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April 21, 2010
The current exhibition at Gallery Hanahou in Manhattan, called Out of the Black, is the debut international solo show for artist Matt Campbell's latest collection, a series of blackened plush animals "exploring the dichotomy of attraction & revulsion in disposable environments." The exhibition held an opening reception on April 1st and runs until the end of the month.

A founding partner of the Riviera Gallery in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, which ran from 2003-2008, Campbell is originally from New Zealand, but relocated to New York in the mid-1990s after a stint in Japan working as a graphic designer and illustrator with occasional work directing television commercials. Along with illustration, animation and design, Campbell frequently works in multi-media, printmaking, painting and sculpture. The artist himself is quick to acknowledge that the themes of his work are "mostly concerned with consumerism and pop culture and the subsequent impact on, and alienation from, the natural environment." Out of the Black falls right in line with those sentiments; though much of his illustration work has been of the cutesy, bubbly, Asian-influenced variety, his work on display at Gallery Hanahou is anything but chipper.

"Shiney Black Teddy" wall sculpture, 30x40cm, acrylic fiber and paint magnetically mounted on lacquered wood.


According to Campbell, the work in the show "embodies the state of mankind today and our imprint on the planet." Like his other work, the pieces in the series came about when surveying the state of imbalance between consumerism and conservation. "We take natural resources and create garbage and pollution. We invade the habitats of other life forms and take them over and drive them out," the artist says.

The exhibition consists of a series of "creatures," all having been "created, loved, abandoned and finally entombed in a symbolic black rubber skin." Campbell's pieces give the process a metaphysical as well as a visual tint, "wrenched out of the blue (the natural living world) and thrown into the black (the artificial or 'dead' world that we create)."

"Black Monkey" wall sculpture, 39x52cm, acrylic fiber and paint magnetically mounted on lacquered wood.


"We know it's bad but we can't stop," Campbell laments of unabated consumerism, "because we love all the cool shiny new stuff we make." Ultimately of course shiny and new becomes dull and discarded. As the show's announcement put it, Campbell's creatures "are sad but also, simultaneously, shiny and attractive. They possess an iconic beauty despite their bedraggled state. They're Cute yet Dark--whimsical but cynical." But, they wonder, is the attractiveness of the series an expression of a conflict within human nature? "We love to create and marvel at life," the gallery points out, "but even the smallest child, male or female, instinctively revels in destruction and curiously kills a bug out of wonder."

Both Campbell and the gallery consider Out of the Black to be the next step in the artist's Humans vs. Nature commentary, but neither considers the work exclusively dark. The title is a hint at the notion of recovery: "Matt remains hopeful that we're all now collectively heading somewhat in new direction away from our dark past."

VIDEO: www.youtube.com/watch?v=YzHHphVGvgU

SEE ALSO: www.outoftheblack.org
SEE ALSO: www.areyouexcited.com
SEE ALSO: www.spanko.com
SEE ALSO: www.galleryhanahou.com

--
Eric J Herboth
Eric J. Herboth is the founder, publisher and Managing Editor of LAS magazine. He is a magazine editor, freelance writer, bike mechanic, commercial pilot, graphic designer, International Scout enthusiast and giver of the benefit of the doubt. He currently lives in rural central Germany with his two best friends, dog Awahni and cat Scout.

See other articles by Eric J Herboth.

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