Matt Gonzalez, I Sing the Body Electric, found paper collage, 14 x 17″, 2013.


by Anthony Torres

Things I Didn’t Know I Loved, an exhibition of twenty-three collages and one wood construction now at Park Life Gallery, features the current work of Matt Gonzalez

The exhibition is anchored by the wood assemblage #6 (2013), painted in primary colors of white, yellow, black, blue, and red, and collages dominated by hues of black, white, green, blue, and yellow, with a few multi-colored offerings.   The wood construction is the largest work in the exhibition, and serves as a “key” that alludes to the constructivist nature of the other works. 

The wood assemblage seems emblematic of a shift in Gonzalez’s recent work, which announces a preoccupation with the exploration of aesthetic values grounded in primary color palettes displayed in much of the work.  If #6, made of cut moldings and scrap wood, brings to mind the painting strategies of Mondrian, with its utilization of geometric grid-like ordering of the compositional elements and use of color, the recent collages suggest an overriding if less “pure” affinity with abstractionist interests in achieving formal harmony and order.

The move toward exploring spatial relationships within limited color fields suggests a concern with visual composition and an elemental emphasis on vertical and horizontal structures that informed geometrical abstraction.  In many of the collages, the cut edges of the paper form straight lines, squares, and rectangles, in which the torn edges of paper function asymmetrically as formal counterpoints which, in combination with the predominant use of monochromatic colors, and especially in the white and black collages without text, constitute a critical area for the exploration of the relationship(s) between positive and negative elements in an arrangement of non-objective formal structures.

In Eye-bereft (2013), for example, a white-on-white collage, long rectangular pieces of paper of varying widths, positioned vertically, are predominant in the overall structure of the work.  Thin-cut pieces of paper laid horizontally against the grain serve to conjoin and bind these elements as a means weaving the constituent fragments together.  Integral and essential to the constellation of component parts is a triangulated form and elongated paper rails of varying shades of white, overlaid to delineate the rectangular compositional forms, which help to interrogate or play with the function and meaning of the color “white” within a self-contained dialoguedefined through the juxtaposition of contrasting elements.

Similarly, We Baled the Darkness Empty (2013), an all black-on-black collage without text, demonstrates an inclination for testing the formal possibilities in constructing objects of varying thicknesses, textures, sizes, and shapes of paper, within a field of relatively monochromatic hues of black, to explore orchestrated spatial relations.

Here, once again, we see a tension created by the interplay of horizontal and vertical “lines” formed from the cut/torn edges of paper that comprise the collage.  The application of layers of paper of different widths, positioned in relation to each other, creates an axial variance that forms dynamic tension and movement within the composition. In general, the juxtaposition of shapes and shades of black generates a greater sense of depth in the overall structure, as the lines and colors are fused and subsumed within an ambiguously unified pictorial space.

That said, in most of the newer works on display there is a greater propensity towards utilization of text from product packaging.  The increased use of printed materials and product logos as an integral formal element in the constructions is crucial in layering and demarcating distinctive areas compositionally, and perhaps more importantly, it grants greater accessibility to the work through recognizable artifacts, whose presence alludes to capitalism’s expansive commodification of art and daily life.

Here, the original utilitarian nature of the items and the symbolic social function of the congealed fragments — movie tickets, bus transfers, cigarettes packs, and other ephemera collected in the course of the artist’s everyday life — form a visual condensation of our contemporary existence, articulated by the unification of dislocated cultural particles through a practice ofselecting, collecting, and re-presenting the residues of everyday commodities, and a process of transmogrification of common significance.

As an aesthetic practice which re-configures fragments dislocated from their past life states as a means of transforming the nature of the material and formal significance of its use, the binding of the societal fragments in the collages speaks to a practice that suggests that these formal compositions have social histories that bring larger associations and memories of a culture defined by relations of commodity production, exchange, and distribution.

Things I Didn’t Know I Loved continues through July 28 at Park Life Gallery, 220 Clement Street, San Francisco; (415) 386-7275;

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