Even in the late Forties, as Abstraction began to take sway in America, the chameleonlike Matulka shifted his language surprisingly close to the work of his friend Arshile Gorky. One can see he dabbled here and there, searching for his own center.
Labeling Matulka as a global painter baffled me. Was he global because of his origin, his stylistic references, or both? It's odd because his pictorial influence is French through and through.
Jan Matulka's oil on canvas: Still Life with
Mandoline and Pears
and “Before the Storm
Hits” “Jan Matulka: Global
Lowe Art Museum. Through July
24. 1301 Stanford Dr, Coral
Gables; 305-284-3535. Open
Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday
10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.; Thursday
noon to 7:00 p.m.; Sunday noon to
“Before the Storm Hits”:
Dorsch Gallery. Through July 30.
151 NW 24th St, Miami;
305-576-1278. Open Thursday
through Saturday 1:00 to 5:00 p.m.
Someone may retort I'm laboring the issue of originality in the context of this man's work. Yet given the era in which he lived, individuality was integral to the manner in which Matulka's art was received and the way it was and continues to be re-evaluated.
Also showing are Robin Griffiths's sculptures, which catapulted me into a veritable time warp somewhere between an apocalyptic world clinging to life by its fingernails and a past desperately hoarding its own recycled junk. In addition, his art radiates a sort of mad scientist craft and joy. My advice is to see "Before the Storm Hits" at Dorsch Gallery.
Some of Griffiths's best pieces possess this part outdoor-furniture, part sculpture quality. Walk around and take a seat on his massive Scorpio Chaise, made with ipe wood (the piece is actually comfortable and stately). Stop by Prow, a gaunt, very tall three-legged wooden piece -- which has already broken once in transit. It's a gem; battered and barely repaired, it resembles the gait and pride of a fighter.
Surely the show's tour de force is Curtain of Detritus, metal mesh affixed to an iron bar secured to the gallery's ceiling, filled with a veritable pile of debris: chipboards of different sizes, coils, small television sets, PC fans, tubes, rolls of cable, a broom, a pedestal, among other objects. It seems as though we're glimpsing Griffiths's back-yard junk (patiently accumulated over the years) frozen in time, as it flies, propelled by a gust of stormy wind.
Then there are walls filled with all sorts of sketches, notes, letters, and storm printouts, with no particular order other than to say, "This is me, Robin Griffiths." It works. And whether you like it or not, few artists can get away with that.