Collage and the collision of content 

Confessional Acts & Objects of Love: David Mattingly and Ed Funk
Galerie Penumbra
Through March


Every few weeks or so, my older daughter comes home from school requesting old magazines for a school project. It’s yet another collage assignment: about herself, a particular activity or interest, a spiritual concept, even. Nearly every teacher has generated such an assignment. What my daughter comes up with is her own exploration of chaos reined in.

Professional artists — or at least those who practice in the grown-up realm of artmaking — may choose this medium willingly, but employ it for somewhat different reasons. David Mattingly, co-owner of Galerie Penumbra with his wife, Cheryl, is a grown-up collage artist who has retained the delightful spontaneity of a child when it comes to his artmaking. Adhering to the traditional collage medium, he finds images, cuts them out and layers them onto paper with some sense of order but not necessarily intellectual coherence, adding ethereal watercolor washes and meticulously drawn abstractions that give the images a sense of emergence rather than appropriation.

Mattingly’s collages are on view at Penumbra in a show with the woodblock prints of veteran Indianapolis artist Ed Funk. Seen in the context of this dual show, they offer us the opportunity to view collage as an exercise in composition and form — not that dissimilar, after all, from Funk’s neatly abstracted prints that are themselves born of a form of layering and perhaps even chance.

Mattingly’s “The Dreamer & Her Dream,” like most of his collages, seems at once intentional and fanciful: Frida Kahlo is surrounded by equally exotic images — a monkey, a parrot, a cobra, a toucan, a clown fish, a chili pepper and, of course, flowers — all of them forming a sort of halo flocking around her aura like Snow White’s birds alighting on her fingertip. The large-format collage is set in a found frame that Mattingly painted with his characteristic folk-art flair: wispy flowers in bright colors upon a Caribbean blue background. Contrast this with his subtler, and smaller, pieces composed with a very few carefully selected images: Johnny Depp with a large fish held to his abdomen, the Mona Lisa in a bowler hat and an exotic bird.

Like Mattingly’s, Funk’s images are truly of his own design, in every sense of the word — and yet there is some appropriating going on. Ribbons of Asian-art-inspired pattern weave over and under one another to form a brilliant but almost subtly hued, almost calligraphic composition. Other Funk prints are decidedly chaotic: His “Woman in Chair” series offers frenetic compositions rendered almost as a controlled scribble in service of the title image.

Both artists implicitly suggest we don’t take their work too seriously — and I mean that as a high compliment; the best art is that which comes from a fluid and even ambiguous place, allowing inspiration to flirt with chance.

Confessional Acts & Objects of Love is on view through March at Galerie Penumbra, 1043 Virginia Ave., 317-822-8331, www.galeriepenumbra.com

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