Now Featuring Matthew Conradt
Artist Matthew Conradt painstakingly reconfigures familiar feeling photographs into new, uncomfortable images. Obscuring context without erasing the patina of time and nostalgia, Conradt’s pictures push the question of emotional resonance forward, to unsettling effect.
MH: Can you talk about your personal connects to the history and culture you reference in your work? I am thinking about how you’ve referred to the Rust Belt as a formative geography.
MC: I grew up in the Midwest, south of Minneapolis. The area attracted manufacturing jobs but I don’t think it lasted. I just remember it as a typical rural area that was getting left behind in the late ‘80s/early ‘90s. In high school, meth swept through the area but I also ended up moving around the state a little bit. I think it just colored my perception of people and situations. When I first moved from painting to making collages most of my subject matter had to do with this post-industrial America. I was also reading a lot of books and looking at a lot of artwork that talked about this as well.
MH: How do you source the images you work with? Are you working in collage or a mix of methods? What’s it like being based in New York and working with images of spaces and places that are somewhere else?
MC: My work is primarily collages, but they are photo transferred onto Mylar. I still see them as paintings or as mono prints so I want them to have a somewhat consistent surface to the pieces, through layering and other means. I like the photos to be from in the physical world, so I usually take from The New York Times or other printed newspapers or old magazines, like Architectural Digest, although I still grab some images from the internet. For the most part, I take images that I either find interesting or have to do with something I have been thinking about. I don’t really think of the images as being from somewhere else, more as a symbol for some idea that is being put out, that I then repurpose.
MH: Do you work in series? If so, do you plan it out or does a phase of working happen organically?
MC: Not really, I just work on pieces and obviously there are themes or imagery that follows through many of them but I wouldn’t call it working in a series. It happens pretty organically.
MH: What kind of symbols and ideas are you hunting for when you collect source images? Are they tied to any particular time or history?
MC: In general, I am looking for contemporary images that seem to be communicating more than what their purpose for being printed lets on. I then tend to gravitate to images that have more history to them because they generally convey more. I am especially interested in images that might accidentally (or not) push out an idea about how you should be viewing them or what your relationship to the depicted image should be.
MH: What projects are you working on right now? Anything you’re gearing up to tackle, or have been thinking over?
MC: I am preparing for another solo show in the spring at Muriel Guepin Gallery. There are a few new process-based things I am trying to work out for my most recent pieces, which may or may not ever see the light of day. Also, someone recommended I read about Guy Debord’s Society of the Spectacle and so I have been reading that, as well as other relevant books. Without getting into it too much, I don’t necessarily agree with a number of the ideas or conclusions and a lot of the terminology are too vague or undefined but I think I am getting a lot out of learning about it anyway. He describes society as fixated on something like a mass of swirling images that mediates a relationship between the public and their sense of self in society. That, I think, would have some obvious appeal for any artist.
MH: How do you think masking/covering up functions in your work? The images are so luminous, but in several of them at least, something large an heavy obscure the center of the image.
MC: Yeah, I do that a lot, I don’t really know entirely what that’s about. I know Manet would intentionally leave “blind spots” in the middle of some of his paintings, I think it’s in order to keep your focus out of the middle of the image so your eye moves about it. I don’t know though, I think, maybe this is just me, that to obliterate the middle of an image is some kind of contempt for the initial image I appropriated.