Dolby Chadwick Gallery is thrilled to announce Beauty Will Be Convulsive, an exhibition of new work by Matt Gonzalez. Over the past decade, Gonzalez has earned acclaim for his intricately constructed paper collages that harmonize the linear and geometric with color’s mesmerizing, deeply visceral impact, transcending the sum of their parts in the process.
Gonzalez created earlier bodies of work using discarded paper products he found while walking the streets of San Francisco. The pandemic, however, slowed this practice, forcing him to rely more heavily on paper he had previously archived as well as on items that had been mailed to him or that he’d purchased for his own use. Included in this collection are beer cartons—specifically, Modelo blue—chocolate wrappers, greeting cards, snack and cake boxes, containers for household items like toothpaste and trash bags, and cigarette “collars,” those small inserts that sit at the front of a pack of cigarettes.
Thus, while these works can still be regarded as a sort of portrait of the city—with many of the found papers signifying urban economic exchange, the flow of goods, and the circulation of ideas—the collages also newly intersect with the domestic and the private spaces of the home. Each triangular cut-out, narrowly trimmed strip, or excised rhomboid, among other fragment shapes, is evidence of something Gonzalez has allowed into his home, symbolizing personal relationships, preferences, and transactions. And yet at the same time, none of these fragments contain hints, either through text or image, of their former lives. Cut up, rearranged, and united with other fragments, they are woven into a new narrative and plunged back into circulation as art, ascribed with new meaning.
Color, too, has shifted with this recent body of work, which is largely monochromatic. “I’ve been paying more attention to values,” Gonzalez explains, “and to the overall intensity of a color and the way saturation can get amplified depending on slight variances within a color spectrum.” The artist has also intermixed gloss and matte paper to alter depth perception, while introducing a degree of restraint to encourage the “monochromatic hues to play off of one another in a refractive way. More space for color fields to be appreciated, even within a relatively small collage, allows the saturation and color variances to dialogue. It also keeps the eye from getting trapped anywhere and the completed collages resonate longer.” The incorporation of these open areas of repose also prevents the sculptural elements from becoming too built up, creating a situation where the interplay is primarily about light and shadow rather than color.
There are works in vibrant hues of red, purple, and yellow, for example, as well as a number in gold and silver, which are more difficult to source. “I’ve realized,” Gonzalez reflects, “that there’s a celebratory nature to these colors. Medals and trophies come to mind; as if something has been won or conferred on the viewer.” The title of the show—Beauty Will Be Convulsive—can perhaps be located within this revelation. Beauty, as it were, always prevails. With beauty, we can overcome and triumph. And, rather remarkably, beauty is always within our power to uncover, create, and appreciate—a compelling and reassuring message in an unsettling time.
Gonzalez’s collages in gold and silver also bring to mind the art of Louise Nevelson, whose wooden reliefs are often painted metallic colors and feature similarly intricate, geometric matrices. Like Nevelson, Gonzalez explores the relational possibilities of form and space, but, conceptually, his practice is more closely aligned with Kurt Schwitters, Dadaism, and the Situationists. A group of social revolutionaries active in the 1950s and ’60s, the Situationists emphasized the accidental, relational, and geographical (the latter in terms of both the city and the psyche). These ideas form the heart of Gonzalez’s collages, which are created through a process of encountering, culling, and assembling, and which visually evoke an intricate architecture. In them, we see the byzantine design of the city and the systems of movement and exchange it relies on—and also, perhaps, the complex and at times contradictory inner terrain we navigate on a daily basis.
Matt Gonzalez was born in 1965 in McAllen, Texas. He earned a BA from Columbia University and a JD from Stanford Law School. In addition to a practicing artist, Gonzalez is Chief Attorney at the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office. His art can be found in the collections of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; and the Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento. This will be his third solo show with the Dolby Chadwick Gallery.
Dolby Chadwick Gallery is pleased to announce an exhibition of new work by Terry Powers, on view this summer. Painting without any preconceptions about outcome, Powers works from observation, capturing moments from everyday life with profound eloquence and honesty.
Because the moments Powers chronicles relate to his own life—indeed, many of the paintings feature his home or backyard—his work can be read as autobiographical. This comes as no accident. Powers notes a keen interest in the life stories of artists and other figures throughout history. He also has a deep admiration for artists working in the intimist tradition, from Edouard Vuillard, to the 1950s New York cohort that included Fairfield Porter and Jane Freilicher, to contemporary painters like George Nick and Susanna Coffey. Like Powers, these artists take as their subject matter scenes of domesticity, landscapes near their homes, portraits of loved ones, and close-up views of daily life. For Powers, it is critical that these subjects are not consciously sought out but rather organically intersect with his day, the significance of which he underscores by citing a quote from Porter: “An artist who seeks subject matter is like a person who cannot get up in the morning until he understands the meaning of life.” Truth, as it were, cannot be predetermined.
Perhaps the purest distillation of Powers’s interest in observation is The Drift, a series of small, documentary-style paintings on paper. As the title suggests, this series plunges viewers into “the drift”—the flow of life’s fleeting moments. Among these moments is a colourful tableau of children’s toys, the lace-like pattern of tree leaves seen from below, and a trio of helium balloons from the artist’s fortieth birthday quietly skimming the ceiling. Such everyday minutiae are what bring color and dimension to a person’s existence, inching us closer to a fuller understanding of who they are—not those big pivotal moments like marriages, milestones, and grand achievements that comprise only a small fraction of one’s life. If these paintings reveal the richness of the everyday, so too do they work in reverse by enriching the day to day; as Powers explains: “Because I try to just respond to what’s around me, everything has potential to be a painting, and it’s a great way to live—feeling like you’re surrounded by infinite paintings.”
In the tradition of artists like Raymond Pettibon and Muntean & Rosenblum, text at the bottom of each painting thickens the plot. Sometimes it decodes a scene, sometimes it documents the artist’s thoughts in that moment, and sometimes it hints at larger political or social undercurrents—a through-line for fellow observational painter Liu Xiaodong, whom Powers holds in high regard. Different images, objects, and ideas connect across the works so that, when taken together, they create a larger web of meaning and interconnection.
Whereas the paintings in The Drift are small, fast, and loosely rendered, others take longer to complete and are larger and more tightly composed. In one, titled Melissa Watching Season Six of Alone Because She Wants to Move to the Wilderness (2021), his wife can be seen standing in their living room watching TV, framed by a doorway leading from the garage. In the foreground is a table saw surrounded by other artefacts of domestic life: a laundry unit, a bookshelf, a model boat, a tapestry. The composition of this and another large-scale painting featuring Melissa is heavily influenced, the artist explains, by Pieter Bruegel’s Landscape with the Fall of Icarus (ca. 1560), the title of which refers to a tiny action in the background. Such a twist reverses the hierarchy of norms in art, which privileges the foreground and dictates our attention. These works also upend expectations through their treatment of their subject. While the individual elements within Melissa Watching Season Six… can be read as pieces within a larger narrative puzzle, it is the whole itself that bears symbolic weight: By taking a small, intimate moment and scaling it up, attending to it with an almost baroque level of detail, Powers elevates the prosaic into something grand and meaningful in itself.
Terry Powers was born in 1980 in Sacramento. He earned a BFA from Rhode Island School of Design followed by an MFA from Stanford University. He was awarded a residency at the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris and in 2017 was named the Diebenkorn Fellow. This is his first solo show with Dolby Chadwick Gallery.