Matt Paweski’s Sculpture Blurs Boundaries of Art, Furniture and Design

"Bonnet (Shaker)" (detail), by Matt Paweski (Photo by Ruben Diaz, courtesy of the artist)


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HARTFORD — Elements of functionality and unfamiliarity mix with references to furniture and industrial design in the painted aluminum pieces of Los Angeles-based sculptor Matt Paweski, whose one-man show will run from Feb. 3 to May 7 at Matrix 191 at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art. 

Paweski’s pieces have been described as machine-like forms that result from his experimental process of drawing, modeling, fabrication, and reworking. 

“[My works are] devices for expansion, introspection, and transcendence that propose new structures, architectures, designs, and possible paths forward—new views of the world,” stated Paweski in the museum introduction to the show. 

On Thursday, Feb. 2, Jared Quinton, Interim Curator of Contemporary Art at the museum, will host an Artist Conversation with Matt Paweski (gallery viewing at 5 p.m., conversation at 6 p.m.). Register for tickets here

Quinton will also give a curator talk about the Paweski show on March 4 at 1 p.m. at the museum.

CT Examiner caught up with Quinton for a conversation about Paweski’s work and the process of curating the show. The interview has been edited for clarity and length. 

CTEx: Paweski has said that drawing is an essential component of his process. How do you see the role of drawing in his work? 

Quinton: Every work that he makes starts in drawing. He makes dozens, if not hundreds of drawings and pen on paper, just exploring different shapes and configurations, and really thinking about line and curve and shape. The next step of his process is he turns those drawings into cardboard maquettes, like little models that are to scale. Then he is able to see how those drawings fit in three-dimensional space and once he’s happy with that configuration, he then fabricates all the shapes in metal. 

So, he really does in some way think of the sculptures as drawings in space. There’s not a lot of volume in his work. It’s all ‘illusion of volume’ or suggestion of volume, but all the forms are made up of essentially flat shapes that have their origin in drawing.

“Heart Shelf,” by Matt Paweski (Photo by Ruben Diaz, courtesy of the artist)

CTEx: Can you talk about the role of color in Paweski’s work? 

Quinton: I actually don’t know how literally or explicitly he thinks about color. I think his work is very intuitive, and he’s very interested in sort of this idea of his work being at once very seductive and intriguing and drawing you in, but then also sort of confusing me you are upending your expectations. 

He has an incredible eye for beauty and what looks good, but he’s often resistant to things being too tasteful or too predictable. So I think color is one way in which he creates a sort of play between seduction and drawing you in and confusing you. Sometimes the colors clash or sometimes they don’t work together and they jar you a little bit or confuse you – whereas in some works, the color is extremely tasteful and lush and exquisite. I think you could say that about a lot of different aspects of his work – but certainly color.

CTEx: Who are a few of Paweski’s artistic influences?

Quinton: I’m hesitant to call them influences because I think that sort of implies a more direct relationship than I’m comfortable with, but he’s definitely interested in the Shakers. He’s interested in Janette Laverriere and Charles Rennie Mackintosh, two designers that I mentioned in my essay for the show. There’s also some contemporary artists that are a generation or two older than Matt, but who are influential to him, including Jorge Pardo and Roy McMakin – those are artists who also blur the boundaries between art and furniture and interior design.

“Vessel (Butter)” by Matt Paweski (Photo by Ruben Diaz, courtesy of the artist)

CTEx: Where did you first notice Matt Paweski’s work? How did you discover him? 

Quinton: As a contemporary art curator, I’m always trying to see as much art as possible at art fairs, museums, and in art publications. I saw Matt’s work first, several years ago at an art fair in New York, and just sort of had him in mind. I keep this list of artists that I love and would love to work with if the right opportunity came up. 

When I started at the Wadsworth [in 2022] and started working on the Matrix series, I revisited that list and thought of Matt. I had also known that he had had a big show in New York City at his gallery last Fall that I hadn’t seen but I had seen tons of images on Instagram and heard really great things about. 

He just felt like an artist whose work I love and was immediately drawn to, and was gaining some momentum but still hadn’t had that first big solo exhibition at a museum, so he seemed like a really exciting fit for this opportunity.