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Dreamlands for conquests

The dreamy, snow-covered peaks in Matt Pruden’s drawings and painting-installation at the University City Arts League are true dreamlands–fictions of Pruden’s imagination (top, “Codex of Lost Lands: Figure 1”).

The work in his show, “lost in clouds,” is beautiful, and the snowy images on icy blue paper might convince you that this is nature. The painting on the wall, a golden latex oval with a liquified graphite mountain scene, romanticizes the imagery with a kind of seal of Nationalistic bombast sporting a Victorian fringe of drips(right, “Codex of Lost Lands: Vista”).

But what Pruden is really drawing are men’s dreams about mountains and landscapes

His drawing titles all start with “codex,” an early book form, and that’s a strong hint of what’s on his mind–culture and fiction and exploration history as a fiction. He’s a guy who’s mystified by the urge to conquer Everest or reach the South Pole (see my previous posts on Pruden here and here) and he’s interested in what it is in a culture or a person’s mind that transforms land into something more than a spot on the globe.

Here’s something funny about these pieces: Pruden tore off pieces of Plastilena (modeling clay) and then arranged the craggy chunks until they looked kind of mountain-like. That’s the basis for what he drew–but it’s not the sum. The rest is his imagination. When I saw him at his opening, he mentioned that the geography of the drawings violated natural law (left, Codex of Lost Lands: Figure 3).

The show also includes a several of his Rorschach single-word images, two of them new, two that had shown at Nexus, that call up with white-on-white words–hypothermia, asphyxiation, starvation, insomnia–the physical horrors of exploration in a literary-looking, Victorian script. Some romance.

This show is up until Dec. 3.