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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Meeting the challenge

Posted By on Tue, Feb 4, 2014 at 4:09 PM

Matthew Steele and Isaac Payne began a conversation about their work at the McColl Center in 2012 and have continued it through to their new exhibition, Construct(s). Payne, a painter, and Steele, a sculptor, have challenged the direction of each other's work through conversations of process, architecture and memory, concepts that permeate both of their works despite their contrasting media.

An expansive, curved wall plays host to Payne's paintings, whose horizontality and panoramic nature appear custom made for this display. Populated with figures and suggestions of buildings, these scenes fade in and out of specificity, at times highly recognizable and otherwise faded and incomplete. Colors subtly bleed and blend until hues emerge that our language has no words for, colors between peach and auburn, or a culmination of lime, olive and emerald, a technique evidenced in "Moonlit Building" and "Staunton." Spanning the spectrum from watery splashes to thick and pasty, Payne applies his paint to several large sheets of paper glued together, a layering that provides a secondary architecture to the work. The different perspective lines in the 21' wide "Cleveland Cathedral" prove the photographic nature of the work, in which the artist has taken a number of his own images and recreated them in the same painting.

Memory and suggested place play a role in Steele's sculptures as well, perched atop white pedestals and grouped in the midst of Payne's landscapes. Steele is a sculptor working in wood models akin to those made by professional architects, with precise, practical structural arrangements and strong repetition. Tiny squared rods are pieced together with nails, or else glued to paper or hung with twine, reaching heights which allow engagement by viewers at eye level, a welcoming choice by the artist and curator. His work has recently shifted focus from miniatures of recognizable structures (bridges, buildings, etc.) to the sorts of jigs that support those structures in construction, a function most clear in "Archetype: Vessel," "Archetype: Capital A" and "Archetype: Infra." These new forms hint at their predecessors, but an abstraction takes hold as buildings do in dreams or memories; not quite making sense but suggestive nonetheless. These pieces are quite impressive, with fabrication so precise and shadows so intricate that visitors will only wish they had better cameras. It helps that every sight line of one of Steele's sculptures involves a Payne painting in the background, a welcome harmony that enhances the experience.

Construct(s), curated by Crista Cammaroto, is on view through Feb. 26 in UNC Charlotte's Storrs Gallery. Go here for more information.

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