For his fifth solo exhibition at Galerie Fons Welters, Matthew Monahan (1972, Los Angeles) presents a series of seven sculptures and four collages. The sculptures are formed out of stainless steel with oil paint. With this, Monahan is circling back to artistic methods confronting him with age old problems of invention of technique with at the heart a classical, romantic subject. This tension between the new and the classical has always been of interest to Monahan, both in the movements of art history and in his own oeuvre.
When creating the series of sculptures for Boys Don’t Cry, Monahan took the gallery space as a starting point, with the back wall as a sculpture or pedestal in itself. The works of various sizes cut up the rectangles of the gallery and take their position in the space as static players in a play that shows their true face.
While the use of materials, presentation and narrative varies in his oeuvre, the presence of the face as a subject for Monahan has proven non-erasable. Monahan continuously wants to work on the face because of its complexity. It is a formal object, a historical subject and an emotional reject. This pressure is moulding the face from within and without.
The new technique of steel and oil paint was a breakthrough for Monahan in his process of creating direct energy and emotion, without losing it to the material. The steel is not only a carrier, but it forms the personality of the sculpture as well. The creases in the material are reminiscent of crumpled paper, apparently easily formed. In reality, the paper-thin steel has been carefully shaped to reveal intensely emotional, expressive characters whose likeness is folded, creased and crushed into a lively relief. The faces each show their own story, their own personality and vulnerability that Monahan digs up from the material. The combination of cold steel and powerful emotion is part of the ever-present apparent contradiction between presence and detachment. The sculptures therefore have Monahan’s recognizable handwriting: anthropomorphic, emotional and enigmatic. The works have an enormous presence in the space, but also a stillness that encourages reflection.
Matthew Monahan (1972, US, lives and works in Los Angeles) was a.o. part of the main exhibition of the 55th Venice Biennial, Sonsbeek and the Whitney Biennial. He has had solo shows at a.o. ICA, Philadelphia; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles and the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. His work is part of the collections of a.o. AkzoNobel; Art Institute of Chicago; Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen; LACMA, Los Angeles; MoCA, Los Angeles, MoMA, New York; Rubell Family Collection, Miami; SFMOMA, San Francisco; Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam; TATE Modern, London; DNB, Amsterdam; Centraal Museum Utrecht.