On Justin Matherly (2013)


History necessarily requires props to reassert itself, lost as it is to the experience of anonymous agents in the continuum of real-time. Chronicles, tapestries, crumbling monuments, photojournalism: we try our best to get it all down. Justin Matherly's cropped and disfigured classical figures, wrought from low-grade industrial materials and balanced on human ambulatory aids, personify our handicapped memory and tendency to paint in heroic strokes -- especially when the details have long-since shaken loose. Zip ties the colors of the Pan-African flag, the reconstituted remains of a Turkish temple-tomb, an obscure passage from Nietzsche: perhaps these details were never for you to understand. Matherly's sculptures are monuments to lost details, necessary mis-readings of ambiguous evidence. Consider the sources: a black-and-white photograph of the Laocoon from the Vatican's collection; grainy documentation of the archeological site of Mount Nemrud; a popular expression in Jamaican dancehall music. Were these objects, places and phrases ever, in any single instance, easily accessible? Consider the magician-ship of translation: a two-dimensional image of a three-dimensional sculpture guides the creation of a three-dimensional replication of the never-witnessed and age-obscured original. The languages in use are fundamentally incompatible: flat to topological, Eastern to Western, marble to treegator and concrete. All of which is to say that incomprehensibility is no barrier to desire -- we may never know what we want let alone want to know. Limbless and faceless, gesturing indistinctly, Matherly's pieces communicate the promiscuousness of narrative and the lushness of gaps. What is missing is filled in, and preferably so -- by new materials, fresh historic feats of more graspable proportions. This time around, shaking hands with the gods may be hollow and left-handed. One's soul, in this incarnation, weighs 1200 pounds. And restrictions of form -- human or otherwise -- simply tighten the aperture for surveillance.

This capsule was written for but ultimately  unpublished by Secret Behavior magazine, Spring 2013.