Having rendered myself a little embarrassed by my gushy post about Matthew Offenbacher before even seeing his show at Howard House, I thought I’d give it another go and try to articulate things a little better— even though I’ll probably be repeating stuff that’s already been said.
My tiny worry that the CAT paintings wouldn’t be as amazing in person was assuaged the instant I walked through the door yesterday. I do think Jen Graves hit the nail on the head when she said “art is embarrassing” in her review of Matthew’s show. He is painting things we contemporary artists aren’t supposed to want to paint: vases of flowers, cats, impressionistic brushwork. I believe his desire to paint these subjects is entirely sincere; but also, his license to paint them is granted partly by irony. So maybe in a critical utopia where irony is dead, then this is its afterlife.
Matthew Offenbacher, Untitled (detail), 2009, oil/acrylic/distemper on stainguard cotton
The paint is like light that seems to be barely touching the surface of this weird, unprimed yet stainguarded cotton. The colors and shapes have a fuzzy glow, and look like they could move and bounce off at any moment.
Laura Owens: Untitled, 2003, oil and acrylic on canvas, 165 x 147 cm; courtesy Douglas Hyde Gallery
There’s something that reminds me of Laura Owens— maybe it’s the fleeting sensibility. Often in the world of painting, the surface is worked and re-worked so that in the end the viewer is beholding this track of mark-making that made the painting what it is. Layers of history are evident. But with both Owens and Offenbacher, the history is somewhere else and all the viewer has is this one moment that was captured. What’s different is that Owens’ paintings often feel uncannily still, and Offenbacher’s are buzzing.