Continuing through December 30, 2018
History, geopolitics, cartography and sculpture meet in the work of U.K.-born, Ashland, Oregon-based artist Matthew Picton. Picton came to the visual arts via the unusual avenue of an economics degree at the London School of Economics and Political Science. He became a full-time artist at the relatively late age of 38. His art-making’s anthropological focus is very much in evidence in “Cultural Mapping.” In a suite of wall sculptures, Picton layers the contours of cities, roads and river systems in dense super-impositions that weave temporal narratives of how human beings change landscapes and cityscapes to meet their needs, whims and lust for power.
While his map-based work up until about 2013 tended toward chromatic austerity, in recent years he has begun using colored papers, book pages and movie posters that relate to each piece’s subject matter. “Apocalypse Now, #1” was created in anticipation of next year’s 40th-anniversary celebration of Francis Ford Coppola’s harrowing Vietnam epic. “Histories of the Congo River #2,” ten feet in diameter and installed directly on the gallery wall, tarts up the eponymous river’s troubled colonialist past with intricate cut-outs of gleaming gold leaf. When Picton’s wall sculptures are displayed in high-ceilinged, white-cube settings they can come across as sterile, but here in the museum’s intimate, aubergine-hued Project Space, the work’s deeply human element stands out in vivid relief.