I spent last Wednesday evening with artist Matthew F. Fisher at his new studio in Inglewood, California, a diversified and quieter southwest suburb of Los Angeles. We began the night at Fisher’s home by unboxing various eras of paintings and ink drawings, the evidence of a recent cross coastal move. It was a treasure hunt, where the gold was getting to examine his tight, ornamental, almost sculptural figures up-close. Matthew, his wife Nora and their 16-month-old son Ferdinand moved to Inglewood six months ago after living and working in Greenpoint for eleven years. Their relocation was prompted in part by their desire to be closer to family, and for Nora’s continuing education.
After getting acquainted with Fisher’s neighborhood, we made it over to his studio building in downtown Inglewood. The neighboring storefront, coincidentally titled Big Wave Realty, was labeled with a hand-painted wooden sign in the shape of a breaking tidal wave. Matthew smiled adding, “They asked me if I would hang up a painting.” While the move has had distinct influences on Fisher’s work, his various iconic seafaring motifs seem to be around to stay. Leaping synchronized waves, stoic ocean rocks, and tides peeling back to reveal glittering sand are all seemingly familiar imagery, but now with a West Coast influence.
Greenpointers: How has your work changed since moving to L.A.?
Matthew F. Fisher: I’ve been obsessed with this idea of near symmetry. I used to see it in paintings by John Mclaughlin, an abstract minimalist painter from L.A. in the 1950s. After I moved out here, I started to look at the architecture and noticed that the structure of the houses would be symmetrical, but then the windows would be slightly off. I feel like that energy is starting to play into the work in a way where I am not interested necessarily in working symmetrically, but I’m interested in the idea of elements being almost symmetrical or elements indirectly lining up symmetrically with other elements. For me, it makes it not necessarily supernatural, but a once in a lifetime experience. These things had to have happened at some point in time, considering we’ve been around for tens of thousands of years. The paintings are almost like this snapshot, or a wink in time I am capturing.
GP: Can you walk me through a day in the life of Matthew F. Fisher?
MFF: I try to be up by 7am every day just so I can hear Brian Lehrer’s show. The first thing I do is go into the kitchen and get the show going on my phone. Ferdinand is usually up around then too. Then I get his breakfast cued up and walk the dog to a nice little park five blocks away. If it’s a day where I’m going to the studio then I’m usually here by 10am. There is a great barbeque and soul food place around the corner that are both walkable that I like to go to for lunch. I still feel convicted to those walking routes around New York. Depending on Nora’s schedule I will be back here some nights too, but just until like 10pm. Being out here, 10pm sometimes feels like 2am in New York.
There was an Inglewood Open Studios a couple months ago, and I went around and checked out a big studio building back up by the house. I’ve met a few artists around here, but this is not a very artsy neighborhood for the time being. I promised myself after I moved here that whenever a New York artist has an opening here in the city I would go out. One thing I’ve noticed about openings out here is that they aren’t as jammed as they are in New York. I can really talk to the artists, which is fun and makes me get out even more. I have also been going to the beach; it’s such a great thing for it to be so close. The light is also so interesting. It’s all just been such a new experience for us.
GP: What do you consider to be your biggest accomplishment of 2017?
MFF: It would have to be the mural project I did in Sunset Park, Brooklyn late last year. The mural is at PS 516K as part of the Collection of the NYC Department of Education, Public Art for Public Schools. That was an incredible opportunity to see through completion. It was also just thrilling to know that it will be there forever. It was a great way to leave New York, and to think about seeing it 20 years from now is so cool.
GP: Do you have any studio rituals?
MFF: I take off my wedding band and put it on the light switch to remind myself to turn off the lights when I leave. That’s about as much of a ritual as I have.
GP: What do you miss about Greenpoint?
MFF: One thing I really miss is all the interesting stuff you could find on the street, literally at any time. Everything from books to records to pieces of wood and paper. The first drawing I started and finished in L.A. I did on the back of a drawing I found on Java Street. It has this crazy farm scene on the back of it. I am always one to rummage through, and not afraid to pick up dirty things. I even found a few pairs of blue jeans on the street. I also really miss the chance encounter you had with people on the streets. There aren’t as many opportunities for that here since you have to drive most places. I also miss the coffee shops.
Matthew F. Fisher has his first solo exhibition since moving to California opening tomorrow, Friday, February 2nd at Johansson Projects in Oakland, California. The show, titled Into the Blue, will include some of the last paintings completed in Brooklyn, and several of the first works made in L.A.
GP: Can you give us the details on your upcoming solo exhibition Into the Blue?
MFF: The title Into the Blue obviously refers to the color blue, but also the idea of going someplace new. The show is in a way a parallel to our move out here and the blue skies of Southern California. The mural project I spoke about re-sparked my interest in the sunset and the lunar motifs. There are a lot of paintings in the show that use that imagery. There are also a few pieces with my moon men and Saturn in the show. I use that specific planet because I’ve been trying to find imagery that is both specific and open, and Saturn perfectly fits that concept. Something new to this body of work is the half-moon motif. I’ve done the circle moon and the crescent moon men, so now I’ve been experimenting with the simple half-moon shape. A lot of the imagery comes down to a boyhood wonder of the greatness of this universe and trying to understand how we fit into this cosmic ballet. The show is in Oakland where my wife’s family is from. It has always been a desire of mine to show close to there.
- Does it Make a Sound, OCHI Gallery, December 31st-February 18th, Ketchum, ID
- Hide and Chic, Curated by Kenneth Heyne, Rover Gallery, December 8th-February 25th, Chicago, IL
- 139 x Nothing but Good, PARK, January 28th-March 11th, Tilburg, Netherlands
- Into the Blue (solo exhibition), Johansson Projects, February 2nd-March 18th,Oakland, CA
- The Jules Olitsky Project, curated by Dr. Vittorio Colaizzi, Baron and Ellin Gordon Art Gallery, March 13th– April 15th, Norfolk, VA
- Matthew F. Fisher two artist exhibition, The Shrine, April 18, Lower East Side New York