San Francisco Chronicle 2

Creativity Comes Slipping Through The Cracks

Contemporary artists inherit from the modernist past a set of quandaries rather than a tradition. One such problem concerns how, or whether, to originate form, irrespective of the medium in hand.

British-born Oregonian Matthew Picton literally finds figures on the ground—in the patterns of cracks in the pavement. He makes rubbings or impressions of them and translates the resulting networks of irregular lines and shapes into materials such as ink on paper, cast rubber and excised, painted sheet plastic.

The most striking of Picton’s pieces at Toomey-Turrell, such as “Cut Out Drawing #8, 14th St., Seattle, WA” (2005), suggest echoes between large large and fine structures in the material world, between something at one’s feet and land features that only an aerial view could encompass.

Picton carved “Cut Out Drawing #8” from a single sheet of a plastic film called Dura-Lar. He coated teh tracery with dark blue enamel and pinned it to the wall so that it casts multiple shadows under gallery lighting and looks abstract.
But something in our knowledge of the world finds familiarity in Picton’s seemingly nonreferential patterns. None of us will recognize a filigree of cracks from a street in any city, but any pedestrian knows something of the characteristic ways asphalt and concrete break down. When Picton brings sharp focus to that sort of awareness, we feel it as a slight brightening of our ordinary powers.

Meanwhile, Picton’s work touches a curious span of art references, from antique paper cut silhouettes to chance-directed 20th century art, the simulations of patches of ground made by the late Mark Boyle and the recent abstract paintings Los Angeles artist Ingrid Calame bases on pavement stains.

Unlike any of these reference points, Picton’s work delivers a sense of art working against entropy, finding formal epiphanies in a deteriorating reality.