Critics’ Picks

“Matthew Sontheimer.” Installation view.

“Matthew Sontheimer.” Installation view.

New York

Matthew Sontheimer

DCKT Contemporary
237 Eldridge St
September 2–October 4, 2003

For the last few years, Matthew Sontheimer, a Houston-based artist making his New York solo debut, has been working on a project based on the myth of Sisyphus. “Within a Name” includes six of the works from this series–-four small ink–and–Wite-Out drawings on Mylar and two modestly sized vinyl wall pieces. They’re quiet and unassuming works, but they hold up under the weight of the myth. In fact, Sontheimer’s formal restraint seems crucial to his endeavor’s viability. For each piece, he uses a simple code (derived, for example, from a telephone keypad) to transpose a short text into graphic form. The works are executed according to a progressive logic whose rules, outlined in an articulate artist’s statement, are drawn from Sisyphus’s story; the chainlike forms that result are delicate and haltingly organic, quietly hinting at the eternal via their endlessly interlocking lines. Working in the manner of a pared-down Matthew Ritchie or a latter-day, left-brained Cy Twombly, Sontheimer avoids bombast or pretension; instead, his careful and controlled works convey the historical and psychological resonance of his source material.