New American Paintings/Blog


In the Studio: Process of a Painting with Matthew Bourbon by New American Paintings

Matthew Bourbon (NAP #90, #102) creates a wonderful balance in his paintings – he fills organic shapes and figures with loud, bold, geometric shapes.  Rather than seeming meddlesome or intrusive, though, these shapes look and feel quite at home in the spaces they occupy.

1. The Psychologist 2012
Matthew Bourbon | The Psychologist, 2012, acrylic on canvas, 48.5″ x 30″

Bourbon shared his step-by-step process for and thoughts behind his painting Ms. Motives in this Process of a Painting piece…There are quiet andwonderful moments throughout his process – one of my favorites being the point in the painting where he has painted Ms. Motives’ legs so naturalistically, before covering them in their metaphorical and painterly geometric “tights.” –  Ellen C. Caldwell, Los Angeles Contributor

2. Matthew Bourbon-Of Two Minds-4
Matthew Bourbon | Of Two Minds, 2013, acrylic on canvas, 30″ x 30″

Playful, curious, and enticing, his works are something I want to see in abstracted art today – they are highly conceptual; they make me think, laugh, smile, and enjoy the bright, boldness of his humor, intellect, and wit.

3. Bourbon-Ms Motives FINAL
Matthew Bourbon, Ms. Motives, 2013, acrylic on Canvas

Matthew Bourbon: Ms. Motives started with a basic desire to create a painting that had a haiku brevity.  I wanted to highlight an equivocation between depicting things in a perceived pictorial space and painting things with a type of modernist flatness.  I liked the basic idea/image of a person’s legs touching the ground and something obscuring the top half of the figure.  In past paintings I have used “abstract” forms as a kind of animate character within my paintings.  In this instance I wanted to alter this slightly and place more emphasis on a kind of veil connected to the figure–almost like a garment–but not exactly.  I only had a vague sense of it at the start.

4. Bourbon-Ms Motives 1
5. Bourbon-Ms Motives 2
6. Bourbon-Ms Motives 3

MB: I am also consistently interested in degrees of legibility within my paintings–just how information is revealed or obscured and what that does to a pictorial language describing the world, but also how it affects the supposed narrative or possible interpretations of story etc.  I purposefully wanted to limit or frustrate an easily understood narrative.  I am skeptical of easy interpretive solutions, because I think them false and philosophically untenable.  I hope my images are specific in form, but evocative and pregnant with a range of possible attributable meanings.

7. Bourbon-Ms Motives 4

8. Bourbon-Ms Motives 5

9. Bourbon-Ms Motives 6

MB: My insistence on flexible and sometimes obtuse relationships to ideas, themes and narrative within my art has parallels for me in a real human/social sense.  I believe people are by nature communicating beings, but our efforts at clear communication are partial, contradictory and often opaque to the internal dialogues within our minds.  Motivation, both as an artist, but also day-to-day motivation intrigues me.  Our efforts to bridge this communication divide seems essential to how one comprehends or miscomprehends the lives and actions of others.

10. Bourbon-Ms Motives 7

11. Bourbon-Ms Motives 8

12. Bourbon-Ms Motives 9

MB: I hope I am not too Pollyannaish, but I want all my painterly maneuvers to be relevant to this kind of  thinking.  Not that it all needs to be knowable to a viewer, but that all this runs around my brain and hopefully affects my decisions as I make my paintings.

13. Bourbon-Ms Motives 10

14. Bourbon-Ms Motives 11

15. Bourbon-Ms Motives 12

16. Bourbon-Ms Motives 13

MB: Essentially for me, Ms. Motives became a woman–who stands in for a type of otherness.  She is already twice removed from me as both a fiction and since I am a man.  Further, she is only revealed in the detail of her walking legs.  I grant that there is a certain sensuous or even sexual quality to the image, but also analytic—which all seems germane to what this painting is for me in the largest sense.

17. Bourbon-Ms Motives 14
Matthew Bourbon, Ms. Motives, 2013, acrylic on Canvas, 32″ x 28″

All images: Courtesy of the artist and Darke Gallery, Houston TX 

Matthew Bourbon’s art has been exhibited nationally and internationally. Past solo exhibitions include Tender Pioneers, Darke Gallery, Houston Texas; Crass, Cruel and Uncouth, Conduit Gallery, Dallas, Texas; The Artist’s Eye, Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas; and True Fictions, Studio 107, Austin, Texas.  Bourbon has been nominated and won numerous awards for his work.  Most recently, he was awarded the 2013 Otis and Velma Davis Dozier Travel Grant by the Dallas Museum of Art.  Bourbon is currently an Associate Professor of Art at the University of North Texas’ College of Visual Arts and Design.  He is also an art critic and contributor to Art Forum Online, Flash Art, ArtNews, New York Arts Magazine, Glasstire. 

Ellen C. Caldwell is an LA-based art historian, writer, and editor. 

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