A home of their own for Matthew Dutton’s Phigments exhibition
Matthew Dutton’s newest artistic report from his personal Bizarro World may be the next step in the mystical merger of Chattanooga and New York City. Wait! Don’t turn the page. Hear me out. I have evidence.
For years, Dutton’s been making hybrid creatures he calls Phigments, toddler-sized sculptures with slightly menacing baby faces and bodies that look a little monkey-ish, a little dog-ish. In a new installation called “Midnight Paracosm”, he’s put them in a ‘60s-style living room with artifacts from his childhood, a unique artistic closure of sorts.
“Maybe that’s my spin on the space between the two times, the voids that are filled with the things that you create,” he says.
Dutton’s Phigments have been evolving. “The first ones were clean and tight,” he says. “These are rougher around the edges. You can see exposed wires. Not that they’re disintegrating but almost as if now they’re becoming more dreamlike, more about subconscious suggestion.”
One called “Concussed Conscience” has a face covered in blue borax crystals Dutton grew on top of that familiar, scary-kewpie doll face. It’s perched on the back of a figure with a casting of Dutton’s own face, riding an elephant rocker that moves continuously. Inside, the transplanted guts of an old Teddy Ruxpin doll play a loop of Dutton’s three-year-old saying, “Look at this, Dad!” over and over.
Another Phigment with chewed-up mouse ears hangs from a thrift store painting. His name is Murky Mouse. Dutton grew up outside Orlando in a little trailer in the big woods. “He’s got this hairless silicone skin so it looks fleshy, coarse hair almost like quills and vulture talons. It’s crude but it’s still engineered. It’s a mash up of materials and ideas.”
The couch has its own sound track, a loop of “It’s a Small World.” Not just because he grew up hearing it but because he recently reunited with his father after a 20-year separation.
In previous Pulse stories, I outlined evidence of NoogaYorkers among us—artists that move freely between the two cities and a family of sculptures: A pudgy bronze couple dance on a money bag in front of the Hunter Museum and in the Nassau County Museum of Art on Long Island, with their little bronze offspring playing unsupervised in subway stations along 14th Street.
Dutton’s new work—on view March 2nd through 29th in the Stephen Romano Gallery in Brooklyn and returning to Chattanooga for a not-yet-announced show—is the first evidence that the two places themselves may actually be merging! After Dutton’s Chattanooga show, the two cities for the first time will share a piece of geography in common. With this expeditionary force from the imaginal realm leaving its traces in the tangible world, can physical merger be far behind?
Read The City & The City by China Miéville for a model—supposedly fictional!—of two cities occupying one physical location but distinct in the minds of their inhabitants. Dutton would neither confirm nor deny his role in facilitating the mystical merger of Nooga and New York. But I’ll keep looking for proof. Watch the skies, I mean...watch this space.