In Grotesque, Matthew Carter presents works dealing with the obliteration, recuperation, and re-animation of the figure through three distinct bodies of work: Exquisite Corpses, a group of mix-media collages; Glitter & Scars, a series of unique mirrored works; and new mix-media paintings on linen from his ongoing hellequinharlequinclown series.
Though sharing the same name, Carter’s Exquisite Corpses are less about the Surrealist parlor game (Cadavre Exquis) than the artist's own strategies of image reception and icon excavation. Manifesting somewhere between a scrapbook and a merz, Carter’s “corpses" reveal an array of decals, stickers, overhead transparencies, and other low-tech pedagogical forms that contrast the subjective nature of the personal archive with the didactic nature of research materials. In these works, the element of “deception” produced by chance, unpredictability, and collaboration in the original game is turned on its head -- multiple subjectivities are still at play in a single figure/object, however they are the creation of one person rather than a group.
Mining the debased archive of rotten.com, Carter’s re-materialization of the digital image in these collages can be viewed as a creative resurrection of sorts (a la Frankenstein): a dwarf is cut out from a John Wayne Gacy painting, the pictorial negative space between Albert Speer and Hitler is isolated, emphasized and re-spliced. The amateur quality of the “home” inkjet print offers a lens of sentimentality for the images of raw meat, muted Nazis and forgotten killer clown ephemera. Deception is further at play in the conflict between the different set of images that hide or cancel each other out.
If the Exquisite Corpse collages are about the figure's mutilation (Carter likens the archiving and scrapbooking process to “a coroner using formaldehyde to preserve a corpse”), the works in Glitter & Scars are about the figure’s fragmentation and re-assembly through the structure of a mosaic. In these works, Carter has used earlier paintings from the hellequinharlequinclown (HHQ) series to map out new variations of the pattern onto multicolored reflective plexiglass panels; however, unlike the HHQ series, the prominent use of mirrors in Glitter & Scars provides the spectator a direct confrontation with the performer (the self, actor, harlequin).
Carter’s motivation and strategy is structured by the opposition between a normalized grotesque and an outlandish ordinary, while struggling to stay within a problematic of modernist abstraction. In Exquisite Corpses Carter shortcuts the mental process between inspiration and application by gluing the unprocessed inspiration material straight onto the final work. The collages rehabilitate the “bad” and tarnish the “good” with the intention of subverting both. In Glittter and Scars, the visual fragmentation of both viewer and architectural space takes place through the salon-style hanging as well as the surrogate "drawing" revealed by the pattern. Traversing from the physical to the digital trace and back again, Glitter & Scars brings up processes of editing and modularization, as well as narcissism and empathy.
By turns brutal, violent, comforting, and mundane, the works in Grotesque are strangely serious and sincere.
Matthew Carter lives and works in Los Angeles, CA. Carter was born 1981 in Moline, Illinois, and received his MFA from Otis College of Art & Design, Los Angeles, in 2010, and his BFA from Southern Illinois University Carbondale in 2005. Upcoming and recent solo and group exhibitions include Bloody Red Sun of Fantastic LA (curated by Rene-Julien Praz, opening November 2015), PIASA, Paris, France; hellequinharlequinclown, Luis De Jesus Los Angeles, the 2013 MexiCali Biennial, Vincent Price Art Museum, Los Angeles, CA; Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE); Torrance Art Museum, Torrance, CA; Bolsky Gallery, Otis College of Art & Design, Los Angeles; and California State University Long Beach, Long Beach, CA. His work is included in the permanent collection of the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego and numerous private collections in the U.S..