This is Wood: The Sculpture of Matt Johnson
It’s perfection in replication: every wave of corrugation in the cardboard and every tiny pellet that makes up the styrofoam, had to be carved. The play on gravity is mind-boggling – while foam and cardboard appear as weightless as their original counterparts, the concrete bags at center stage look every bit as heavy as their 60 lb originals.
Just a reminder, that all of this is wood.
The show is dryly titled “Wood Sculpture”, written clearly at the entrance. The gold standard was met on my first visit, when 2 women who had been in the gallery for over 5 minutes finally approached the front desk to ask where the wood sculptures were.
In my view, “material mimicry/translation”, whether in photo-real paintings or a cardboard box made from wood, is much more than a joke or an artist showing off (though seriously, #props) – for me, it’s all about examination. The insane degree that Johnson had to study EVERY detail of these mundane objects is obvious and incredible, but to view them is to judge their accuracy, and in doing so to discover new unnoticed details of an Amazon box, or the inside of a tape roll, or the particular way that Styrofoam breaks. In short: since exiting this show, I’ve noticed every crushed cardboard box on the sidewalk.
The collection also includes 2 “honest” wood sculptures (they’re not trying to be another material), but are no less impressive. Twisted Pallet (below), looks to be caught in mid-dance, again demanding study and appreciation of the common object it represents.
Note: The photo above was NOT staged. I just noticed it. Go check out the show to be amazed by incredible sculpture, and then be that weirdo blocking traffic while you photograph a broken cardboard box.
All images © Matt Johnson, courtesy 303 Gallery, New York
(details & outdoor image by the author, David Behringer)