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Matt Magee: Marfa Grapheme

April 4, 2017

Marfa Grapheme
A Site-Specific mural at INDE/JACOBS

208 East San Antonio St
Marfa, TX 79843
Review by Peter Frank

Matt Magee's art evinces a wide array of sources, but a focused sensibility - one that allows him access to many different materials, formats, and effects while keeping his formal language honed and supple. As can be sensed from his myriad gridded paintings, Magee - who was Robert Rauschenberg's archivist for some thirty years - clearly takes inspiration from various forms of notation, data organization, and gaming fields; he loads his quilt-like patterns not with references to outsider art (although his often-bumptious palette can seem "folky") but with arrays of points and swaths that resemble abacuses or primitive counting processes, or can seem like riffs on color-theory swatches. Still, what one sees driving this work is sheer delight, even wonder, in manifesting logical process as pure formal device. Furthermore, Magee realizes this with a disarming intimacy, a tenderness that restores all the humanity, and indeed sensuousness, to what might otherwise have seemed so many dry conceptual exercises. These devices do not play themselves out to their logical finite conclusions, à la LeWitt, nor do they spin their information in endless permutation, à la Darboven, but they divert endlessly within their own confines, playing not with symmetry but, it seems, with the laws of chance, or with even more arbitrary decisions. Minimal as these are in formal language - and in size - these tableaux and constructions prove tremendously magnetic in their obsessiveness and suppressed tactility, much like Agnes Martin's work - replacing her sense of infinite patience and transcendence with something more profane, almost witty, and certainly charming. Magee plays laughing Zen monk to Martin's stoic.

Huffington Post, January 16, 2015

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