Critics’ Picks

Chason Matthams, Large Warm Playback, 2015, oil on linen, 40 x 60".

Chason Matthams, Large Warm Playback, 2015, oil on linen, 40 x 60".

New York

Chason Matthams

Thierry Goldberg Gallery
109 Norfolk Street
August 11–September 13, 2015

Here is an artist happiest in the graveyard we call Google Images, promiscuous in his desire to absorb everything: stupid and brilliant, sickening and funny, banal and beautiful. Lots of people do this kind of looking now—gluttonous, glazed over, staring—and try making it into something. But few have the chops or intelligence to metabolize this modern habit into such febrile and gorgeously unhinged art.

Chason Matthams can paint like a motherfucker. Or a fatherfucker—he doesn’t care. His pictures look like a synthesis of Ingres, Ub Iwerks, and Norman Rockwell, fed on a steady diet of GHB and Nickelodeon. They radiate a sinister, fraudulent light. Though fussed over and finessed within an inch of their lives, these paintings act out—they are nasty, irritating, visceral. It must have something to do with the temporal space one’s shunted into while in their thrall. The sweat equity involved in his careful and tender rendering of so much mass-cultural excreta—by his hand and no other—mesmerizes.

Behold the cyclopean head of Miss Montag—Heidi, 2010—orange as a new Birkin, scraped out of a Malibu afternoon and pasted onto a dead field of bluish gray, every bead of moisture around her collagen-enhanced lips flashing like little knives on a face that got lifted beyond reason at twenty-three. She is weird, “sexy,” and hopelessly broken, a casualty of reality television and more than a little self hatred. Let’s blame it on Large Warm Playback, 2015, a creepy, sensuously detailed portrait of a high-definition studio camera aimed into a nethersphere of seedy purple light. It’s dead and alive simultaneously, as good paintings are, and exactly like us as we sit there, camera-like, vacant and watching.