Matthew Conradt Shares His Lost Past in Pictures

In prints and collaged photographs, artist Matthew Conradt charts the decline of America’s Midwest. In new works on view at Muriel Guépin Gallery, Conradt has introduced an edgy sense of abstraction into his works, piecing together bits of material and image to create dynamic mixed media tableaux.

His second solo show at the gallery, “New Noise,” presents a new series of collages that re-imagine the landscape of his youth and the dissolution of the American Dream. Having grown up in Iowa, a part of the region often called the “Rust Belt” due to its reliance on manufacturing, Conradt pulls imagery from historical sources and uses them to trace the decay in America’s industrial jobs. His collages encapsulate both a sense of nostalgia and a critical vision of the future.

Conradt’s works draw together various media and reflect his artistic practice, which spans printmaking, painting, and photography. He explains, “For me, doing collage and photo-transfer stuff was a way of getting away from all the meticulousness that comes with painting.” He uses photo-transfer techniques to print images on Mylar that he then manipulates by cutting and repositioning or by adding pigments. In Noise (2014), the artist has used a photograph of an opulent interior by cutting a portion of the middle of the image into strips. He rearranges those slices to create an abstracted version of the original image, which includes many of the same formal characteristics, but is largely illegible. The golden hues and the roughened surface underscore a sense of nostalgia for a time and place that is now lost. Other works, such as Unaccountable (2015) and Detritus (2008), take this to even greater heights by obscuring the image and its easy comprehension.

Occasionally, figures appear in Conradt’s work: in Cement Sucking (2014) and Untitled - Study for Surface (2015), pairs of people perform unknown tasks, creating a sense of re-creation and emotional resonance. However, in larger images, such as Like Wonders Much Reduced (2014), Conradt shifts his focus to the surrounding architecture, in this case, an ornate concert hall in a stereoscopic photograph. Like the photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto, Conradt examines the ways in which architecture signifies human relationships and experience.

Balanced (2014), Fog (2014), and Connecticut Cough (2014) represent some of the artist’s most abstract works, which employ bits of photographic imagery as elements of color and form in highly aestheticized collages. Similar to the all-over imagery of Mimmo Rotella, recognizable sections are reduced to gestures akin to drawings or swathes of paint. Conradt simultaneously indexes, eulogizes, and creates new images to mark the path forward.

Stephen Dillon

Matthew Conradt: New Noise” is on view at Muriel Guépin Gallery, New York, Feb. 27–Mar. 29, 2015.

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