M+B (Los Angeles) is presenting a solo booth of new work by Mathew Brandt that exemplifies his engagement with landscape, tilting our gaze upward to the expansive night sky enveloping us. Inspired by visions of Thomas Ruff and Vija Celmins starry skies, Brandt scours astronomy books seeking out those expansive moments that convey the awe, wonder and power of peering into a void larger than ourselves and the world around us. As always, Brandt's materials further inform the reading of his images. For this new series, tentatively titled Night Sky, Brandt silkscreens cocaine into bright starry fields against a background of plush black velvet backgrounds. Interested in the "luxury" status of an illicit substance like cocaine in relation to the luxury status of an art object, Brandt is also fascinated by art's ability to transcend legality. Whether it falls under protected known labels such as "public domain" or "appropriation," artists are able to source images, ideas, and even illicit substances if the final product is marked as "art."
And "transcend" remains an operative word for this new series. It is precisely this transcendent experience one has staring up into the night sky that Brandt is after. The final aesthetic presents a juxtaposition of the natural sublime silkscreened with a substance that leads to an artificial neurological sublime on a personal level, in contrast to the interpersonal feeling of connection the night sky could bring. Furthermore, Brandt's very choice of background - black velvet - harkens back to the idea of luxury, if not a more accessible or gaudy one, while velvet's fragile nature speaks to our own human existence. The light absorbing quality of velvet, its richness and darkness, Brandt's nod to Yves Klein's Leap Into The Void. The resulting works are a continued expression of Brandt's classical romantic sensibilities. The materials speak to the artist's interests in subject matter that both visually and physically inform and of Brandt's abilities as a photographic alchemist.