Montages, overlays, multiple exposures: Matthew Porter uses experiments from old and new technologies to explore possibilities in image construction and manipulation. Full of historical and cultural references, his photographs create multiple and complex worlds within the same frame. In his first solo exhibition in France, at the Xippas Gallery in Paris, the New York artist presents a series inspired by the vocabulary of the avant-garde.
For Matthew Porter, photographic film is akin to a canvas: the transparency of the negative enables him to inscribe lines of light upon the surface, layer by layer, thereby creating an intricate agglomerate of shapes. Photography becomes not the capturing of a moment, but the outcome of a long elaboration process resulting in carefully constructed compositions. Following the initial shoot comes a preparatory drawing, which will enable the disposition of objects and the calculation of subsequent exposure times, as well as additional digital manipulations.
Made in the studio of his father, a sculptor inspired by the Modernist period, the photographs in this series feature the cast-offs from the fabrication of his work – the unused wood and steel pieces. With a slightly nostalgic air from this bygone era, the artist gives a second life to these residues destined for disposal.
Scraps, wood cuts, shavings and tools are interlaced on the floor, forming almost abstract black and white compositions, where ordinary objects morph from models of utopian cities to Bauhaus constructions, and where toothed wheels, wrenches or metal sheets float above the image as a result of multiple exposures. The metal, whitened by the blinding light of the sun, and the nearly black shadows create areas of complete emptiness, as if the shapes were cut out of the photographic film itself, making the wood, concrete or metal almost palpable.
In the exhibition space, two color photographs, imprints of a certain aspiration to the past or a faraway and probably inexistant place, frame the black and white images, creating a kind of parenthesis. These studio photographs of jungle foliage call to mind the ideal tropics, a recurrent dream of Western culture, and evoke the possibility of escape. Much like artists from past centuries who sought inspiration far from civilization, the spectator is immersed in a renewed quest for the uncertain, a mirage.
Cherished subjects for avant-garde photography, such as everyday objects, tools, and more generally, the poetry of daily life and machinery, are reinvented in Matthew Porter’s work. As if following Rosalind Krauss, for whom originality (the main characteristic of the avant-garde) is not so much a formal invention, but an expression of “the self as origin”, possessing infinite potential for regeneration, Matthew Porter immerses himself in a personal universe in order to create images where superimposed shots merge different realities and times.
Swinging between references to art history and the attempt to emancipate himself from it by writing his own, Matthew Porter’s images play on the gap between nostalgia and the present, the material and the immaterial, the static and the dynamic.
Matthew Porter (born in 1975 in Pennsylvania, United States) graduated from Bard-ICP in 2006. His work has been shown in numerous institutional exhibitions: “After Photoshop” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, 2012), “Perspectives 2010” at the International Center of Photography, New York (2010). Recently, he took part in collective exhibitions at the George Eastman Museum in Rochester (2016), and at Foam, Amsterdam, in the Netherlands (2014).
In France, his work was exhibited in the “Autophoto” exhibition at the Fondation Cartier (2017).
His first monograph, “Archipelago” was published by Mack Books in 2015. His work is included in the permanent collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art in New York, as well as in UBS Art Collection, New York, among others.
In 2016, Matthew Porter was invited by Christian Dior to create the design of the limited-edition bags and accessories for the Dior Lady Art project.
Matthew Porter is represented by the M+B Galleries, Los Angeles, and Invisible Exports, New York. He lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.
 Rosalind Krauss, The Originality of the Avant-Garde and Other Modernist Myths, MIT Press, 1986, p. 6.