Two Quiet Guys in New York – Rob Matthews and the late Bill Walton

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Two Philladelphia artists, Rob Matthews and the late Bill Walton currently have one person shows in New York. Although nothing (but Philadelphia) really connects these two shows, it seemed like a good pairing as both artists fill their respective gallery spaces with a range of small and large exquisite works. And while both shows are basically monochromatic, they feel rich and textured with thoughtful visual constructions.

Bill Walton, from the show at JTT Gallery. All images courtesy of the gallery's website

First, to the late Bill Walton, who is the inaugural exhibition at JTT, a new gallery in Manhattan’s Lower East Side (LES). Seen in conjunction with additional pieces installed a few blocks away at James Fuentes Gallery, Walton’s small works are given the space and attention they deserve. Jasmin Tsou, founder of JTT, a long time fan of Philadelphia and of Walton in particular, curated both galleries bringing the work of this under-appreciated artist to New York for this, his first one person show in the city.

Bill Walton, from the show at JTT Gallery. All images courtesy of the gallery's website

The work is divided between the two LES gallery spaces with several larger floor pieces at Fuentes. Both of the galleries include small floor and wall pieces, which are richly anchored in their choice of materials and the expression of those materials. The folded cloth, just the right shade, placed with the folded paper, or the tin can and its concrete echo on the small shelf.

Bill Walton, from the show at JTT Gallery. All images courtesy of the gallery's website

These abstract sculptures with such formal restraint show something akin to a painter’s sensitivity to surface texture, weight and color. The work reminded me of Joseph Cornell boxes – self contained worlds of precious materials and exacting combination.

Bill Walton, from the show at JTT Gallery. All images courtesy of the gallery's website

Walton, who began as a printmaker and taught printmaking for years at the Moore College of Art and Design, understood his materials as only a practitioner can, and his sculptures, which incorporate some of those materials, reflect a precision and clarity that brings these small gems to life with very large ideas and staying power.

The exhibition at JTT, which includes several of his drawings as well as the sculptures has been extended until April 15.

Rob Matthews‘ drawings are currently on view in Chelsea at Daniel Cooney Fine Art. This show, his second solo show at the gallery, is full of several larger drawings and one large collage piece which really sets the tone for the show.

Rob Matthews, WORK HARD, PLAY HARD 2011 graphite on paper 18 x 16" Image courtesy of the artist's website

The exhibition entitled, The Middle Ground Vanished, continues Matthews exploration of his southern roots and the mysteries of religious faith. With titles like, Work Hard, Play Hard, Discount Spirits, and Triumph Over Death, the drawings conjure up a mix of southern religion and southern life – they have a slow way of sneaking up on you and encouraging a wry smile.

Rob Matthews, The Unmoved Moonshiner (72×60") Image courtesy of artist's website.

Most of the drawings show Matthew’s meticulous attention to detail which draws you further into trying to puzzle out what’s going on. The Unmoved Moonshiner, a very large cubist drawing done over a collage of brown paper, sits at the center of the gallery and of the show itself. Welcoming viewers to sit a spell and hear some stories, the drawings on the walls around prove an excellent backdrop for the tales of this southern moonshiner.

Rob Matthews EVERYTHING 2012 graphite on paper 14 x 11" Image courtesy of the artist's website

Hailing from North Carolina, Matthews finds himself now as an outsider. Looking back and reflecting on some of the traditions and stereotypes of that former life, he seems to be infinitely fascinated with the Southern fiction.

Rob Matthews, TRIUMPH OVER DEATH 2011 graphite on paper 10 x 8" Image courtesy of the artist's website

Matthews’ show has been extended until April 21 and, like Walton’s show, is well worth the journey to New York – that other fictional landscape made palatable by moon shine.

Bill Walton at JTT
170A Suffolk Street
through April 15

Rob Matthews at Daniel Cooney Fine Art
511 West 25th Street
Until April 21

Tags

bill walton, chelsea, daniel cooney fine art, jtt gallery, lower east side, rob matthews, the middle ground vanished

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