Matt Dibble's show at Arts Collinwood makes a powerful statement about painting
Gallery view of "Hope for the Picture Guild"
“Hope for the Picture Guild” is the title of Matt’s latest show which opened Friday September 17 at the Arts Collinwood Gallery on Cleveland’s east side and is appropriately named as the show itself seems to be a counterpunch to the Postmodernist assertion that painting is dead.
The show consists of 17 abstract works on canvas selected from the artist’s recent body of work by Del Rey Loven, painting professor at the University of Akron, who served as a kind of curator for the venue. The space at Arts Collinwood provided a perfect setting for this show as the atmosphere of the neighborhood served as the ideal backdrop for Matt’s work. As one approaches the gallery from the street, you feel as if you could very well be in New York in the late 40’s and 50’s as the bold, gutsy paintings by Dibble are evident in this gritty but efficient space.
The first painting that grabs your attention from its position on the street-facing wall is a large black and white 70x76 inch oil on canvas titled, “Bachelors Still Asleep.” Its spontaneous strokes of black over a white background immediately recall the work of Franz Kline. However, Dibble is not imitating Kline here. There seems to be a hidden order of repetitive pattern that the viewer is invited to solve. It is kind of like those aptitude tests where you are given a series of three numbers, discern the pattern, and come up with the next number in the sequence.
Canvases of various sizes are hung well and the show comes together in a comprehensive, purposeful manner. Loven has done an excellent job here and this body of work speaks to a definite thesis. The larger works seem to be more successful than the smaller ones, and perhaps the strongest two are the 72” by 84” “Penchant for Dueling” and the 80” by 80” “Frowning Alpine”, both oils on canvas. Both works are aggressive multi-layered, multi-colored abstracts which are respectful nods to the patron saint of AbEx painting, Willem Dekooning. The scraps of newspaper impregnated into the paint works like a signature to those familiar with the nitty-gritty of DeKooning’s work. Although his gestures are bold, Dibble’s colors are of a soft muted key and are very carefully controlled to be just unsettling enough to eschew decoration.
As you move through the exhibition and begin to digest these paintings, Dibble’s brilliance becomes more evident. It hits you square in the eyes. These works are not nostalgic imitations pulled from the by-gone era of abstract expressionism, but relevant and valid ideas that resonate today. It is clear from the vibe on the streets of the historic Collinwood neighborhood: the bohemians strolling along the sidewalks, the DJ setting up on the corner, the street musicians, and the funky shops. This is work of the here and now. Painting is not dead. Dibble’s show at Arts Collinwood challenges the Postmodernism notion that you must tear down the past in order to create something new.
“Hope for the Painter’s Guild” articulates nicely that we are not done learning from the past and offers an inside joke to those listening that Postmodernism is, well, a joke. The show, “Hope for the Picture Guild”, runs through October 16th.