris Jack