Matthew Craven’s current exhibition, Arrangement:, explores notions of making and remaking history. Coming on the heels of two related shows at DCKT Gallery in New York and Popp’s Packing in Detroit, the show comprises collages and works on paper that pair Craven’s typically dense patterning in ink with images excised from history books.
Based in New York, Craven incorporates exhibition design into his process, pulling colors from individual works and applying them to the gallery walls, which in this case cast a warm ochre glow through the windows of Get This! Gallery, where the show is on view through November 30. This simple activation of the space, reminiscent of certain history museums, sets the stage for a playful engagement with and scrambling of received histories.
Offering what he terms an “alternative history,” Craven cuts and pastes images of artifacts ranging from Mesopotamian tools to Modernist sculpture. In three large collages, such relics are splayed out, allowing for loose formal connections to be drawn between disparate cultures.
Considering the artist’s tendency toward visual density, Arrangement has the artist paring down his vocabulary considerably. Applying his idiosyncratic take on Op art and traditional patterning more sparingly, Craven allows for a dialogue between these motifs and the larger repeating modules that contain landscape images and cultural artifacts. In works such as stack(s), duplicate images are not reproduced digitally, but rather are culled from multiple copies of the same book. Concentrating on analog reproduction, the artist sidesteps a conversation about the ubiquity of digital images and maintains a focus on the official narratives provided in history textbooks.
Arrangement shows an artist honing in on a visual language that is as sharp as it is playful. In offering up his alternative history, Craven creates works that ask loose questions through bold visual statements.