Matthew Sketch’s exhibition FAM(ily) at Utah Museum of Contemporary Art comprises a series of untitled mixed-media pieces that explore the relationship between light and land.
Matthew Sketch: FAM(ily)
March 10—May 6, 2023
Utah Museum of Contemporary Art, Salt Lake City
Culminating his residency at UMOCA, Matthew Sketch’s FAM(ily) exhibition comprises a series of untitled mixed media pieces that explore the relationship between light and land. Each of the four pieces is built from similar elements but is compositionally unique. At the center of each, and core to the series is the sun, made from gold leaf. From there, thick, teal lines intersect, support, or otherwise interact with each other, which creates the look of abstract landscapes. The Wasatch mountains that create Salt Lake’s iconic skyline are represented here for the way that light interacts with them more than their shape or grandeur.
Each work plays with light across the canvas in a different way, and the sun’s gold-leaf material gives it an indefatigable shine around which Sketch layers hard geometry, bands of teal, blue, and green that appear as light rays emanating from or into the sun—or are they mountains? The color scheme of gold, teal, blue-green, and black and white is enough for Sketch to wring the concept out. Often the bands read as rays of light, and sometimes they feel like the land itself. All the pieces evince a different relationship to the sun according to how they run over the canvas: one piece seems to “hold” the sun, while another piece shows white bands intersecting to form an “X” shape. None of the works feel unwelcoming or hostile, suggesting conviviality through their composition.
The untitled pieces in FAM(ily) are all framed by tubes of neon, which add an outer dimension of light that’s free of the canvas and give the sensation that the blue-green bands really are light. It adds a layer of presence—to see these pieces in photos communicates nearly none of this effect. The neon lights makes Sketch’s compositions sing because they challenge the eye to move outside the canvas and acknowledge all the layers of light at play in this exhibition about light and landscape. The exhibition’s lighting is no doubt purposeful, and after looking for a while, I felt curious, wishing that I had access to a dimmer for the gallery to control the light levels and experience the sun in the dark.