Sweaty Tubes by Matt Kenny at the National Exemplar in New York

Sweaty Tubes, a a solo show by Matt Kenny, is now on display at the National Exemplar in New York and can be visited until the 24 April 2016. 

“The tube paintings have their roots in a project that is around ten years old. At that time I had been making shaped paintings of artifacts (bullets) from the Kennedy assassination. These were paintings on aluminum that were cut to the edges of the pictured object. The take-away from this project was the tension between the illusionism of the information inside the shape and the edge of the picture, which itself referred to the information in the picture. They were more explicitly volumetric than the bag prints Another feature of the bullet paintings was their totemic nature. About the size of a human head, the bullet paintings implied figuration, and with that figuration a kind of psychological weight.

Recently I’ve been reflecting on the amount of material I get from being on trains or buses. Trains in particular, travel through storage yards, ad hoc transit dumps, places no one spends time in. Piles of material ordered neatly alongside the tracks, brush and grass overtaking them.  A shocking arrangement of discarded drain pipes under the stimulating influence of looking out a window when there’s nothing else to do. The tubes come from these spaces. It was important that the forms be mundane, especially coming off the melodrama of painting bullets.

I had been looking at Jasper Johns, Charles Burchfield, Elizabeth Murray, Stuart Davis, 1920s Braque still lives, Picasso’s bathers, and 80′s – 90′s Frank Stella. The tubes came out of look for an angle into abstraction. Process-driven abstraction was carefully avoided (for this project). I was interested in image-makers. There were intentions to make paintings that were as wordless as possible. This meant that the words – green plank, red tubes, were often the starting point. Obscure symbols with fictional dimension. In the beginning, alongside the tube paintings there were also planks and x’s. The tubes distinguished themselves over time and they outlived the x’s and planks. The fact that they were doubled, the paintings had an inside and an outside, they were more more evocative in and of themselves. I started writing on the planks and x’s and the tubes could not accommodate text. I’m going to keep painting the tubes… ”

– Matt Kenny







The National Exemplar – 59 Franklin St.  New York, NY 10013 
March 15 – April 24 2016