DENTON (UNT), Texas -- A sabbatical from teaching and a book about the Middle East helped change Matthew Bourbon’s art.
Bourbon, associate professor and program coordinator of drawing and painting at the University of North Texas, will present his works during the solo exhibition, “Sense and Reason,” Oct. 6 (Friday) – Nov. 11 (Saturday) at UNT on the Square. A reception will take place from 5 to 7 p.m. Oct. 6.
Bourbon’s art has been figurative, featuring people, action and narratives. But many of the works in this show are more abstract, or contain text, and incorporate materials such as stretched fabric and plywood.
The changes come after Bourbon received a fellowship from the Institute for the Advancement of the Arts, the arm of UNT that promotes artistic and creative expression. The fellowship gave him a semester off from teaching and more time to experiment with his art. He also read the book about the Middle East, “How to Cure a Fanatic” by Amos Oz, that got him thinking about fanaticism and today’s political climate.
“The IAA gave me the time to tinker,” he said. “There’s a whole range of things I’m playing with.”
One piece, “Civil Discourse,” is composed of two separate pieces. The top features stretched fabric revealing what might be a flock of birds against a gray background. Underneath is a painted canvas with some written text, with some painted letters cut off on top and running across the top of the canvas. Below this are a series of lines angled within a bold red background.
In “Good Old Days,” one figure is prone on the ground, as two other figures stand and face the viewer. A smaller work of stretched fabric featuring white lines against a red background sits atop the painting.
Other works include small canvases that are placed upon stacked plywood panels as if on some makeshift pedestal. One of these, “The Idea Factory,” is stretched fabric of pink and black that the artist has modified with a series of small ink wash marks and diagrammatic painted lines.
He wanted to see the different works in conjunction with each other.
“It’s an opportunity to treat the show as a laboratory,” he said.
He said the title of the show, “Sense and Reason,” comes from the fact that the works are meant to provoke the viewer with its contradictions and difficulties.
“I felt compelled to wonder what is rational and what makes sense both within the confines of art production and within the gamesmanship of interpretation,” he said. “This exhibition revolves around my thinking about how we understand what we experience in art, as well as how we navigate the larger currents of our crass and often malicious political environment.”