Matthew Ritchie. (Reviews: New York)

By Richard, Frances | Artforum International, January 2003 | Go to article overview

Matthew Ritchie. (Reviews: New York)


Richard, Frances, Artforum International


ANDREA ROSEN GALLERY

Matthew Ritchie is a self-professed cosmologist, a connoisseur of information structures whose templates include action painting, superstring theory, medieval hagiographies, molecular biology, and comic books. Though his paintings and installations bear individual titles, they are best understood as multidimensional or exploded facets of a single (impossible) master image, a unified field that heeds no distinctions between seen objects and conceptually unbounded themes. Critics dutifully recite the back story to this elaborate oeuvre: The artist invented a pantheon of forty-nine elements or archangels or superheroes, whose interactions catalyze a private universe apprehended in the work on view. Ritchie's pieces are positioned rhetorically as images barely coalesced from a primordial soup of intellectual reference. But the plots and theories are not, finally, the pivotal aspect of his work--nor, I would venture, does he intend them to be. The narrative matrix is, for the most part, invisible, while the real p rogram unfolds before your eyes. Counterintuitively, with Matthew Ritchie what you see is what you get.

Ritchie's recent exhibition was titled "After Lives," and the project is a Last Judgment of sorts, relying on the hallmarks of such scenes, with tortured figures flitting through landscapes both apocalyptic and harmonious. Barely legible notation in black marker includes science-y phrases like BABY UNIVERSES and A + B FEEDBACK LOOP, while a bull's-eye motif and a recurring intestine shape weave through mountains and whirlpools. Meanwhile, a wall drawing in scrawled black acrylic extends behind After Lives (all works 2002), the most obviously figurative of the five paintings, and blurs into Off the Hook, a mural in sintra and enamel that spills onto the floor and has metal spears sticking out of it. …

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