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Matthew Monahan: Son of a Gun


Son of a Gun Photo: Jesse Untracht-Oakner

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Matthew Monahan
Son of a Gun, 2016
Edition of 20 unique sculptures with 6 artist’s proofs 160 offset-printed pages, PVA glue, Plexiglas, and linen-backed aluminum 21 1/2 × 15 1/2 × 5 1/2 in (54.6 × 39.4 × 14 cm)
Produced by Lisa Ivorian-Jones for the New Museum

In order to create Son of a Gun, Monahan mounted blocks of bound sheets of paper, each printed with the artist’s same black-and-white drawing of a man’s face, onto linen-covered, aluminum-based backings. Monahan then framed the paper blocks inside immaculate custom-designed Plexiglas vitrines. Crucially, in the final stage of production, the artist shot through the reverse side of each vitrine with a Colt 45 gun, imploding the images of the stacked drawn faces and transforming the two-dimensional chiaroscuro drawings into three-dimensional torn and perforated cubist forms. Monahan sculpted the paper blocks with the bullets, shooting some artworks only twice and others multiple times, carefully monitoring the impact of each bullet’s pathway and resulting effects. Acting as an intermediary hand employed by the artist, each bullet brings violence and disruption—both metaphorical and real—to the artist’s process, in a manner that is not unlike the more conventional artistic methods of applying heat or chemicals to metals. In this series, disintegration, collapse, and breakdown prevail, coaxing a sense of reassembled beauty and consequent rebirth and growth.

Evoking moments of spontaneous violence, the works spark multiple associations and challenge classical representations of the human body. Monahan continually pushes the boundaries of the materials he uses in his work to the point where they become reanimated, and he deliberately uses fragmentation as a technique to build narrative. The trauma done to the paper sculptures in Son of a Gun created new abstracted elements, each of which has its own innate rhythm and cohesion: some sculptures are reminiscent of cracked Grecian vases or comic four-eyed monsters, others feature psychologically charged distortions, and still others fan outwards, echoing the figure in Marcel Duchamp’s 1912 painting Nude Descending a Staircase (No. 2).

Monahan often uses hard materials such as steel and Plexiglas to create frames, supports, and cages, which his sculptures weave in and out of. In Son of a Gun, the vitrine, traditionally meant to protect and house a precious artifact, has been penetrated and forced into a direct and complicit relationship with the paper sculpture—the story of their making and “coming to be” forever intertwined and laid bare for all to see.

Matthew Monahan (b. 1972, Eureka, CA) is an American sculptor who lives and works in Los Angeles. His work has been exhibited internationally and is featured in the public collections of the AkzoNobel Art Foundation, Amsterdam; the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam; Tate Modern, London; the Art Institute of Chicago; the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Rubell Family Collection, Miami; and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; among other institutions. Most recently, his sculpture Hephaestus was selected for inclusion in the Walker Art Center’s Minneapolis Sculpture Garden and will be unveiled in 2017.

In 2014, Monahan had solo shows at Anton Kern Gallery, New York, and Galerie Klaus Gerrit Friese, Stuttgart, Germany. His recent group exhibitions include “Takashi Murakami’s Superflat Collection: From Shōhaku and Rosanjin to Anselm Kiefer” at the Yokohama Museum of Art, Japan (2016); and “Open This End: Contemporary Art from the Collection of Blake Byrne” at the Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery, Columbia University, New York (2016), the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, Durham, NC (2015), and the Ohio State University Urban Arts Space, Columbus, OH (2015). Monahan is represented by Anton Kern Gallery in New York, Stuart Shave/Modern Art in London, Galerie Fons Welters in Amsterdam, and Massimo De Carlo in Milan.

If you are interested in purchasing the Limited Edition, please contact Lisa Ivorian-Jones at or 917.744.6787.

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