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Matt Lively - Recent Works at Adam Cave Fine Art

Raleigh NC   March 28 - April 29, 2008

turgid type.jpg

Turgid Type, oil on paper, 30"x40"  (all images courtesy of Adam Cave Fine Art)


        Matt Lively creates paintings that live up to his surname.  His works are never dull but instead are about the fanciful flights of everyday objects that foray off in unexpected directions.  The Richmond based artist has developed a style imbued with a tremendous dose of whimsy and often a good bit of surrealism thrown into the mix for good measure.   His paintings recently on view at Adam Cave Fine Art in Raleigh depicted stage set-like tableaux of domesticity: sitting parlors with groupings of striped and patterned chairs, living or bedroom like spaces with large windows and wind blown curtains, ironing boards fraternizing with high chairs, and staircases that curl around small tables like your grandma's that held the family telephone.  Ordinary household items, often of the old-timey, made-in-USA era variety, are a common thread that reappear in the canvases and visually tie this series of works together.  These items are central in the paintings and are typically actual objects the artist owns- an antique film projector for instance, an old circulating fan, a rotary dial telephone- and they simultaneously lend an air of nostalgic familiarity coupled with an unsettled air of mysterious tranquility.

The paintings share much with the fundamentals of still life painting in that the main subject matter consists of carefully composed objects, attentively painted, within a supporting background.  Yet in Lively's paintings these objects are always strongly metaphorical and seem to be stand-ins for the missing occupants of these spaces. This in turn gives rise to all sorts of associations that your mind begins to draw. Has the occupant of the room just left for a second and we're catching the precise moment when they are absent? Or are they ever really coming back? Why are their belongings blowing all around in the drafty breeze like that? Who really owns that many chairs and how can their house have so many little rooms?

Indeed for all the tendency of your mind to have a traditional Westerner's point of view (i.e. focusing on the objects rather than the space around them) it is a more intangible element that recurs throughout that gives these works their chutzpah: namely the continual breeze that appears to be blowing across the scene. It is a constant presence whether blowing the papers out of an antique typewriter in the painting titled "Turgid Type"or loosing the dots right off the pattern of a hanging dress in "Fall in Place" leaving them tumbling down onto the floor. It is a tough task this; the painting of the wind, yet this abstruse breeze seems to me to be the true inhabitant of these spaces.  It flutters and flows about, making its way around and between the objects in the rooms as handily as we viewers survey the painted subjects themselves.  


fall in place.jpg

       Fall in Place, oil on canvas, 30"x30"       

        A few live elements do occur to bring a sense of the living into the fray: a bird just flown out of a birdcage, a comical swarm of bees in flight mounted on curious little miniature unicycles. But one particular inanimate item that caught my attention is the recurring old fashioned plug-in electrical cord that is generally present with each painted appliance.  This cord curls out and away from the fans, clothes irons, and movie projectors towards a wall socket as if to seek out some broader harmony for the objects within their surroundings. It is a tangible element of connection -a literal power source- that suffuses Lively's work with a sense of tactile linkage.  In our accelerated present, a time of wireless and unplugged everything, sometimes it takes an honest time-worn item like this to connect us back to fundamental notions of inhabitance and spaces we might call our own.   

 

flutter and click.jpg

     Flutter and Click, oil on paper, 30"x40"

a postscript...

    The painter, I learned from his recent interview on WUNC radio's "The State of Things," also has an intriguing alter ego- Matthew Lively- who is more the brooding type, preferring to work with darker, more menacing themes.  Matthew is more prone to show his work in bars and pubs - his own art underworld if you will- whereas Matt's work is more content in hanging (no pun intended) with the traditional gallery crowd.  The work done under each guise rarely crosses over into the realm of the other and Lively (who I have to imagine must have to constantly refer to himself as the Artist formerly known as the other M) is perfectly ok with that. Indeed it is a modus operandi that serves him well as it has many other creative types through history from Duchamp / Rose Selavy to the multi-heteronymical Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa.  The overall benefit is that Lively is able to cleverly pursue multiple, simultaneous streams of thought in his work in a fruitful way.  He in fact becomes his own multi-tasking editor as this working method allows him to let varying ideas and concepts be utilized (or not) in a pluralistic variety of working styles.   In doing so he is able to tinge his works with various subtle shades of meaning that have the benefit of broad resonance with viewers...whatever sort of art venue they tend to frequent.   The artist noted in this same interview that practically none of Matthew's fans are likely to cross over to see the paintings done by Matt and vice versa due to the differences in venue and the type of crowd each attracts.  But do yourself a favor if you get a chance; break this trend and check out what's going on in both places. It's well worth the trip to see what's coming out of the flip side of this artist's palette.













May 13, 2008 8:57 PM |
Given the size of our community, we have a wealth of theater critics.

The daily newspaper that I write for has three freelance critics who share most of the reviewing duties plus a staff writer who occasionally writes a theater review. The alternative newspaper in town rotates its reviews among six freelance critics. A local television broadcaster makes it to nearly every single show and posts reviews on his Website as well as on the air. Depending on the semester, the college newspaper will have a critic. Then the Detroit papers send critics to town for the professional shows. An alternative newspaper has three critics that come to town and the Free Press usually sends someone.

We are also blessed that it is a fairly collegial community and we enjoy good relations with each other.

Last fall, Don Calamia, the critic from Between the Lines, a Detroit weekly newspaper, and I were discussing how Patrick Shanley's Doubt was dominating the 2007-2008 professional season. Three groups were performing it in a four month span, with two of the shows opening within a week of each other. The first was in Lansing, the second in Detroit, and the third in Ann Arbor. While these are somewhat spread apart in distance, they are all within an hour of each other and there is some overlap in audience between the three groups.

During this discussion, we agreed that we would each see all three shows and then do some sort of joint discussion comparing the three productions. We didn't know what form that would take when we started, but we eventually turned to our respective blogs: Don's Confessions of a Cranky Critic and my Front Row Lansing.

This week--on April Fool's Day to be specific--we began a week-long blogfest comparing the three productions. On Tuesday, we independently created our own all-star casts drawn from the three productions. On Wednesday, we revealed which of the three productions we thought was the best. On Thursday, we discussed whether the priest was guilty or innocent--and came up with different answers for each of the three productions. Finally, today, we arranged to have a live chat free-for-all and post the transcript on our blog.

We didn't come up with the idea for a live chat until the last minute, so our invitation for our readers to join us didn't get out until less than 24 hours before the lunchtime chat--not really enough time to give people notice. However, both the director of the BoarsHead show and the BoarsHead artistic director was able to join us.

It was a fun way to look at theater in a larger context than an individual show and we had a lot of fun discussing our different takes on the show. It's something we're both planning to do again, though we're still brainstorming what the next topic will be.
April 4, 2008 12:29 PM | | Comments (4)

I'm Ashley Lindstrom, associate editor at San Antonio's alt-weekly newspaper The Current, and newly recruited Flyover blogger. I'm totally psyched to be "holding down the southern front," to quote Mr. Nickell, the person kind enough to invite me to join the ranks after we met at this year's NEA Arts Journalism Institute in Theater and Musical Theater.

A little about me: I've been criticizing theater and film at The Current for just over two years (and other things for, I don't know, ages). Although SA is the seventh-largest city in the US -- with an incredible basketball team, ahem -- it's got a small-town attitude. This characteristic has its pros and cons: Folks are plenty warm and friendly, but we're still working on becoming a hotspot for creative-types. I cover about four to five theaters regularly, and film is another beast entirely: We're always the last market to get those limited releases. And press junkets? Fughetaboutit.

Once a year, though, Central Texas crawls with filmmakers of a slightly more national reputation. (Yes, even more national than SA-born Robert Rodriguez.) And flyover folks like myself finally get to talk to them about their work. That time is rolling around: The South by Southwest Film Festival begins on March 7. OK, so I'll have to drive to Austin for it ... and my inbox will be crammed with messages from promoters ... and I'll be virtually begging for passes for contributors. But is it worth it? In a word: Yes.

More on the wonderful world of Central Texas arts to come ... I've got a screening to catch ...

February 22, 2008 4:22 PM | | Comments (2)

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