Friday, August 05, 2016
MATHEW ZEFELDT at Circuit 12 Contemporary
ModernDallas.net repost of my article.
Children and teenagers growing up in the 1980’s and 90’s might want to head over to Circuit 12 Contemporary to see a show titled Marble Head from Herm. Especially if you were a computer nerd like me or game console junky like my friends. The graphics during that period were boxy, pixelated, and had limited color pallet. Much of Mathew Zefeldt’s paintings represent images in the style of 8 to 32 bit graphics. But don’t get too nostalgic, because this show is not a Pop rehash for you to reflect upon your videogame glory days.
This show is about simulacra, layering history, and internet culture. Mathew Zefeldt has created a very slick group of paintings that have a machine made quality. Because of his repeat of images, particularly the 200 plus Marble Head from Herm representations, you might think he used a projector or computer, but Zefeldt is rendering his images with that old tried and true grid system that has helped artists make realistic work since the Renaissance. These images are only digital in style, not in execution.
Zefeldt’s selection of the marble head is not by accident. The original object he is musing from is a Roman copy of a Greek sculpture. The Romans made a copy, because they admired the Greeks. Since this object is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the sculpture has had its image reproduced a million times over in press, postcards, internet, etc. All reproductions leave you unsatisfied. Zefeldt furthers this play of simulacra by representing a digitized version. This stylistic step away from the original object now bears no relation to the real object, and therefore his image of a head becomes, as Baudrillard might say, pure simulacrum. Thus, Zefeldt looks as if he is repeating his image of the head like someone pressing copy then paste on a computer paint program.
Pixelation is not the only style at play, Zefeldt places moments of rendered realism in many of these works. Vernon Fisher’s recent paintings uses a mixture of pixelated and realistic images. I see a similarity in their work, but Fisher is still referencing traditional collage, whereas Zefeldt is using compositions more in tune with what you might encounter on computer screens. A good example is Donkey Kong Country. An acrylic on Canvas painting that uses a pink gradient background, about 45 heads, a pixelated style tree, piece of lumber, and birds eye view pyramid blocks with a realistically rendered still life of fruit. All the images looked cut and pasted on like an early 1990’s website where the pictures are locked to the edge of the composition.
Zefeldt, like Fisher, Rashenburg, or any artist that uses the method of collage takes seemingly random images and makes the viewer create a narrative. Unlike many collage artists, Zefeldt isn’t trying to obscure his interests. Among them are: Wolfenstein 3D, art history, cartoons, and a refreshing drink. Sounds like a guy I can hang out with. You have until July 14th to catch this fun exhibition. I don’t think I even mentioned that this painting show also comes with an amazing installation that you have to see to believe. When I saw the show, I said to myself, this is happening in Dallas at a commercial gallery, wow!