Matthew Kluber, Friday I'm In Love, 2016, alkyd on aluminum
Kluber, who is art department chair at Grinnell College and maintains a studio in Iowa City, uses the pinstripe as his mark of choice. His compositions, usually horizontal, feature bands of paint generally of the same width, but in varying lengths to create the appearance of color blocks. Unlike Smith’s work, Kluber’s stripes are hard edged, flat, straight, nearly perfect, as if digitally rendered. Which is part of the idea. Kluber’s point of departure in determining form, palette and interval is from the intersection of painting tradition with the expanding digital space in which we increasingly live; as he describes, a locus where the physical world meets the virtual one. An artist with a background in printmaking, he has long gravitated toward an approach to non-figurative work that meditates on reconciling an artist’s individual aesthetics with abstraction’s sometimes “authorless” style and printmaking’s often detached aspects of mechanical reproduction. As the result of his own happy accident in the studio, Kluber’s computer crashed while installing some updated software, and as the data morphed into narrow horizontal strips of color, the artist had an epiphany. The visual experience of data destruction and imperfection had become source material for creation and invention. The ways he approached constructing code-influenced compositions are borne out in the paintings in the exhibition. There are the “traditional” paintings, the aforementioned crisp geometric abstractions. Exactingly even lines of color are laid in alkyd (an oil-based paint), and are achieved through use of vinyl masks adapted from car detailing techniques. Kluber’s choice of aluminum panel also allows him to keep his surfaces pristine and maintain their emphasis on the optical experience of shifting color and shapes, rather than dwell on process or facture. “Friday I’m In Love” is just such a painting. It is a large panel consisting of a field of razor sharp horizontal lines in alternating hues along the red-orange-gold spectrum; in the middle third of the composition, bands of cyan are threaded across and short sections of green create vertical blocks of color at each end. The result is a composition with a pulsing, almost strobing effect. Kluber’s fascination, however, did not end with translating the computer experience into the forms and chromatic keys of a traditional artwork. Instead, he set about turning many of his artworks into moving pictures with the addition of digital projection, turning hardware into a painting tool.<BR> “Half-Day Closing” is the show’s singular example of this new approach to energizing the painted object. Onto one of his typical striped compositions, Kluber overlays a customized projection of shapes, shadows and colors that spread from the inside to the edges, move right to left then back again, all in random, non-repeating patterns. Depending on the graphics, the projection may enhance or completely alter perception of its backdrop. The results are mesmerizing. Projection and painting melt together visually; color seems both solid and immaterial. The eye, having difficulty discerning the fact of it, gives itself up to tracing the rhythmic, cinematic experience. The palpable physicality of Kluber’s illusionism is reminiscent of light installations by James Turrell—one of several pioneering artists exploring light and space in their works—who made luminous color and visual perception the sole property of his art. This format also offers Kluber a chance to make a single artwork—the actual painted object—into a veritable series of related compositions, each combination of projected forms giving it a new color story, pattern and focal point. The projections massage both the left and right brain: the works are formal and intellectual, emotional and dreamy, and downright seductive.