Matthew Craven's latest exhibition at DCKT, “Oblivious Path,” might be better described as an expedition or an excavation. Craven's artistic output consists mainly of collages of found images on found paper. His source material (high contrast black and white photographs taken from old books) by itself suggests the artist's participation in a form of archeology. By isolating and collaging these images, Craven excavates these artifacts from ancient tomes (or tombs) and removes them from their original context of time and place. These artifacts are given a new identity through their proximity to the other artifacts on the page, creating collective arrangements that suggest alternative interpretations of history.
“Explorers I (Unclassified)” presents artifacts, landscapes, and geometric patterns arranged in a grid-like format. Many of the entries on this grid are repeated multiple times, recalling Peter Roehr's “montages” of identical (also found) images taken from advertisements. Such repetition triggers a viewer's innate instinct to search for patterns, suggesting an underlying order in the arrangement that may not actually exist. While most of the pieces in “Oblivious Path” are monochrome, “Explorers I” contains a splash of color: in this case, the same bright orange color as the gallery walls. This vibrant orange ground on which all the pieces are displayed gives them an element in common with each other, as well as suggesting “holes” in both the paper and the archaeological record.
The most densely packed piece in the show, “Arrangement 1 (Unclassified)” is just what the title suggests: arrangement of found images of artifacts from all over the world, unclassified by era or location or scale. A Moai statue, monumental and monolithic in its historical setting, is presented here as being the same size as a Grecian urn. The arrangement of these artifacts on the page, where they fit together like puzzle pieces, brings to mind the archeological practice of reassembling pottery shards into their (presumably) original forms. What was the original form of Craven's shards? Was it an antediluvian global civilization lost to history, like Atlantis or the legendary Mu? Or was it something more abstract, such as the universal human desire to create such artifacts of our time on Earth?