In his recent exhibition Idol Structures, Matt Siber probes the recognizable, and often iconic, signs and structures of corporate and mass-media communication that dot the American landscape in meticulous, large-scale photographs and finely-crafted sculptures. Rather than focusing on the intended message, he emphasizes the physical infrastructure that conveys modern visual messaging, thereby revealing a component meant to stay invisible and subservient to image, text, and graphics. By aestheticizing the conceptually mute elements of this system, Siber interrogates the power of the intended message, undermining its ability to persuade and influence.
Siber’s photographs are simple and austere, often shot from a peripheral viewpoint or underneath with the behemoth sign structures in profile – each reduced to crisp edges of metal and bolts that look like buttons. They are a reflection of not only the advertising efforts targeted at us as much as they are a record of our existence, of our being in a specific place, becoming nostalgic markers of times and places gone by; and of memories that may be actual, or perhaps, completely imaginary. Green/Gray evokes easy feelings of remembrance, of what I am unsure; but it seems common and recognizable, even in its obscurity. Operating as a pin in a map if I were to retrace my steps, I feel like I have stood underneath this sign – I have been here before and it is worth returning to to consider why.
My favorite photographs are Siber’s monochromatic Off-white and White (shown here), the absence of color highlights the mechanical and inhuman nature of the advertising constructions. The giant metal sign bleakly contrasts against the blank background; an nondescript object against an empty sky, towering above me offering no information or consolation or joy. The top of the sign softly curves out of view, leaving only a silvery flat surface unblemished except for several small punctures near the top. This advertisement, in contrast to the more recognizable forms, becomes mute, unknown, and obsolete; an interesting question about the necessity of the physical structure in both visual and societal communications.
The smell of plastic, of artificiality, is overwhelming as I walk among Billboard Vinyls #4 – 6 (pictured at top). The vinyl billboards, ripped from their roadside abodes are haphazardly suspended from the ceiling – evolving into enormous, vertical monuments that are strongly reminiscent of Sheila Hicks’s decadent woven textile hangings. It is unlikely that I will ever be this close to these colossal advertisements, let alone walk among them; their messages completed obscured within the gigantic folds as they pile into heaps on the floor. Devolving into simply shapes and patterns, the original promotional purpose erased, and they become suffocating vinyl forts – without form or use.
Moving from an image to a three-dimensional form, Lighted Shelter, a free-standing structure, blazed like a beacon in the dimly lit gallery space. It stood alone, sequestered from the other works, allowing ample room to take it all in without any other object in the same view. It totally reminds me of road trips of my youth, driving down a desolate highway and seeing a lone gas station – the only light and structure for miles in any direction. I am reminded of the Prada store in Marfa, and Lighted Shelter identically plays on the same notions of need vs. want; except Siber using the common place colors, lighting, and structure of a convenience store found anywhere in America. There is no glamour or luxury here, the red and blue of an old Chevron station are the only means of comfort; encapsulating the norms and expectations and ridiculousness of the American landscape and commercialization.
Equally as interesting, on the second floor nestled in a perfectly sized window alcove was Trapezoid: a playful wooden form also buzzing from the inclusion of fluorescent lights. A three-dimensional representation of the signs Siber photographs, I enjoy the translation of the recognizable signs reduced to the basic visual elements of shape, color, etc. It is obviously derived from some commercial intention; but in its simplification, it becomes purely graphic: absent of message, intent, or need – and I find myself wanting it even more.