Preview: Matt Gonzalez’s Magic-Circumstantial Collages

June 2021

by Tamsin Smith

Not to be missed is Beauty Will Be Convulsive, new works by Matt Gonzalez, which runs concurrently with the Terry Powers show at Dolby Chadwick Gallery. The exhibit includes 20 monochromatic found paper collages that Gonzalez painstakingly assembles. Each collage can be seen as an epic journey. 

Matt Gonzalez | That a speech may go skyward, 2021 | Found paper collage | 14 x 11 inches
Matt Gonzalez | That a speech may go skyward, 2021 | Found paper collage | 14 x 11 inches

The first part of the process is finding the source material, which he acquires by saving the everyday packaging that most of us chuck in the recycling bin. He also collects what catches his eye as he surveys the city’s sidewalks for castaway cards, cardboard, cigarette cartons, and such. These are then trimmed of logos and nutritional information or health warnings to capture the single hue that he may use. His home and art studio are full of large bags brimming with this gained media, each sorted by color, but reflecting a vast range of varied shades, textures, and levels of glossiness. It is this infinite variety within a single base hue that is on rich display in the finished works of art.

Matt Gonzalez | Beauty will be convulsive, 2021 | Found paper collage | 20 x 16 inches
Matt Gonzalez | Beauty will be convulsive, 2021 | Found paper collage | 20 x 16 inches

Gonzalez cuts each piece of found paper with scissors into smaller slivers, ribbons, chunks, and shapes. One by one these shreds are affixed by hand in a pattern continually being adjusted by the artist’s eye. He seems to seek a harmony that lies somewhere between balance and disruption. The eye never rests too long in one spot, as every section beckons to be explored; every nuance of shadow and shift invites and intrigues. The topographical density of these assemblages is extraordinary. It would be impossible to guess how many individual pieces of paper add up to such extraordinary visual achievements, yet one can keenly feel the time, care, and skill given to constructing each voyage of perception and discovery.

Matt Gonzalez | A window of earth, sublimated, 2021 | Found paper collage | 16 x 12 inches
Matt Gonzalez | A window of earth, sublimated, 2021 | Found paper collage | 16 x 12 inches

Enter Gonzalez’ exhibition as you would Homer’s Odyssey. Every bit of paper has traveled through countless locales, been battered by weather and use, and served as well as it could, only to be welcomed home at long last. Absorb also the transformative titles of these epic collages: That a speech may go skyward; Beyond the cleft-words; Pushed through the penitent's snow: The forest and the temple-depths; Beam-wind of your speech; Who is invisible enough? Each is a koan of sorts. Enlightenment requires that we reframe what we think we know of truth, meaning, and beauty itself.

Matt Gonzalez | Slow-motion choirs sing, 2021 | Found paper collage | 12 x 9 inches
Matt Gonzalez | Slow-motion choirs sing, 2021 | Found paper collage | 12 x 9 inches

It is a supreme act of beauty to transform the quotidian, valueless detritus of consumer culture into an art object that is in and of itself very beautiful. Yet, something deeper is going on here. Gonzalez has titled his show from the closing lines of a novel by André Breton, the full text of which reads: "Beauty will be convulsive or not at all ... Convulsive beauty will be veiled-erotic, fixed-explosive, magic-circumstantial or not at all.” It’s the magic-circumstantial linkage that most stands out. By elevating a circumstantial encounter with — let’s be honest — a piece of trash, Gonzalez is sharing an artistic insight about possibilities that extends far beyond either the original object or the transformed result. What can the viewer take away, beyond the lucky possibility of collecting one of these magical collages? How about an invitation to look down in order to see beyond -- beyond the surface of an item or even of another human being. If one man can spin a scared and rumpled chocolate box into a glittering visual realm of interwoven gold, what else is possible if we unfix our minds and allow them to be blown. —Tamsin Smith

Also worth the trip: SFMOMA acquired a piece With the one light-formant from Gonzalez’s 2018 show at Dolby Chadwick, which is on display as part of  the museum’s“ Art in California: Greater than the Sum' 'exhibit until November 28th, 2021.