Matthew Picton’s Transporting Beads
by Kenneth Baker
Performance, conceptual and land art have involved maps since the early work of Robert Smithson, Dennis Oppenheim and Richard Long. But probably no one has handled them before with the comic decorative flair of Matthew Picton’s work at Toomey Tourell.
Gluing clear acrylic spheres together on a narrow bed of colored beads, Picton makes “sculptural drawings,” such as “New York Subway” (2002) and “British Railways Network” (2002),They reproduce the maps of vast transportation systems with a kind of starry-eyed fidelity.
Anyone who knows these systems, or rather their maps, registers immediate recognition, followed by surprise at their resemblance to organic networks such as plant roots and pleasure in Picton’s sparkling renditions of them.
But the more one studies Picton’s “sculptural drawings,” the more formulaic they appear. The promise in Picton’s show lies in the table pieces: resin castings he has made of cracks in a dry lake bed, patterns that are real, chance-determined and unrecognizable yet almost viscerally suggestive of forces that dwarf Picton’s intentions and our need to interpret them.
MATIHEW PICTON: Sculptural drawings. Through Oct. 30. Toomey Tourel! Gallery, 49 Geary St., San Francisco. (415) 989-6444, www.toomey-tourell.com.