Matthew Girson’s exhibition, “Plot Structure,” at Riverside Arts Center, combines two disparate bodies of work in an ode to the comprehensive potentials and responsible limitations of painting itself.
Setting the stage for one of the two metaphorical players in this exhibition is “Excavation Installation 3,” living outstretched proudly on the wall in the first room of the gallery. Expansive layers of latex, enamel, acrylic on plaster and mirror rest directly on the surface of the wall. Animated by the light pouring in the adjacent gallery window, the painting is quietly reflective, reminiscent of a blank television screen. As the viewer’s body shuffles around, the surface of the surrounding painting is luminated by their subtle shadow. The installation plays with the temporal and spatial limitations of painting, as its perception shifts with any subtle change in daylight or angle of view. Once the exhibition is closed, the installation will cease to exist in physical time and space, and make a home in memory.
The depicted scene in “Excavation Installation 3” emerges from the installation, and each flat, painted plane compounds dimension. Girson, master of perspective, builds depth by careful linework and material placement. Thick textural planes of plaster separate visually from the slick coating of chrome acrylic, and a room with benches, shelves and a painting on a wall constructs before the viewer’s eyes. The materials, limited and restrained, keep the resulting depiction just shy of complete, and lives as a painted afterimage, cemented behind closed eyelids.
In the second room of the gallery hangs “Excavation Painting 5,” made from the now-familiar combination of latex, enamel and acrylic on canvas and mirror. Though smaller in stature than “Excavation Installation 3,” this painting efficaciously reveals Girson’s painterly adroitness. Relying on only four variations of color and texture, Girson is able to skillfully create a perceptual environment. There are two panels of mirrors bookending each side of the painting, reflecting the surrounding gallery space. Though the dimensionality of the paintings invite the viewer to step inside, the mirrors keep them out, creating a barrier for entry and reminding the viewer of their role as a voyeur.
Throughout the gallery hang oil paintings by Larry Bookbinder, a fictionalized artist conceived from the imagination of Girson. In stark opposition to Girson’s paintings, Bookbinder’s offer vivid illusionary portrayals of form and dimension, evoking piles of gently spiraled ribbons. “Untitled 30” offers abundant shades of pinks, blues, oranges and metallic, as the ribbon forms intermingle with one another. The edge of the canvas serves as a container, keeping the contents gathered and preventing the muted mess from spilling onto the floor.
“Untitled 29” hones in on reds and blues tightly woven in a vascular horizontal spiral. The resulting image feels tangible, begging the viewer to reach their palm in and let it sink through the silky heap. Looking between Bookbinder’s paintings and Girson’s paintings is where the visceral lives. Bookbinder’s offers a comforting lush reprieve between Girson’s stoic and shifting textural structures. Both bodies of work, though interesting and complex on their own, become ignited into a collaborative chorus celebrating the aptitude of painting itself.
Matthew Girson, “Plot Structure” at Riverside Arts Center, 32 East Quincy, Riverside. On view through December 30.