In Christy Matson’s second solo exhibition at Volume, “The Sun and The Moon,” the Los Angeles-based artist presents ten new woven and painted works that encourage viewers to reconsider weaving as a sophisticated art form.
Matson’s hybrid tapestries can be understood as paintings and she often draws viewers’ attention to visual oppositions such as flat and textured surfaces, bold and muted colors, and contrasts between the artist’s hand and the machine in the artwork. The deceptively simple compositions are made using a hand-operated, computer-programmable Jacquard loom, allowing her to create complex weaving patterns that she then enhances spontaneously through painting directly on the works—a striking departure from weaving traditions. She also uses a handmade Japanese paper that she unspools and paints, threading it throughout the works like yarn to create color and textural contrasts.
The abstract images in each piece are inspired by sources in the natural world, from urban to rural environments, and the inherent conflicts between the two. “Protea” (all works 2018) and its neutral color palette of bronzes, whites and tans recalls wildflowers and prairie grasses as much as it brings to mind weeds along a busy urban highway. The pale pinks, faded bronzes and aqua blues of the paper woven into the work—in many ways, echoing the subtle effects Helen Frankenthaler achieved in her early soak-stain paintings—create organic shapes that appear to seep into a neutral ground of cotton and wool in works such as “Synecdoche I” and “Synecdoche II” and “Untitled Sketch #4.” Her use of common visual motifs such as flowers or organic, free-form shapes draw attention to contradictions in visual art. These designs are at once categorized as rigorous fine art forms, yet dismissed as trite and ornamental in decorative arts and crafts.
While many of the works in “The Sun and The Moon” loose employ a grid system—a symbol of order—the spontaneous rendering undermines standard conventions, allowing viewers to discover other details about the works, including the addition of unique textural elements. “A Complete Thought” includes colors that appear more saturated in comparison to most works in the exhibition, but here Matson breaks from tradition again, painting over the painted paper woven into the work, giving the colorful sections a more intense hue and depth on the mostly flat surface. She also uses different weaves to create contrasting textures in the compositions. Works such as “Banksia,” “Banksia II” and “Field of Gold” incorporate the diaper weave technique, which creates the square, waffle-like patterns used to fortify long johns.
Pushing boundaries of the genre further, Matson’s deliberate material choices serve as a critical comment on mass production in the textile industry and the “fast fashion” of consumer culture. Combining remnants of wool, linen and cotton—common fabrics for everyday garments—with acrylic and spray paint to create non-functional art objects poses questions about the value and usefulness of seemingly mundane things. While she does not privilege the material or its composition in the works, Matson’s hybrids make room for contemplating these dualities.
Like the color field painters of Abstract Expressionism before her, Matson explores the expressive potential of an artwork. These fabric-based pieces—tightly focused on contrasts in material and texture rather than color—encompass a thoughtful and compelling statement by an artist searching for balance in the midst of the mundane. (Lee Ann Norman)
Christy Matson’s “The Sun and the Moon” shows through December 29 at Volume Gallery, 1709 West Chicago.