Arlingon Weithers and Matt Freedmanby Ben La Rocco
Five Miles gallery is currently exhibiting painter Arlingon Weithers and sculptor Matt Freedman. Considering their divergent interests, the two are perhaps a bit too close in style to be adequately distinguishable in a single exhibition. Both use bright colors, a lot of paint, and are amiably sloppy. But while the painter pursues the chance results of painting techniques evocative of natural processes, the sculptor seems intent on a more personal narrative.
Weithers’s paintings are mixtures of acrylic polymer emulsion, pigments, and sand on canvas. At Five Miles, the largest painting rests inexplicably on the floor, as though it was too heavy for the wall. This distraction aside, the group makes a cohesive set. The artist generally masses material toward the center of his canvases and allows it to mix and dry there; the result is caking, dimpling, and cracking, the products of an unstable concoction. Weithers surrounds this with a simple colorful pattern; thinly painted, it harmonizes unexpectedly with the mud at the painting’s center. Well accompanied, even the most ugly tones can be made to glow.
The paintings look better when they’re bigger, such as “Cranberry Hue” from Weithers’s Hancock Street Series. At 94 by 64 inches, its cratered center plays off of encircling oranges and reds. At this scale, the material presence of the painting becomes a bit overwhelming, conjuring a sense of the sublime. Across from “Cranberry Hue,” “Renee’s Angel” demonstrates the extent to which this effect relies on Weithers’s bordering technique. Here, the artist allows the flowing emulsion to spread to the painting’s edges, and the painting seems lax. The contained form of “Cranberry Hue” threatens its borders, whereas the open form of “Renee’s Angel” is tensionless.
On the gallery’s gray floor, encircled by Weithers’s paintings, sit Freedman’s sculptures. They are objects caked with paint. Some rely on constructed scaffolds, such as “Bag in a Tree”; others make use of found objects, such as “Rabbi’s Chair.” All are completely covered with paint in the manner of the French conceptual artist Bertrand Lavier. Lavier explores ideas about representation that are absent from Freedman’s sculpture. The latter seems more interested in symbolism. His cartoonlike “Mouths in a Bucket,” resting on the floor near “Rabbi’s Chair,” does not represent any object from the world. Instead, it stands in for an emotional experience. Freedman’s “Clothes in a Drawer,” in which carefully painted doll clothes spill from a life-size drawer, is similar. The doll clothes, puffed with paint, no longer resemble the originals. They become evocative forms, players in the narrative Freedman crafts.
Most compelling of the sculptures is “Wedding Cake.” Lit from above, the awkward cake basks in the spotlight. Its form is rather lumpy and slightly larger than it should be. It is satisfyingly abject, close enough to the real thing to make one imagine cutting into it. The nice thing about the cake is that, unlike the rest of Freedman’s sculpture, its painted surface materially apes the frosting with which a real cake is covered. It doesn’t just appear to be a painted cake but a strange variant of the thing itself.
ContributorBen La Rocco