Friday, July 21, 2017

Matthew Mahler, UP & DOWN @ Sardine

Man, I Loved the Stacy Fisher show at Sardine, followed up by Matthew Mahler’s paintings based on the soles of Air Jordan 7s. That is a pretty great run of shows. I’ve been a fan of Mahler’s paintings for some time. I first knew his work as tie-dyed canvases with text, which peaked with a series of tie-dyed paintings with tassels floating off them, named after the unhinged dayglow 90’s wrestler The Ultimate Warrior. There was a fearlessness in taking on the garishness and repurposed hipsterness of tie-dye that I loved. Mahler’s skill at taking on loaded and garish subject matter without becoming maudlin was endlessly impressive. I loved that he seemed willing to embrace his personal interests and fold them into his art, creating a layer of meaning to his abstract paintings, which made his work stand out in the otherwise crowded Bushwick scrum of abstract painters. 

In his new Air Jordan 7s paintings, there is something both utterly enticing and repellent in his soft, slightly muted, almost commercial plastic-like color palate. They function like the other side of the coin of his earlier tie-dyed paintings; instead of the colors being over the top, the new paintings are so neutral in palate that the color becomes almost nonexistent. Yet the paintings are fantastic, and the excitement stems from Mahler so actively courting that line between triumph and failure. The work operates not unlike sneaker culture, does for me where on some primordial lower brain, junior-high level, I very much want cool new sneakers but at the same time, I feel that most new cool sneakers are just a little too garish for me to wear at my age and maintain any kind of dignity. It’s a desire and a simultaneous shame for desiring, which is a wonderfully complex reaction for a series of abstract paintings to elicit. All of which is helped by the paintings being hung on a lovely white metal grid that floats off the wall. The grid makes the paintings seem like they are on the pristine white display racks of a large shoe store.

Already Down
Sardine (286 Stanhope St. Ground Floor, Btw. Wyckoff & Irving Aves., Brooklyn)


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