Danae Mattes

Alluvial Maps
November 3 — December 3, 2016

Dolby Chadwick Gallery is pleased to announce Alluvial Maps, an exhibition of new work by Danae Mattes. Mattes’s art presents powerful, absorbing visions of landscapes that have been realized, filtered, and synthesized by the artist and then reworked onto canvas. She writes: “When walking through a landscape, I often find that a wonderful mirroring of myself takes place, as if the very act of movement becomes a gateway, an opening into perception.” Each work serves as fulcrum for the dynamic ecosystems that surround us—the continuously unfolding patterns of life we encounter visually and physically as we move through our worlds, both natural and manmade.  

With clay as their base, Mattes’s “paintings” have a distinct sculptural presence. By using the earth to conjure the earth, they also enable a more direct translation, even narration, of those elemental processes and relationships that they take as their subject. Depending upon the conditions Mattes establishes, the chosen clays interact and generate structures that are much the same as geologic formations and alluvial phenomena. Factors that shape the emergent patterns and textures include the amount of moisture introduced, the studio’s humidity and temperature levels, and the specific play of gravity Mattes initiates by periodically reorienting the canvases as they dry. 

Colored pigments in an array of blues, purples, ochers, and grays, among others, pool, flow, drip, and seep, contributing to the overall geologic effect while articulating and intensifying the sense of movement activated by the clay body. On the left side of the diptych Horizon III (2015), for example, a dark brown mass appears to hurtle down from the right, exerting a force so strong that the clay has cracked, propelling a wash of blue pigment into the lower-left quadrant with the speed of a tidal wave. The diptych’s right side shows these blue swells receding back out toward the horizon as the gravitational pull of the celestial-like body regains equilibrium, restoring calm. Across both parts of the diptych, faint rivulets rain down, grabbing an admixture of solid particles and additional pigments and bringing visibility to another layer of energy. 

Water, specifically the idea of permeability, is the lynchpin of Mattes’s landscapes. The works’ visual cues conjure watercourses, an association affirmed by titles such as Harbor, Lake Interior, and Reservoir. These are places of motion, transition, and unfolding; their physical permeability presents a touchstone for other types of access and communion. Artists throughout history have sought to harness this unifying potential of the landscape, such as the Romantic painters of the nineteenth-century, who foregrounded nature’s transcendent power and beauty. While Mattes pursues the sublime, she is also after that which we all experience: a common subtext that inflects our lives and impacts our circumstances. One therefore experiences her landscapes from the inside, not merely as an observer but as a participant who actively shapes the event.

Danae Mattes was born in 1958 in Rochester, Pennsylvania. She earned her BFA from Edinboro State University in Pennsylvania in 1980 followed by her MFA from Long Beach State University in 1984. Mattes’s work has been the subject of numerous solo exhibitions, most recently “Transitory Waterscapes” at the Snite Museum of Art, University of Notre Dame. She has been commissioned to create public artworks both nationally and internationally, including an important memorial for a 1992 arson attack at Mühlenstrasse 9 in the city of Mölln, Germany. Her work can be found in the permanent collections of the Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento; the San Jose Museum of Art; and the Schlossmuseum Landeck, Austria.