Reviews – Denver, Colorado
"The real beauty of philosophy is the examination of your own moment, your own being in circumstance." Robert Irwin, 1979.
Upon entering Adela Matasova's installation Hidden Images (January 16 – May 9, 2004) in the mezzanine of the Museum of Contemporary Art, one is immediately bathed in blue-violet twilight. The antiseptic phosphorescence of black lights crowning each of three hefty movable walls dimly defines the pint-sized room. The walls form a three-sided niche that is seemingly empty, until a motion detector triggers a kinetic mechanism housed in each wall that pushes and tugs on the elastic outer membrane. The encounter is initially amusing-providing a funhouse-like distraction sustained by an array of automated gizmos-yet perhaps also too easily dismissed as mere gimmickry. If one can get past the novelty, the exhibit offers much more.
The movement of soft, rounded forms pressing against the scrim elicits associations to the body-breasts, elbows, fingers or even the delicate protrusions of vertebrae or scapulae along the back. A perky pair of peritonea emerges from Hidden Images III, for instance, and then both synchronically rotate as red lights flicker beneath the surface. The robotic whir, click and drone of concealed electronics being triggered and little motors going through their paces counter a merely carnal reading, however, as does the clean, even clinical installation and the frosty scintillation of fluorescent tubes.
Adopting the vernacular of minimalist asceticism and scientific inquiry, Matasova provides a neutral setting, where each of the three serial walls is a tableau of preprogrammed actions that yield only the fleeting play of light and shadow. The vaporous luminosity of lapis light gleams intensely at its source but dissipates quickly, such that the soft monochromatic cast, as it reaches the shifting bumps and distensions upon the surface, conveys an ethereal, illusory presence. All of this implies that apparent phenomena, rather than being fixed or solid, are continuously in flux and ultimately ephemeral. This implication is especially potent in Hidden Images II, where a series of graduated disks alternately bulge forward and then retract in a manner that confounds the viewer’s perception of convex and concave forms, before returning to blank uniformity.
Matasova began as a painter in the early 1960’s while a student at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague, as a late proponent of the spontaneous and instinctual practices of Art Informel. She has since gravitated towards methods and materials that engage architectural and outdoor environments specifically-fiberglass resin and flax-paper pulp for sculptural relief, installations combined with audio and large metal mirrors attached to pre-existing edifices. While the newest work employs computer technology, buried machinery and malleable surfaces, a thread connects the stages of her career, each of which explore concepts related to direct perception, the phenomenological basis of one’s being.
Thus, inside the dark gallery containing Hidden Images, the peculiar and unexpected creep up on the viewer while sound and light maximize sensory immersion. In doing so, Matasova points to universal paradigms governing the worlds of nature and spirit. Speaking of the artist’s early work, but also apropos of her entire catalog, critic Jiri Machalicky says that it "mirrors life in its complexity, variability, ambiguity, as well as in its duration and its transience. It is imbued with an unceasing search for links and associations between the various aspects of life, involving its diverse layers, including both tangible ones and the ones that are deeply embedded and hard to define. It reflects the perennial cycle of birth, growth an decline, of emergence and disappearance."