Matt Wedel: Peaceable Fruit

L.A. LOUVER, Venice


Peaceable Fruit presented large-scale ceramic sculptures that emphasize Wedel’s preoccupation with figurative and botanical imagery. The work is largely narrative and draws on archetypal themes. (Wedel has stated that the exhibition’s title “… is a kind of hopeful signifier and idealized blueprint in understanding the future of humanity.”) Wedel’s work reflects his awareness of various folk and vernacular sources, including figurative majolica and the works of Henri Rousseau, Gustav Vigeland, and Edward Hicks (whose Peaceable Kingdom cycle lent its name to this series). Wedel’s ceramic sculpture, not only a technical tour de force in terms of material and surface, is produced at an astonishingly large scale. Yet he doesn’t aim for spectacle; size is commensurate with concept.

The subtly colored botanical works resemble succulent plants, thick tubular forms with flowering crowns, oddly magnified so that the organic anarchy and perfervid nature of plant life are taken to the point of science-fiction parody. One of the largest pieces in the exhibition, Banana Tree, is a whorl of entangled stems and phallic protrusions culminating in several banana bunches too heavy to sustain their own weight. Wedel’s figures combine the heroic, poignant, and bathetic in equal measure, resulting in a fractured modernist classicism reminiscent of Picasso and Elie Nadelman. Figure with Heads is a creamy white, larger-than-life female nude bent over to caress a head resting at her feet, one of several bearing stylized, nearly identical features. This piece has dual meanings, referring to the loss of a child but also to the slaughter of the innocents.

These objects would be neither credible nor possible in any other medium. They are embedded in a dialog with modernist figurative sculpture and maintain a restrained emotional narrative, earnest and devoid of irony. However grotesque, Wedel’s work is rooted firmly, and sweetly, in fantasy and myth.

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