Critics’ Picks

View of “Matthew Ritchie,” 2009. From left: Augur, 2008; Line Shot, 2009; Itself Surprised, 2009.

View of “Matthew Ritchie,” 2009. From left: Augur, 2008; Line Shot, 2009; Itself Surprised, 2009.

New York

Matthew Ritchie

Andrea Rosen Gallery
544 West 24th Street
October 23–December 2, 2009

In this exhibition, Matthew Ritchie gives new meaning to William Blake’s “eternity in an hour.” Line Shot, 2009, the show’s titular focus, is an animated opus that guides viewers on a dreamlike tour of space and time, meandering from creation to apocalypse, submicroscopic realms to infinite vastness (think Powers of Ten on acid)—in just more than sixty minutes.

Projected into the gallery’s corner, with the image split across two walls, the video is matched by an oscillating, out-of-sync score by Aaron and Bryce Dessner of the National (who performed live with Ritchie’s video work October 28–31 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music). Evading consistent rhythms and aligned harmonies, the sound track also uses overdubbed voices that reference topics as disparate as ancient creation myths and twin-brother baseball players. Though the latter seems a non sequitur alone, the lilting delivery of all the ideas in succession sets a unified, stream-of-consciousness tone within an overall theme of broken symmetry.

Digitally compiled but based on actual drawings, the swirling imagery in Line Shot maintains just enough of the artist’s gesture to save it from slipping into too-slick territory. The sculptures on view, however—a sprawling modular piece titled The Dawn Line (Sun Dog Variant), 2009, part of a larger, structural music and film installation, The Morning Line, which was made with architects Aranda\Lasch and global engineering firm Arup AGU and premiered in Seville’s 2008 biennial; plus a ceiling-suspended bronze cast resembling a meteorite or the head of an astronaut lost in space—do not grasp any such handholds in this gallery setting and recall instead props from a sci-fi movie set.

A series of large paintings provide the sense of multidimensionality (formally and metaphorically) that the sculptures lack. These are composed of peculiar forms—huge gothic architectures of the future, perhaps, or curled, subatomic dimensions—where splattered swaths of bright paint stream like light beams. Brushstrokes are visible, and splatters clearly come from the flick of the artist’s wrist, revealing a dynamic human involvement in what could otherwise be construed as aloof, scientific speculation. Works such as these, which evince Ritchie’s aesthetic alongside his zeal for the more mind-boggling concepts of physics, elegantly bridge a rift in the art-science continuum.