Matthew Northridge, "Welcome Back to the Nuclear Age," 2011. Collage on paper. 23" x 27 1/2". Black lines culled from books and pieced together into a continuous tangled loop. (On View at KANSAS through 1.7.12)

 

If you haven’t seen Matthew Northridge’s solo show Pictures by Wire and Wireless at KANSAS, the newest gallery on Tribeca’s up-and-coming gallery row, you’re in luck. The show has just been extended until Saturday, January 7th. Art Forum magazine has placed Pictures by Wire and Wireless on their “Critic’s Pick” list. I had the pleasure of seeing the show in New York this November and can assure you that the distinction is well deserved.

Northridge is one of the few contemporary artists I can think of pushing the boundaries of collage as an art form. Equally playful and orderly, his obsessive, detailed work, composed of cultural ephemera, is never marred by irksome cleverness or a hollow cataloging impulse. This is art that improves upon closer examination–art that reveals itself slowly without ever relinquishing all of its mysteries.

“Welcome Back to the Nuclear Age” is a good case in point. This colorful, tangled loop immediately grabbed my attention when I saw it in the gallery. But only when I approached the piece did I realize that it was a collage composed of hundreds of carefully arranged black lines from various found magazines, ads, books, and maps. (You can click on the “detail” image below to get a closer look).

 

Matthew Northridge, "Welcome Back to the Nuclear Age," Detail, 2011. Collage on paper. 23" x 27 1/2". Black lines culled from books and pieced together into a continuous tangled loop.

 

Northridge’s art work sings in KANSAS’s spacious galleries. While it’s easy to become overly focused on the intricate construction of these pieces, landscape is really the central theme that ties all of the work in Pictures by Wire and Wireless together. Viewing the show as a whole allowed me to better appreciate the artist’s talent for creating highly original, imaginary scenes.

Whether looking at a rolled map of Washington D.C. encased in steel bars, the haunting skies on raffle tickets in “How to Know (and Predict) the Weather,” the layered collages of found nature images, or the miniature structures in “Barns and Other Outbuildings,” Northridge’s invented landscapes always have a humorous, otherworldly quality. His marvelous piece, Northeast, reminds me simultaneously of an aerial view of a city, children’s blocks, windows in a skyscraper, and colorful beds from a dollhouse.

 

Matthew Northridge, "The Northeast," 2011. Wood, paper, and printed material, 12" x 12" x 4". (On View at KANSAS through 1.7.12)