Matthew Larson reviewed by Joyce Beckenstein in Surface Design Journal

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Matthew Larson weaves his own ambiguities with fiber works that loop in and out of two and three-dimensional space while challenging essential premises of twentieth-century Minimal and Op Art movements. Minimal painters favored unemotional works on canvas: hard edges, limited palettes and geometric shapes stripped to their essentials. Op artists explored the nature of perception by creating optical illusions with striking black/white and color contrasts. Larson confounds their scripts with a unique process that he discovered quite accidentally.

One unassuming day, Larson noticed pocket lint adhered to his Velcro keychain and wondered, Can you make art from lint and Velcro? He began by cutting clothing patterns from Velcro sheets and “painting” them with lint salvaged from the dryer. He then began to replicate, without the fluidity of pigment, the visual color effects that Josef Albers achieved in his iconic Homage to the Square, a 25 year long painting series. The astonishing tapestries Larson exhibited in his 2018 solo exhibition, Vice Versa at Massey Klein Gallery in New York, replaced loom, warp and weft with strips of store-bought yarn inserted within Velcro sheets stretched over board.

Stack, consisting of two isosceles triangles connected to form an asymmetrical hourglass-like shape, optically shifts before the viewer’s eyes. It began with a geometric drawing on Velcro and the soaking of half a section of blue yarn in bleach. Larson painstakingly manipulated continuous strands of this bleached and unbleached yarn to “paint” in the light-colored triangles afloat on a soft heather-blue ground. Mesh combines solid-color and marled yarn (different colored strings twisted together to form a single strand) to create the illusion of lines moving up, down, and across the surface simultaneously. A sharp diagonal cuts across these multiple trajectories, keeping the viewer’s eyes jumping to pulsing rhythms that vary according to light and the angle from which one views the work.

Larson’s illusionist effects break rank with art-historical models. He replaces loomed warp and weft with Velcro’s single plane; Minimalism’s flat spare forms with sensuous, tactile, sculptural surfaces; Op Art’s bold contrasts with ethereal variegated hues. And, where Minimalism disdained the artist’s hand, Larson’s tapestries—their fringes functioning as frames—nurture and restore today’s craving for the hand-made object.

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