Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Matthew Albanese: Strange Worlds in Lay of the Land

Matthew Albanese, My Dream Your Nightmare, artist charcoal, sticks, crepe paper party streamers, sifted coffee, phosphorescent ink, 2011

The exhibition Lay of the Land, on view through February 20, 2014, deals with landscapes as they are perceived and reconstructed by artists. Each artist in the show focuses on a different aspect of this reconstruction. 

The creator of Strange Worlds, Matthew Albanese, brings us across the finish line to a place where we unknowingly accept the artifice as real, only to find that what we perceived as a landscape was in fact a table-top set, constructed down to the finest detail and photographed. What we at first perceive as part of this world we realize is part of something else entirely: a projection of the artist's imagination brought to life. But the result is not alienating. On the contrary, the photographs create a shared experience of wonder that is closer to our everyday lives than we first realize. When the illusion is revealed, a vast landscape becomes as familiar as a living room carpet. Awe is replaced by recognition of a shared fantasy of a beautiful, at times tumultuous and strange world.

The following is an excerpt from a book on Matthew Albanese's Strange Worlds:

"The poet William Wordsworth wrote about his “inward eye,” which served him like a camera, making it possible to resurrect in his mind, “a host, of golden daffodils; beside the lake, beneath the trees.” Matthew Albanese’s strange worlds, captured in radiant colored images, are also brought back to life by way of the artist’s inner vision. These are worlds that seduce the viewer into believing that the forests and lakes, waterfalls and glowing nighttime auroras, the windswept savannahs, and even the surfaces of distant moons and planets are photographically accurate documents of specific environments. It is only when one learns that these natural phenomena are constructed of the most banal and quotidian of materials-spices, bottle brushes, salt, fake fur, and deconstructed feather dusters- and that they are only as large as a small tabletop, that the viewer becomes aware of having been gently persuaded and then seduced into believing in a reality that is entirely false. Rather than feeling cheated, deceived, and manipulated by the artist’s clever wiles, a strange pleasure, sometimes approaching awe, kicks in, taking the viewer into the state of suspended disbelief that we experience at the theater or in the movies.

Matthew Albanese’s worlds, whether superficially gentle or blatantly violent, place the viewer in an existential quandary. Are we the anonymous and blameless witnesses to a world of deception that both entices and mocks us? Are we asked by the artist to enter a territory entirely fabricated in the artist’s mind or does our suspension of disbelief override our knowledge of what is true and what is false? In permitting ourselves to become a part of the artist’s world, are we reading his own autobiographical narrative? Which is the human presence we recognize in these landscapes?

Carl Jung wrote that our “projections change the world into the replica of one’s own unknown face.” Matthew Albanese’s strange worlds serve two masters: they are projections of the artist’s unknown face, but also of our own.

-       From “The Inward Eye” by David Revere McFadden

Matthew Albanese, Wildfire, Scotch-Brite pot scrubbers, clear garbage bags, cooked sugar, 2011

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