WILLIAM MATHESON // animal laughter
with supporting work by Nick Norman
On view May 21–June 30, 2017
Opening reception Sunday, May 21 (3–5 p.m.)
How we communicate, and all so often miscommunicate, is at the core of William Matheson’s paintings in Animal Laughter, his third solo show at Nationale. Conflicted relationships manifest themselves as awkward yet sensual moments between physical bodies. A foot on top of a face, a foot on a shoulder, a mouth nearly touching an ear, and even a disembodied leg searching for connection, reveal a thread of uneasiness across Matheson’s canvases. Relationship dynamics between humans and animals are also explored in this work. In Tamer, Matheson has inverted the relationships, taking away the male figure’s power by stripping him of his clothing, and giving a group of lions agency over his body. This work, as with many in the series, is both playful and menacing, arousing and grotesque, teetering somewhere between these opposites.
Matheson often ignores the rules and opts for color rather than flesh hues to expand on form and shadow. His focus on the male body also shifts the gaze away from the nude female form, which male painters have explored many times over throughout the history of western painting. By putting male nudes at the center of this work, Matheson exposes their vulnerability. Can they handle the spotlight, or are they as Matheson states, “like performers ill equipped for their roles”? Contrasting these male figures are clay vessels, one of a female torso and the other of a hybrid male-female body, by artist Nick Norman. With eyes for nipples and mixed genitalia, Norman’s sculptures recall the Surrealist affinity for playful imagery of the human form, while also making us question our own inner desires. Within Animal Laughter, both artists approach the body as raw material for their respective inquiries into the erotic and the absurd.
Originally from Los Angeles, William Matheson lives and works in Richmond, VA. He has exhibited nationally at galleries in Richmond, VA, Washington, DC, and will be in a group exhibition this summer in New York. Internationally, his work has been shown in Switzerland, South Korea, and the Czech Republic. Matheson is the recipient of a Milton and Sally Avery Fellowship Award from the Vermont Studio Center in Johnson, VT, and a recent Artist Grant from The Elizabeth Greenshield Foundation in Montreal, Canada. He has been an artist-in-residence at the Örö Residency Programme in Finland, Mass MoCA in North Adams, MA, and the Vermont Studio Center, among others. Matheson Received his MFA from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, VA, in 2016 and his BFA from Portland’s Pacific Northwest College of Art in 2013. He joined Nationale as a represented artist in the summer of 2015.
Nick Norman lives and works in Philadelphia, PA. His work can be found at Lowell and Floating World Comics in Portland, OR, and Desert Island in New York. He is a regular contributor to Free Spirit News. Most recently Norman participated in the Publications and Multiples Fair in Baltimore, MD.
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