Contextual K e r n i n g - a solo show featuring Matthew Rowe
September 14, 2018 | 5-8pm | at the Beals & Co. Showroom
Merging classically eastern sensibilities, American minimalism, and distinctively contemporary impulses, “Contextual Kerning” is Santa Fe-based artist Matthew Rowe’s first solo exhibition. “This is finally me,” says Rowe. “I’ve gotten to a point where I feel proficient in my technique, in my particular style.” In many ways, the ceramic works in this show don’t push boundaries as much as they eschew them altogether. Influences come from the pristine, achingly technical practice of Agnes Martin, for instance, whose fastidious grids and stripes led to a fascination with order; moreover, Rowe is deeply drawn to Japanese architectural aesthetics, in particular, the circular windows which appear on shrines and tea houses.
Part of the show’s title, “kerning”, is in fact inspired by a word Rowe first discovered on Photoshop, which refers to the process of adding or subtracting spaces between symbols and words to change a composition’s visual impact. “I think of my work as a kind of contemporary artifact,” says Rowe, who began the series in earnest late last year. A group of fifty small earthenware works rely more on happenstance than foresight. For them, Rowe fired flat ceramic slabs before appointing them with shades of indigo and charcoal. After they’re fired and cooled, he smashes the slabs into fragments of varying size and shape, before arranging them back into an approximation of their original appearance. The effect is both unkempt and exhilarating: compositions whose unexpected, freeform styling belies a staggering effort.
To create depth and intrigue, Rowe employs stamps—as well as vintage belt buckles, buttons, and other found objects. “A lot of ceramic artists take clay and manipulate it into entirely different things,” says Rowe, “But for me, the most exciting thing is to let the clay be the clay.” The material’s inherently earthy properties, then, are both laid bare and exalted. Finished works occur as raw, honest, and ultimately open to a number of aesthetic interpretations. “I’m finally there with my work,” says Rowe. “It’s kind of like dancing, when you get to a place where you don’t have to count out the steps anymore. I’ve been throwing pottery on the wheel since I was thirteen,” Rowe says. “It feels familiar to me.” Familiarity is an intimate thing, of course, but as evidenced in “Contextual Kerning,” it’s fantastically universal, too.
Matthew Rowe attended the Oxbow School in Napa, California, where he was introduced to printmaking, photography, painting, and mixed media sculpture. In 2003, studied under master ceramicist Heidi Loewen in Santa Fe. While enrolled at the University of New Mexico (2005-2010), he worked as a ceramics instructor at the student art studio, and as a studio assistant for the Arita Porcelain course.
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