Galerie Fons Welters - Amsterdam

Art Antwerp 2021

At Art Antwerp Galerie Fons Welters presents work by the American artist Matthew Monahan (1972). The broadness of his practice is shown, with older and new work, sculptural work and work on paper. Although material use, presentation and narrative vary in his oeuvre, the presence of the face as a subject has proved indelible to Monahan. It is the complexity of the face that always draws the artist back to this subject.

We are showing one of Monahan’s early doubled works, Untitled from 1999, made with ink on thin Japanese paper. Two faces are depicted one above the other. Due to the special technique the artist used to create these works, the faces are completely symmetrical. The Japanese paper is folded around an inked carbon paper. When pressure is applied to the back, it prints on both sides. This creates a symmetrical pattern when opened. The same transfer sheet is used for the top and bottom halves of the 1999 drawing, so that ‘the ghost’ of the top half appears in the bottom half.

In the monumental, almost two-metre-high collages Sister X (2014) and Green Mind (2014), we see faces and hands drawn in charcoal on various sheets of paper. The collage technique creates dynamics in the image and the figures seem to come to life. The works show a fragmented classical figure against a geometric background. Monahan uses fragmentation as a technique to break the narrative.

The two sculptures on display can be traced back to the early years of Monahan’s practice. He kept working on the heads on paper to such an extent that they eventually bulged and almost tore due to the extensive erasing and adding of new lines. This is how the first sculptures in his oeuvre came about. After almost 20 years, the artist found the perfect material to allow these previously very fragile works to retain the energy they had on paper. By using stainless steel foil which he first paints with oil paint and then folds by hand, the artist brings the face to life with folds and creases. Monahan regularly chooses classical materials such as Japanese paper and bronze, but uses them in an innovative way, such as painting steel with oil paint and folding it. This tension between the new and the classical in technique and subject matter has always been of interest to Monahan, both in art history and in his own oeuvre.

In addition to these works, we show three new works in which Monahan has used materials that are novel to him. They are heads and upper bodies that seem to work their way out of the wall like reliefs. The heads are made from acrylic clay. By vacuuming a thin plastic layer over the shape of the body and head and fixing it, Monahan creates Pop-like images, that seem to fight against the material that contains them.