TOWER, LOBBY, FLOOR Matthew penkala April 1 - april 30, 2011 1
TOWER, LOBBY, FLOOR Matthew penkala april 1 - april 30, 2011
GalleRy DirectoRs David Eichholtz & Richard Barger
130 Lincoln Avenue, Suite D, Santa Fe, NM 87501 | p (505) 983-9555 | f (505) 983-1284 www.DavidRichardContemporary.com | info@DavidRichardContemporary.com
FRONT COVER: FRANTICALLY AROUND YOUR LIGHT 2011, 48" x 48" Acrylic on canvas stretched panels 2
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Published on the occasion of the exhibition, “Tower, Lobby, Floor”, April 1 - 30, 2011.
© 2011 David Richard Contemporary, LLC
matthew penkala PERFECT FUSION by David Pagel
Two things happened in the 1960s that go a long way in explaining the peculiar magic of Matthew Penkala’s new paintings, which neither wax nostalgic for the supposed simplicity of the good old days nor pretend to completely break away from the past, in some sort of fabulous spasm of unfettered originality and inimitable creativity. Rather than traveling back in time, to recapture the tenor of times long gone by, or fantasizing about a present uncontaminated by the residual influence of yesteryear, Penkala’s laser-sharp pictures of nothing much more than light moving through space re-write history for their own purposes: to reveal that the present is less limited than it is often made out to be, and that a large part of its largely untapped potential resides in knowing what actually happened. From the perspective put forth by the L.A. artist’s accessible yet complex abstractions, what took place nearly fifty years ago is significantly different from how it is accounted for in textbooks, as well as what passes as common knowledge—otherwise known as business-as-usual. What actually happened back in the 1960s was this: many of the most adventuresome painters, photographers, and filmmakers, not to mention sculptors, installation-, and performance artists, stripped their art back to the basics, eliminating everything inessential
so as to get to the raw, naked truth— howsoever contingent, ephemeral, and uncertain an experience it might be. The truth they pursued was experiential: not something abstract, idealized, and above-it-all, but something fleeting, even fugitive—a physical, often sensual string of perceptions that were down-to-earth and quotidian, as imperfect as everyday life and no less extraordinary, or eye-opening, than an epiphany.
The two media most important to Penkala’s current work, abstract painting and avant-garde film, zeroed in, very similarly, on their respective materials, particularly the physical facts of a viewer’s actual experience of painton-canvas and a viewer’s actual experience of projected light. Neither experience was possible without time’s passage, although film emphasized
DETAIL: THE SKY IS FALLING IN BUT IT'S NOT 2010, 48" x 48" Acrylic on canvas stretched panel
temporality more emphatically, just because it took longer. Other similarities strongly linked the two media. Painters turned away from Expressionism, imagery, and language, favoring the impersonal effects of various pigments stained into tautly stretched surfaces that could not be read metaphorically or poetically and thus seemed to keep meaning at arm’s
storytelling, slowing things down to a crawl so that patient viewers might notice otherwise incidental details and be attentive to our participation in the ways our eyes and minds made meaning out of various hints and divergent stimuli. The fundamental similarities between abstract painting and non-narrative film quickly got lost in the evaluations that critics, commentators, and historians brought to them. In the intensely partisan accounts that dominated the day, the painters came to be known as Formalists: specialists who, in putting form before content, were happy to play out inconsequential, academic exercises that were divorced from the tumult of everyday life and closed off from the increasingly gripping contingencies of political reality. The filmmakers, in contrast, came to be known as Structuralists: specialists who, in putting structure ahead of storytelling, bypassed sentimentality to honestly and objectively address the bedrock on which their art was founded. Like many of the countercultural mavericks who played an important part in the radically democratic social movements of the time, they employed the level-headed materialism of their quasi-scientific inquiries to rebel against tradition, to revolt against all forms of authority, and to throw off all manner of unthinking, take-it-onfaith acceptance—otherwise known as business-as-usual.
length. The same sort of explorations drove filmmakers, who turned away from drama, theatrics, and narrative all the better to dissect—or deconstruct— the mechanics of an otherwise predominantly illusionistic medium. They used film self-reflexively, to interrogate its own devices, including light, time, and repetition, as well as the celluloid on which it was printed, frame-byframe, split-second-by-split-second. Exceptionally subtle variations mattered to both painters and filmmakers, who scrutinized the perceptual consequences of materials and substances— that is to say, the phenomenological attributes of the basic stuff that went Over the last half century, much into their works. Both short-circuited has changed. And much has not.
DETAIL: PALE IMITATION 2011, 24" x 24" Acrylic on canvas stretched panel
Entrenched in history, and ensconced in the consciousnesses of scholars, students, and initiates, Structuralism has made its way into the hallowed halls of institutional authority, its pedigree an essential part of its now revered power. Formalism, in contrast, is no longer thought of as the artistic kiss of death it was throughout the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s. But it still lacks the institutionally sanctioned authority of its counterpart. And it is still regularly dismissed, by people who should know better, for being conservative, uncool, and out-of-touch: an academic exercise in tasteful decoration, with little real impact on its surroundings or the people who populate them. Penkala’s whip-smart paintings enter the picture by turning the assumptions on which business-as-usual is based upside-down, inside-out, and around on themselves—with such grace, beauty, and verve—that it is no longer possible to accept familiar propositions without wondering what you might be missing. To see even one of his crisp yet atmospheric paintings, it is imperative, once again, to accept nothing except what you can see for yourself, one-on-one, face-to-face, in real time and in real space—not because Penkala has any authority at all (young painters simply don’t), but because the proof is actually in the pudding: once you see one of his deliciously slippery pictures, which seem to illuminate the space between things, you know that Structuralist film and Formalist painting are two sides of the same coin; that aesthetic refinement and functional
physics are in no way opposed; and that pleasure and knowledge, body and mind, clarity and mystery all work in concert, doing something exciting and unlike anything else out there. In the presence of Penkala’s subtly intriguing and unsentimentally ravishing paintings, business-as-usual goes out the window—and viewers find themselves in situations in which such familiar entities as light, space, color, and temperature are fascinating, even thrilling: at once ordinary and extraordinary, mundane and magnificent, down-to-earth and out-of-this world.
This is because Penkala invites viewers to mix and match categories, recombining attributes and elements that had, over the decades, diverged, drifted apart, and settled into opposition. Equally important, his glisteningly intangible paintings, which often have the presence of scientific mirages shot-through with squint-inducing glare, blindingly bright flashes of light, and other indescribable glitches in the
DETAIL: INVISIBLE TO WHAT YOU WANT 2011, 48" x 48" Acrylic on canvas stretched panel
visual field, compel us to ask ourselves what it might mean to think of abstract painting as Structuralist Abstraction and to conceive of avant-garde cinema as Formalist Film. In Penkala’s mesmerizing canvases, the analytic rigors of Structuralism and the connoisseurial delectations of Formalism commingle, sometimes fusing in mind-blowing hybrids of form and formlessness; at other times jostling against one another, like incompatible allies momentarily united on unlikely missions; and at still others slipping and sliding alongside their counterparts, with sufficient speed and friction to make sparks fly in the mind’s-eye.
The point of all this boundary-blurring interactivity is not simply to switch or reverse the positive and negative connotations that have encrusted each of the two media, and all the associations that go along with film and painting, but to get our minds to operate differently: more freely and fluidly. Both literally and metaphorically, Penkala’s
abstract images strip away habits, expectations, and conventions in order to get individuals to see them, as well as the world they are a part of, with fresh eyes, as if for the first time, more clearly and truly and vividly than usual. Back in the ’60s, that was the goal of both abstract painting and experimental film. Penkala picks up on this impulse by inviting viewers to understand the past and the present, and therefore the future, differently: as something unfinished, ever changing, and up-forgrabs; open to interpretation and limited only by the imagination. All of the physical incidents and visual activities that take place within the atmospheric depths, across the shimmering surfaces, and in front of Penkala’s elusively geometric paintings—somewhere between a viewer’s body and the wall on which the work hangs—bring more than a hint of drama back into the picture, along with an inescapable jolt of illusionism. Both of these elements had been purged from the historical precedents and aesthetic sources Penkala draws on, and their return in his work signals not only a rapprochement between the longopposed media but an expansion of their operations, domain, format, and impact. Recent developments in digital technology are taken into account by Penkala’s sleek, up-to-the-minute canvases, which do not shy away from the undeniable fact that contemporary viewers see far more images on illuminated screens—hand-held, laptop, and desktop monitors, as well as flat-screen TVs—than we see in print;
MATTHEW PENKALA STUDIO 2011, Los Angeles, CA
and far, far more than we see on can- being public and soothing. Impersonal vas or panel, in homes, galleries, and yet intimate, and so hot they’re cool, his museums. works engineer experiences that turn the past into something very different Unlike many painters, who take the from what it has come to be thought widespread technological develop- of and, in so doing, transform the presments that define the digital phase of ent into a moment filled with so much the information age to mean that their possibility that it seems infinite. art’s best chance for survival is to dis- Penkala’s brand of business-as-usual tance itself from everyday reality by is nothing like the regular grind. Findcarving out a protected place for itself, ing fascinating complexities in the far apart from the image glut of mod- simplest of things, his gorgeously reern life, Penkala dives right into the fre- solved yet elusively open-ended paintnetic, head-spinning cacophony and ings redeem mundane experience like wrestles, from its eye-popping visuals, nobody’s business. dizzying pace, and dazzling theatrics, some quiet respite. His eccentrically serene paintings make time and space Los Angeles for a type of contemplative intrigue March, 2011 that is solitary and stimulating while
FLYING SAUCER EYE 2010, 48" x 48" Acrylic on canvas stretched panel
FULL OF HOLES 2011, 48" x 48" Acrylic on canvas stretched panel
I CAN SEE OUT OF HERE 2011, 48" x 48" Acrylic on canvas stretched panel
I DIDN'T KNOW THAT 2011, 24" x 24" Acrylic on canvas stretched panel
IT NEVER STOPS 2011, 48" x 48" Acrylic on canvas stretched panel
THE SKY IS FALLING IN BUT IT'S NOT 2010, 48" x 48" Acrylic on canvas stretched panel
MOVING OUT OF ORBIT 2010, 48" x 60" Acrylic on canvas stretched panel
INVISIBLE TO WHAT YOU WANT 2011, 48" x 48" Acrylic on canvas stretched panel
FRANTICALLY AROUND YOUR LIGHT 2011, 48" x 48" Acrylic on canvas stretched panel
PALE IMITATION 2011, 24" x 24" Acrylic on canvas stretched panel
FREQUENCY WIRES 2011, 48" x 48" Acrylic on canvas stretched panel
matthew penkala Born in Cleveland, OH Lives and works in Los Angeles, CA Education: 2002 Masters of Fine Art in Painting, Cranbrook Academy of Art, Bloomfield Hills, MI 1998 Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photography, Arizona State University, Summa Cum Laude, Tempe, AZ Area(s) of Specialization: Painting, Digital Photography, Critical Theory Teaching Experience: 2010 Visiting Artist, OTIS School of Art and Design, Los Angeles, CA 2007 Visiting Artist/ Graduate Student Reviewer, Cranbrook Academy of Art, Bloomfield Hills, MI 2006 Visiting Artist in Residence – Painting Department, Cranbrook Academy of Art, Bloomfield Hills, MI 2004-05 Adjunct Professor of Digital Imaging and Design, Gilbert/Chandler Community College, Gilbert, AZ 2001-02 Head Teaching Assistant to Beverly Fishman, Cranbrook Academy of Art Painting Department 1999 Adjunct Instructor of Digital Imagery, Mesa Community College, Mesa, AZ Awards: 2002 2001
Joan Mitchell Foundation 2002, MFA Grant Awards in the Visual Arts, Nomination Merit Scholarship, Cranbrook Academy of Art, Bloomfield Hills, MI Women’s Committee Scholarship, Cranbrook Academy of Art, Bloomfield Hills, MI Teaching Assistantship, Cranbrook Academy of Art Painting Department, Bloomfield Hills, MI Harold Alpert Memorial Scholarship, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ ASU Regents Scholarship, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ ASU Award for Excellence in Photography, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ J Russel and Bonita Scholarship Endowment, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ
Exhibitions: 2011 Tower, Lobby, Floor, David Richard Contemporary, Santa Fe, NM 2010 You’re Not The Only Thing I See Sometimes, Ruth Bachofner Gallery, Los Angeles, California (solo) The Pasadena Art Alliance 15th Biennial Art Auction, Los Angeles, California Un-titled Abstraction, David Richard Contemporary, Santa Fe, NM OVERPAPER, Bruno David Gallery, St. Louis, MO 2009 SIZEable, Fluxco Gallery, Los Angeles, California White, Ruth Bachofner Gallery, Santa Monica, California 2008 Group Summer Show, Lemberg Gallery, Lemberg Gallery, Ferndale, Michigan 2007 Fresh, Lemberg Gallery, Lemberg Gallery, Ferndale, Michigan WOP (works on/of paper), The Brewery Project, Los Angeles, California 2006 Chromaluxe, California State University Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California Fragments, Ruth Bachofner Gallery, Santa Monica, California (solo show) Matthew Penkala & Trygve Faste: The Cranbrook Paintings, Lemberg Gallery, Ferndale, Michigan Summer Group Exhibition, Lemberg Gallery, Ferndale, Michigan Winter Group Exhibition, Lemberg Gallery, Ferndale, Michigan 2005 Collaboration, Lemberg Gallery, Ferndale, Michigan Group Summer Show, Lemberg Gallery, Ferndale, Michigan Winter Group Exhibition, Lemberg Gallery, Ferndale, Michigan
2001 2000 1999 1998
10th Annual Holiday Group Show, Ruth Bachofner Gallery, Santa Monica, California 20TH Anniversary Exhibition, Ruth Bachofner Gallery, Santa Monica, California Group Summer Show, Lemberg Gallery, Ferndale, Michigan Chroma: Gaston Bertin, Judy Ledgerwood, Matthew Penkala, Lemberg Gallery, Ferndale, MI Hybrids, Ruth Bachofner Gallery, Santa Monica, California (solo show) Bones of Clouds: Some Recent Experiences of Chance, College of Creative Studies, Detroit, MI Works for Young Collectors, Lemberg Gallery, Ferndale Michigan Group Summer Show, Lemberg Gallery, Ferndale, Michigan Cranbrook Graduate Curated Summer Exhibition, Cranbrook Art Museum, Bloomfield Hills, MI Graduate Thesis Exhibition, Cranbrook Art Museum, Bloomfield Hills, MI ‘Untitled’ ( 8 abstract paintings), Forum Gallery, Cranbrook Art Museum, Bloomfield Hills, MI ‘Cranbrook Connection’, D’Arcy Advertising Agency Headquarters, Troy, MI Cranbrook Milles House, Temporary Collection, Cranbrook Academy of Art, Bloomfield Hills, MI ' Art and the Environment: Sites Around the City’ Modified Art Space, Phoenix, AZ ‘ Pop, Pulp, and Post Abstract’ Arizona State University Memorial Union Gallery, Tempe, AZ BFA Thesis Exhibition, Harry Wood Gallery, Arizona State University ‘Milieu: of Art and Space’ Spine Gallery, Phoenix, AZ
Bibliography: 2010 Rinder, Lawrence, New American Paintings, Noteworthy Artist, 2010 2004 Sousanis, Nick, thedetroiter.com, February, 2004 (w/ photo reproductions) 2003 Glen Mannisto, ‘Bones of Clouds: Some Recent Experiences of Chance’ (catalog) 2002 Tysh, George, ‘Minding the Art’ Metro Times Detroit, April 24, 2002 Tysh, George, ‘After Midnight – Art all night’ Metro Times Detroit, March 13, 2002 (w/ photo reproductions) MFA Graduate Thesis Exhibitions Catalog, Cranbrook Academy of Art (w/ photo reproductions) Cranbrook Academy of Art Catalog, Cranbrook Academy of Art (w/ photo reproductions) 2001 Wade, Carla, ‘Media Circus’ Phoenix New Times, March 23, 2000 (w/ photo reproductions) Collections: Neiman Marcus Collection, Houston, Texas Maxine and Stuart Frankel Collection, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan Daimler-Chrysler Permanent Collection, Southfield, Michigan Daimler-Chrysler Curated Collection, Southfield, Michigan Dr. Gabriel Stux, Düsseldorf, Germany Nishiumeda Collection, Tokyo, Japan Gerhardt Knodel, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan Gerard Garcon, Paris, France Irene Hofmann, Newport Beach, California William Jenkins, Tempe, Arizona Bud & Nancy Liebler, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan Wendy Silverman, Birmingham, Michigan Lemberg Gallery, Royal Oak, Michigan Beverly Fishman, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan
ISBN 978-0-9827872-8-1 PRICE $15.00
130 Lincoln Avenue, Suite D, Santa Fe, NM 87501 | p (505) 983-9555 | f (505) 983-1284 www.DavidRichardContemporary.com | info@DavidRichardContemporary.com