Emerging Artist Series #6: Matthew R. Ohm
January 21 – March 23, 2012
Lenzner Family Art Gallery
Why are there trees I never walk under but large and melodious thoughts descend upon me?
— Walt Whitman, Song of the Open Road
The work of Chicago-born but now Long Beach-based artist Matthew R. Ohm focuses on our interactions with the natural world and our need to measure, regulate, possess, and control it.
The centerpiece of Vanitas is a large installation of whitewashed tree branches suspended above the viewer’s head, casting multiple shadows upon the walls of the gallery. The artist reassembles the discarded limbs, leftovers from the pruning of trees, in a renewed, if fictive, landscape––creating a memento mori to, and from, the dead branches. The installation transforms the gallery into an environment that references the natural world through a theatrical distillation: nature as hunting trophy. The shadows created by the suspended branches echo the former living plants but only as ghosts. They appear on the walls like a macabre William Morris decorative device, a sepulchral swag. Further pruning levels all the branches to create a flat plane overhead thus lowering the ceiling and enlarging the audience to a domineering scale in relation to nature.
The transforming of trees into skeletal clouds is an absurdist gesture but, arguably, an ad rem response to our abusive stewardship of this planet. With public water sources being sold to private corporations in order that we may purchase, at inflated rates, that which formerly belonged to us; and our relentless encroachment upon, and devastation of, open lands to make room for urban sprawl housing and the raw materials to construct it; is it any wonder that such a fever of willful self-destruction should prove contagious? Mr. Ohm’s editorial environmentalism presents us with such a poetic vision of ecological squalor that we hunger for the next chapter in the serialization of our collapse.
Matthew R. Ohm received his MFA from California State University, Long Beach in 2009. Ohm, an artist, sculptor and woodworker, has participated in numerous solo exhibitions including, A Majestic Oak Is Just A Crazy Nut Who Stood His Ground at Marilyn Werby Gallery in Long Beach, CA (2009); Trying to Bring the Dead Back to Life at Max L. Gatov Gallery in Long Beach, CA (2007); and Sticks & Stones at Marilyn Werby Gallery in Long Beach, CA (2007). He has also participated in numerous group exhibitions including, Off the Wall at Palos Verde Art Center in Palos Verde, CA (2011); Anarchy at Post Gallery in Los Angeles, CA (2010); Sub-Transient (collaborative show with Tyler Ferreira) at Arts Visalia Gallery in Visalia, CA (2009); Insights 2009 at the University Art Museum in Long Beach, CA (2009); Foehn Documents at The Constant Gallery in Los Angeles, CA (2008); CSULB Six Pack at the Tahoe Gallery in Incline Village, NV (2007); and The Grand Design at Hokin Gallery in Chicago, IL (2006). Ohm has co-curated Hysteria Updated at Max L. Gatov Gallery in Long Beach, CA (2008), Polytheism at Hokin Gallery in Chicago, IL (2005) and White at Little Known Gallery in Chicago, IL (2004). He was the visiting artist at Sierra Nevada College in Incline Village, NV in 2007. Matthew R. Ohm currently lives and works in Long Beach.
Mark Allen is an artist, educator and curator based in Los Angeles. He is the founder and executive director of Machine Project, a non-profit performance and installation space in Los Angeles. Machine Project also operates as a loose confederacy of artists producing shows at locations ranging from beaches to museums to parking lots. Under his direction Machine Project has produced shows with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver, the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis in Missouri, and the Walker Museum in Minneapolis. He has produced more than 500 events in Los Angeles at the Machine Project storefront space, and recently concluded a yearlong artist residency addressing topics of public engagement at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles. Allen has taught at the California Institute of the Arts and the University of California San Diego, and is currently an associate professor of art at Pomona College. He serves on the Board of Directors of the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts in New York and on the Advisory Board of the Center for Integrated Media at the California Institute of the Arts in Los Angeles. Allen received his MFA from the California Institute of the Arts following a residency with the Core Fellowship of the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston.
Thomas Lawson is an artist with a diverse, project-driven output that encompasses painting, writing, editing, curating and teaching. He has been showing paintings and developing temporary public works internationally since the late ʼ70s. Lawson was one of three selectors of the British Art Show in 1995. In the spring of 2009, selections from his older works were included in historical survey shows of the ʼ80s at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and at Le Magasin – Centre National d’Art Contemporain in Grenoble, France. His essays have appeared in Artforum and other art journals, as well as many exhibition catalogues. From 1979 until 1992 he, along with Susan Morgan, published and edited REAL LIFE Magazine. From 2002 until 2009 he was co-editor of Afterall Journal. In 2010 he launched www.eastofborneo.org, an online magazine and archive. A book of selected writings, Mining for Gold, was published by JRP-Ringier, Zurich in 2005 and an anthology of REAL LIFE Magazine was published by Primary Information, New York in 2007. Lawson has received support from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. He has been Dean of the School of Art at the California Institute of the Arts since 1991.
Opening Reception: Saturday, January 21, 2 – 5 pm
Artist Lecture: Monday, January 30 at 9 am