Ritchie’s riches

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Visually rich and intellectually loopy is the world of Matthew Ritchie now on view in “The Proposition Player” at the Fabric Workshop.

Ritchie, who was wandering around his creation before he gave a public lecture at the opening April 1 was an approachable chap who had time for anybody who wanted to engage in a conversation. Call him benevolent, like the New Testament God, let’s say. (image is Ritchie in the midst of his creations in a photo that ran in Vanity Fair in a 2000 round-up by Ingrid Sischy introducing hot young artists (John Currin is also featured).)

The “Proposition” universe — colorful, generous, exciting in its visuals and a little messy in its mixing of ideas from quantum physics, philosophy, comparative religion, color theory, game theory, mythology, pulp fiction and Las Vegas — is lovely to behold and fun to play. See Libby’s post for more about rolling the bones at the craps table.

A small group of us — Bay, Janet, Libby and I — were talking with the artist about his installation, and he said he had some scientist friends he worked with when putting together his black hole, string theory and nebulae-influenced cosmos. I asked him what his scientist friends thought when they encounter the results of their input in Ritchie’s real world pieces. “They think it’s a hoot,” he said, laughing.

It is a hoot. Ritchie’s world, for all its science underpinnings, is one step removed from the creations of other artist-mystics with self-fueled obsessions and desires to know all and to create all. I’m thinking of everybody from William Blake to Stan Lee to Henry Darger. Like those wonderful artist-cosmologists, Ritchie is a bit of a shaman whose world is cosmos -schosmos. A little bit crazy and unbelievable. But it’s done beautifully — and parts, like the black line drawing on the yellow walls, or the beautiful oil paintings that sit on top of the drawings, are absolute seductions that are enough all by themselves to represent ideas which at base, are full of gestural energy. (image is an overhead shot of Proposition Player from the Guggenheim Museum’s website. I include it because it shows people wandering in the space. The human gesture of walking and looking and participating in the space is important in Ritchie’s scheme of things. But unfortunately we weren’t allowed to take pictures at the Fabric Workshop. )

Ritchie’s world, if not benevolent in and of itself — it’s far too chaotic to be that — represents a state of benevolence that can be captured and lived with, if only for a short while. That seems like what’s happening right now this Spring in my backyard.

Everything is gesture with Ritchie — art, throwing dice, walking through space, casting multiple objects, the planets revolving around the sun. I asked the artist if he had one favorite gesture when he was working (meaning did he love best to paint or what?) I was trying to get a sense of the Wizard of Oz behind the curtain — the guy who at that moment was dressed in black and holding a beer bottle and said he thought he’d go get another one before he had to speak to the crowd.

Ritchie said he loved all gestures. Everything. His mask stayed on and the orchestrater of the lovely gestural world which seems spun out of a Cuisinart wandered on, stopping to speak with another group of admirers. I’m not sure he got that second beer before his talk. In fact I’m not sure he really wanted it. His articulation of a need for more beer was a gesture of departure to indicate our conversation’s end. Like other parts of Ritchie’s grand gesture, it was a graceful one.

By the way, Ritchie’s cosmos can be accessed online. He’s done several projects, including The Hard Way viewable at the Walker Art Center’s website. As with Proposition Player, the online projects have a sprawl factor that is vertical, horizontal, interactive and chaotic. (image is a drawing of one character from The Hard Way.)

And speaking of museums, note here that Proposition Player is a new acquisition of the Guggenheim Museum.

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