November 2011, by Seth Curcio, Daily Serving
Matt Lippsâ€™ newest body of work HORIZON/S, flips the traditional mode of institutional curating on its head. In this series, Lipps appropriates content from a late 1950s arts and culture publication that promises to offer a curated selection of international culture that will add a sense of sophistication to anyoneâ€™s taste. From these images, Lippsâ€™ playfully explores what happens to the meaning of certain objects and images when you remix them into new systems and catagories â€“ altering both content and context. DailyServingâ€™s founder Seth Curcio, recently spoke to the artist about the physical construction of his mysterious photographs, the ubiquity of images today, and how his own taste emerges from the appropriated pages of Horizon Magazine.
Seth Curcio: So Matt, currently you have an exhibition on view at Jessica Silverman Gallery in San Francisco, titled HORIZON/S. The series pulls from cultural images that transcend time, location, and cultures. But, before we dive into these ideas, Iâ€™d like to learn some basics, like how these images are constructed. They seem so mysterious â€“ can you walk me through the process of finding your source material and constructing the image?
Matt Lipps: Sure, this body of work, like the majority of my work since 2004, is an entirely analog process involving sculpture, collage, and theater staging on a small scale with a cast of paper dolls that Iâ€™ve cut out and propped up with supports so that they may stand on their own. For HORIZON/S I pulled from the first 10 years of Horizon Magazine, a bi-monthly hardback arts journal first published in September 1958. The magazineâ€™s inaugural issue sets up a general invitation to the American people to join the editors of the magazine on a voyage towards an imagined â€śhorizonâ€ť of high art and culture â€“ examining art(ifacts), architecture, theater & film actors, and serving up what would be fine â€śtasteâ€ť for those who werenâ€™t in the know â€“ a relatively antiquated way of thinking about art objects.
SC: Your work is ultimately exhibited as photography. Yet, your process starts with an appropriated image, moves into sculpture, draws heavily on painting, and employs the tools of theater. Ultimately it arrives back at an image. What do you feel happens in this transformation of material?
ML: Iâ€™m not sure that I know, but the transformation is evident, and heartfelt for me, too â€“ which is what keeps me engaged in making the work. For me it has something to do with an embodied, phenomenological experience of encountering an image in a dislocated context at an unexpected size. Certainly, the scale of the image is key to this transformation, and photography allows me to play with scale and depth in ways that traditional collage doesnâ€™t. Iâ€™ve done several works that exist as sculpture, but itâ€™s generally a frontal presentation that fails to some degree when attempted to view â€śin the round,â€ť and, the work feels diminished somewhat as mere paperdolls of an expected size.
Re-photographing those images back into a photograph brings a certain amount of seamlessness to the foreground and background that, I hope, holds the viewerâ€™s attention for slightly longer. This is especially tricky in HORIZON/S when youâ€™re confronted with photographic reproductions of varying quality and scale, that depict stone sculptures, painting fragments, illusionistic spaces, portraits, landscapes, etc., and itâ€™s all tied back together and hermetically sealed under the photographic picture plane.
Matt Lipps, Fotofest
In his radical reassembly of photographic imagery, Matt Lipps exploits appropriationâ€™s inherent possibilities for generating new relationships and meaning. His recent series Home (2008) depicts contoured cut-outs of Ansel Adamsâ€™ pristine, monumental landscapes, affixed to cardboard backing and propped on a tabletop before backgrounds comprised of multi-toned photographs of the artistâ€™s childhood home. Casting the cutouts into sharp relief, the resulting shadows heighten a sense of material processâ€”the precise black-and white printing of the Modernist master contrasting with the abraded color reproductions of domestic recordâ€”and evokes, too, a physicality to the passing of time. By pairing particular landscape formations with particular rooms, Lipps presents what he calls â€śportraits through landscapeâ€ť of different family members, including himself. The possession at a young age of Adamsâ€™ widely available reproductions elicited Lippsâ€™ earliest fascination with the possibilities of the medium; the varying arrays of his background colors correspond to marketed groupings of Benjamin Moore home paint colors. Lippsâ€™ work also reflects the artistâ€™s reckoning with an engagement he describes as being â€śin-relationship-to, alongside and aroundâ€ť photography. Raised and practicing in California, Lipps recognizes that he lives in â€śthe capital of that image producing media industry (Hollywood)â€ť. Seeking to challenge his relationship to the forces of personal and professional tradition, it is Lippsâ€™ achievement to have found and formed in the city of Los Angelesâ€”â€śone hyperreal, photo postcard backdropâ€ťâ€”such fruitful grounds for the search for new photographic meaning.