Memory / Magic / Wonder
July 24 - August 25, 2013
Ampersand is pleased to present Memory / Magic / Wonder, Matt Hall’s second solo show at the gallery. Featuring mixed media assemblages & large-scale ink on paper drawings, the exhibition explores the diverse links between historic perceptions of the natural world with our sense of wonder & magical phenomena. Citing his own childhood fascination with the agility of birds in flight, fish breathing under water & dogs navigating with an acute sense of smell, Hall's hands-on engagement with the fur, flesh & bones of found dead animals is an attempt to reconcile this notion of childhood wonder with the historic ways in which humans, through religion & science, have tried to understand & contain the seemingly magical powers of animals. At a glance, Hall's finely detailed assemblages bring to mind the dioramas & curiosity cabinets of natural history museums, yet on a deeper level they allude to the ritualistic strangeness of reliquaries, thereby serving as an intersection where notions of religion, science, folklore & quackery collide with the artist's imagination. Through the use of repetition & symbols, aligned with titles such as Mithriditism & Incantation, Hall's sculptural pieces evoke the spiritual practices of animistic religions, in which direct interaction with animal parts is thought to transfer magical & totemic powers. This notion of ritual is contained in the very act of making each piece, a labor intensive practice involving the dissection of each animal, the cleaning of its bones & the intricate reassembly of each small part to create not only an anatomically correct skeleton, but one that also aligns with the narrative Hall is attempting to relate. Noting a possible disconnect between this process & the precision of the completed piece, Hall has made a series of intricate drawings in an effort to make visible the multiple layers of his working experience (discovery, dissection & examination) into a unified symbol. As though performing a trick, Hall's drawings allow a slight glimpse into the horror & strangeness (& within that, the magic) of a working process akin to that of a magician.