Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Matthew Bourbon + Steven J. Miller


Our Familiar Guest 2010-12 Matthew Bourbon

Re-post of my article at ModernHouston.net in May

Matthew Bourbon continues to raise the complexity of his work through repetition of patterns that reference minimalist art. Bourbon uses these patterns to conceal and reveal parts of his story driven work. I have noticed that his use of shapes has increasingly obscured the figures and objects, adding more ambiguity to his stories. I jokingly told a friend that Bourbon was likely hiding pictures of clowns, cute babies, or even unicorns beneath his patterns. But in truth, Bourbon’s paintings are serious investigations into the idea of mystery.

Not only do his images lead me to this conclusion, but knowledge of his influences help to inform my thoughts. I know Bourbon is a connoisseur of the cinema and I would imagine that sudden, unexpected endings of French films have sway on his choice of imagery. Bourbon’s paintings also retain a kind of brightness that possibly come from his time in California mixed in with sometimes gritty stories that might reflect his time in New York City. That mixture of two worlds makes for very complex and contrasting messages in each painting. And assuming place had an impact on Bourbon, I am sure his time in Texas has allowed him to synthesize his experiences into these puzzlingly engaging paintings.

One example that illustrates my point is the painting “The Egyptologist.” Bourbon shows a somewhat obscured topless woman with a more rendered dress. Then he painted a pattern that seems to obscure objects pared with dominating zigzag wallpaper in the background. Although the pose leaves little to wonder, I feel I must ask, what is so important about that dress? What are all those objects surrounding her, why did she tape that picture to the wall? Though her gesture relays a message, there is still plenty of mystery in this painting for you to start making your own stories and assumptions.

As John Cleese once said, “and now for something completely different,” Steven J. Miller. Although different from Bourbon’s paintings, his work is not so different from the trend of artists merging the style of illustration and fine art. These paintings might look like a page taken out of a children’s book, but Miller is really using Eastern art as his base of influence. The clean straight forward images do, however, appeal to my inner child.

Matthew Bourbon and Steven J. Miller will exhibit their work until June 2nd at Darke Gallery. Don’t miss John Adelman’s work in the back gallery. I have written so many glowingly good reviews of his work, I didn’t want to give him further embracement.

ModernHouston.net for more images.

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