Artist: Matt Siegle
Exhibition title: Eddie’s Gulch
Venue: Park View, Los Angeles, US
Date: May 24 – Jun 28, 2015
Photography: images courtesy of the artist and Park View, Los Angeles
Park View is pleased to announce Eddie’s Gulch, Matt Siegle’s first solo gallery exhibition in Los Angeles. An opening reception will be held on Sunday, 24 May from 6 to 9pm, and the exhibition will run at 836 South Park View Street, Number 8, through 28 June. Siegle has become known for developing portraits of charged characters across a range of mediums, including painting, sculpture, video, and performance, producing embodied narratives that interweave contemporary and historical realities. In Eddie’s Gulch, comprised of new paintings and sculptures, Siegle turns to a group of present-day gold mining drifters living in a canyon along the San Gabriel River, just east of Los Angeles.
Approaching his subject matter via realist painting traditions—with measured influences taken from Maynard Dixon’s portrayals of the American West, Edouard Manet’s intermingling of figure and landscape, and Thomas Moran and the Hudson River School—Siegle anchors the exhibition with seemingly idealized depictions of men prospecting and working along the river terrain. Based on images of the group taken by Siegle since 2013, the paintings operate from a place of artifice, looking decidedly out-of-time aesthetically and also materially, with images executed in grisaille and surfaces veiled with antiquarian-like sienna tones in acrylic washes. Compositional breaks and painterly gestures upset and reject the fidelity of the paintings’ pictorial spaces, signaling openings into Siegle’s own fantasy narrative, part pornography and part melodrama, in which he himself embodies some romanticized “other” via the drifters, refracted through the character of Eddie.
The artist’s acrylic portraits are rendered on repurposed FSC-certified shopping bags, which have been sectioned into rectangular areas and plasticized to create hardened shells. They are mounted in fractured compositions onto linen. Treated with a unique slow-evaporative process that leaves behind traces of dissolved acrylic paint, the linen grounds evoke earthy residues or washed-out concrete sourced directly from the landscape of the site.
Makeshift tools—grocery crates for sluicing, hand-trucks for moving volumes of dirt, slop buckets, and temporary shelters—feature in the large-scale paintings and are developed into focal points in Siegle’s smaller-scale paintings. Hung in relief to the more impressionistic linen works, two black- and-white hand-truck paintings appear to be allied with straightforward photorealistic and documentary traditions. Yet pictorial glitches revealed upon closer inspection denounce their verifiability as true testaments to the site. These qualities refer back instead to the artist’s gaze, digitally reconstructing a memory and arriving at different painterly interpretations as he repeats his gesture.
Siegle’s new sculptures, located throughout the entire gallery, are found or interpreted based on the human conditions of his subjects, marked by material decay and collapse. A twisted swathe of nylon and cotton sheets lays on the floor of the gallery, and from that vantage point the copper and polyester skeleton of a tent, a small memento mori hanging from its apex, can be viewed through the doorway towards the spare room. Reflecting on the site as both modern social paradise and 21st-century economic dystopia, the exhibition produces a picture of a self completely seized by a Manifest destiny ethos—and, in the case of the drifters, and of Eddie himself, reaching towards the logical extreme or end-point of independence as a way of life.
Matt Siegle was born in 1980 in Mount Kisco, New York. He received his MFA from California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, and his BA from Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire. His works have been exhibited at YEARS, Copenhagen, Denmark; Anthony Greaney, Boston, USA; Machine Project, Los Angeles; and Artists Space, New York, among others. This summer he will perform at Kunsthal 44 Møen, Denmark, curated by René Block. Siegle lives and works in Los Angeles.
Arroyo Seco Bedding Spoon, 2015
Sluice Box, 2015
New Model Heaton Flats Domicile, 2015
19th-century study/Eddie, 2014
Eddie squats down by the river. Wal-Mart Reeboks toe-dipping in the water, back shining in the afternoon sun. We watch from above, silently now. The tributary winds a course past the succulents, the trash, the boulders and the Occitillo plant, covers the base of the milk crate, weaves through the plastic grating, buffs the grit. And a hand grabs your shoulder. Hot breath on my eyelids. Long hair brushing my forehead. Musk on my earlobes, meth teeth on my nose: growling, let’s get outta here. Rolling onto the stomach now: slide down the wet dirt and tumbled rocks in the dark; crushing ant hills and hiker cairns; slithering into the icy river; dissolving into pebbles; pebbles sifting through more rough hands; hands wiping and grabbing, swatting flies, laying tarp, setting up the tent in the shade of the black oak, 2015
I wear denim and soiled ripstop. In the canyon I sport white athletic socks, hiking boots bought used from REI parking lot sale–no, cheapo Reeboks actually. My tshirt shaded gray and with lightly brassy pit stains. The sweat collects at my hairline at the top of my head. Drips the SPF 30 off the tip of my nose. Chem-UVAUVB droplets collecting on my chest hair, slithering down my core and abdomen and each notch of my spine. With every passing sun-minute my cotton shirt clings to my torso, closely now. The shirt darkening with perspiration, through the weave of the belt and soaking the 501s, dampens my athletic compression shorts, quads, junk, grime, 2015
Ya see ’em? Moving placer gravel up and out. Rasping and digging in the pits, beneath the ground floor of the gulch, a U-LINE hand truck. Each load of dirt wears the surface more tender. The salt from their palms oxidizes the handle bar in an accelerated rate. The palm plunges shovel through the grit, again. And again. Then the salt of the palm digs the hole in the bucket. The salt of the palm chucks the crate in the back of the rusty RV. The palm hangs the bucket to dry, wipes hair across brow, closes the door on the camper shell; feels the downy hair of the thigh. The salt of Eddie says go to sleep. You are better when face down. No, face up: let me slide two fingers up your abdomen and across your chest, tracing your sternum slowly with a chunk of corroded steel, 2015
Pretend to be “of the land.” Crouch lower, take a closer look. Nestle an index finger in the crook of the sun-baked base-plate and the metal rod, sliding along the steel upright so rigid it could break your face. Slowly now… With a flip of the finger the hand truck quivers, then falls, clanging on rocks. A small cloud of dust. The dust settles in silt. The silt tickles your nose, inhale deep–through each sinus, grit on your nostrils–now tasting the earth. Ringing metallic. Maybe it’s gold, but Eddie says more likely your own nostalgia, 2015