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Matthew Brannon…The Question is a Compliment

Submitted by on Monday, 26 May 2008No Comment

Matthew Brannon is known for his use of fine art and commercial printmaking alongside a classic sense of graphic design as a means of camouflaging his unpleasant and/or absurd content. This strategy is less a gimmick than an acceptance of the psychoanalytic model which believes that content is filtered before it is exposed. The balance of text and image in the letterpress prints provides the clearest example of this approach. One finds in them a word play dealing with career anxiety, alcoholism, insecurity, guilt, humiliation, sexual misadventure and so on, paired with bedside still-life images of lamps and statuettes. The consistent theme of success and failure here advances to a more literary like form both supporting and opposing the idea of the autobiographical. What Brannon began as mimicking the model of a film poster now operates on it’s own visual terms with each print acting simultaneously as chapter and setting.

Matthew Brannon continues his consideration of the cosmopolitan condition with
his exhibition “The question is a compliment.” A series of new sculptures and
letterpress prints use New York City’s immediate surroundings as a backdrop to
discuss more private pathologies.

Hippocrates, the ancient Greek physician widely recognized as the father of modern
medicine, once advised his students to avoid treating patients in the latter stages of
consumption as their efforts would most assuredly be futile and reflect poorly on
their abilities. We know now that tuberculosis was a bacterial scourge highly
resistant to treatment, but it is interesting to note that the man considered
responsible for medical ethics actually counseled his students that a dead body
would be bad for business. In other words, public perception is everything.

Consumption plays a key role in the work of Matthew Brannon. Not of the
particular tubercular variety, of course, but of the public, Keynesian kind: the kind
that nudges us to want things… to retard our insecurities with trophies, career
opportunities, sex and substances. Brannon’s prints, referring to various
consumerist topics such as shoe shopping and fine dining, mischievously turn on
the double meaning of taste, both the discerning eye of aesthetics and the literal
sensory taste buds of the tongue.

More ambivalent than cynical, Brannon’s approach implicates everyone, including
himself, and, most of all, the various and varied commercial media which dictate
our desires. From high heels to spare change, Brannon’s letterpress prints and silk-
screens craftily play both sides: he employs mass production techniques to make
unique works, uses images and methods that at once seem current yet strangely
anachronistic (also mixing the quotidian with the luxury), and provides us with texts
that complicate rather than illustrate. Each piece adding or divorcing itself from a
larger humorous and often noir take on subjects as varied as they are irresolvable.

The gallery is divided into sections using handcrafted display rigs to hang his
signature prints. Infused with a Freudian impulse, the prints encourage an
irresolvable but productive tension between text and image. Images of high heels,
sushi, sake, typewriters and adult dvds meet with texts on crime, art, sex, success,
regret, guilt and shame. The show culminates with his sculpture Rat, a small shelf
placed intentionally out of reach holds of twenty-five copies of his most recent novel
of the same title. Denying our access to what we assume to be the shows skeleton
key, leaving its content for a more private moment.
This will be Matthew Brannon’s second exhibition with Friedrich Petzel Gallery. The exhibition will
open on Thursday, May 22, with a reception from 6-8 p.m. and will be on view through July 11.
Friedrich Petzel Gallery is located at 535 West 22nd Street, New York, NY 10011. For more
information, please contact the gallery at 212-680-9467 or info@petzel.com.

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