Out of the Metropolis a vine grows through the cracks in the pavement of Los Angeles. Matt Wedel has described his sculptures as "pieces of history", they are like mythic moments that Gilgamesh could have encountered in his ancient epic. Or Don Quixote, riding steed and lance to pass, rescue or skewer. From out of this clustering of plastic comes the rock, moss, myth and legend of a Matt Wedel. His latest exhibition "Peaceable Fruit" is like coming home.
As I stand on the hard concrete outside the gallery, I remember this moment was born of the great epic of history and the ground that holds me up was built not merely by synthetic cement, but millennia of civilization, that clashed its rock and steel together, hardened warriors on epic adventures built the foundations of what now only seems to be disposable.
This work speaks to me very personally, it speaks to a part of me way back in my very first years of life; I often feel a bit of anomaly to many of my actor counterparts in LA, in that they seem to have been cut from an advertising billboard for skin cream as they luxuriate on a yacht doing a thousand sit ups in between champagne brunches with a jacuzzi of hot models, discussing the future of the real estate market in Maine.
I often look much scruffier than them, more like I've just clambered my way out of a rubble of stone ruins, pulling myself up clutching to the divets of a pillar, then ripping the vines free from my chest plated armor, across my bronze encumbered torso and roaring at the stone shattered city (except I usually leave my armor at home). My legs, soar from stepping out of the Mauy Thai dojo on Sunset Blvd, are like hairy celtic tree trunks, that sport scuffed and worn boots at the end of them, both got that way from pushing down on the pedals of my rusty bike as I rattle over the cracked LA pavement (as I refuse to drive in this sprawled out Metropolis), seeking consolation in audiobooks about ancient leaders, on my way to one Hollywood Studio or another to bare my soul at an audition, usually for some brutal hero dug up from the pages of history.
As a boy, I spent the first four years of my life in Bath England. The city was first built up by the Romans in 60AD and was one of their only British settlements without a garrison. Battle scarred centurions and warriors, mangled by the gears of war, hardened by combat sword and rusted metal hung up on the walls of the bath house as they cured their stinging wounds in the steaming water of the Baths. Easing their fists made rough by the forging of civilization into the hot water that offers rest. It was a place of spiritual restoration for them.
Today Bath is the only city in the Western world to have banned advertising, so walking around you will not see a single billboard or flashing neon, Gothic and ancient architecture rises in the (green valley) as if by arrangement of the organism of (the earth), like the moss which formed over the Roman's Baths with the natural passage of time. Even the roads are imperfect, cobbled, cracked and fractured.
When inside my childhood home I watched Ewoks, Labrynth and Dark Crystal repeatedly. My desire to step into the world, was so strong that I would steal my mother's clay make monsters out of it and leave them around the house for me to find as I walked around. Now as an adult I found myself again standing in a labrynth of dreams, a world formed of another but belonging to a place within me. Matt Wedel's work is like a mastered version of this instinctual desire for an epic adventure. One that for him is generational, as his father before him was a ceramicist. It's as if Matt Wedel's figures exist out of a land of Gods and Kings who's inhabitants play tricks on the living, grow dissatisfied with the creations of mortals scatter their heads for the peaceable to gather and place back on the banana trees.
I remember my friend Laura Simmons, we were born on the same day, our mothers became lifelong friends and we spent our (sappling) youth together, picking tadpoles out of ponds, climbing trees, squashing snails and trampling the muddy earth in the surrounding woods and gardens as our mothers watched close by. Laura died of cancer recently aged 28, when I heard the news I wrote this poem:
The dream of life
As I run in the hills of your dream, there is a feeling that I am where I am suppose to be.
If I could feel what you feel right now and live everywhere.
I follow the river that flows with living matter, fish that burst the surface of the water as drops of light pierce its surface through cracks of the memory of the clouds, glowing with visions of the innocence we had.
The eternal touch of soil, cobbled stone face of love, the tadpole in the mud and the union of people.
This dark forest is infinite and close.
The end point of eternity just over that moss and cobble stoned road tred by ancients.
There is a dream of life that lives in Bath, Centuries old built towards the sky, where you are. Ringing in a church bell with the ghosts of the gothic.
With your sublimity I touch the preciousness of life.
Artists remind me of Stoic philosophers in constant awareness of their impending death, they create a physical embodiment of their soul to last in this life after they are dust in the earth.
There is a stoicism I see in artists, as if they have envisioned their own death and are living their life in accordance with this vision, they create a physical embodiment of their soul to last in this life after they are dust in the earth. The affirmation of life present in sculpture, that a man creates from himself, as he creates another man, and through the ages that statement speaks to us from the time of its creation.
Like a young Henry Moore, Wedel lives his work in Athens Ohio, out in nature with his two children surrounded by giant clay myths of his own creation, embodiments of his spirit.
"Moore embodied a vision, a vision of man in relation to nature. His vision, which, like all universals, sprang from particulars, which rose out of a deep love for the landscape in which he was born" - Peter Fuller, Henry Moore
Matt tells me he feels a spiritual connection to the piece as it is forged out of the scorching heat of the kiln, into its becoming. He places rosemary in the kiln and does the entire process himself by hand. The formation of a ceramic sculpture is life and death in itself, I remember as a boy my mothers sculptures exploding in the kiln under the intense pressure of it blistering flames. Either the piece is strong enough to withstand the ravages of the elemental chaos needed for its creation, or it resigns into dust.
Looking around the gallery space I saw the unifying potential of this kind of work, people from all walks of life made up the ecosystem, like watering hole of humanity amongst a dark forest epic.
Beneath the surface of the water, somewhere under the monumental sea, things grow from a force of their own, melting and swaying. Relentlessly living.
I see Matt Wedel at the beginning of a long journey, an epic journey into the and the organic in man an epic fantasy in history, earth and creation. As I look around Los Angeles 25 years after my father wrote about Moore, I see the universal ecological aesthetic alive in Matt Wedel, as a young successor, just now building strength. A hope for the ecological aesthetic in sculpture to show us by example and in its physical presence our connection to the natural world. As the movie "The Revenant" comes out tomorrow and Leonardo Dicaprio goes to battle for the environment once again. There is a unifying challenge being cast to go out into nature and seek adventure, then come back to the Metropolis and cherish it at Matt Wedeln's exhibition.