Hug The Gray


outHug the Gray
By Mat O'Brien
Published by Seems Books
6.5" x 9", 36 pages
4 color offset printing, matte stock
1000 copies

The collision of words and image, the incongruity of language and perception, was first explored in the work of early 20th century cartoonist George Herriman, and later observed (or stolen, depending on your point of view) by the dadaists and surrealists. "Pop" art and street art have been informing and inspiring artists in the business of fine art since the industrial revolution–but it wasn't until David Wojnarowicz, and others in the New York downtown scene of the early 80's, when all became reconciled. Wojnarowicz was a complete creature of the 20th century–for him all arguments of high and low were irrelevant; TV, movies and magazine pages were emotional totems. It wasn't an intellectual conclusion, just a matter of fact. Wojnarowicz paintings, drawings and sculptures were as purely expressionistic as they were literal.

from Hug the Gray by Mat O'Brien

I can't say whether or not Mat O'Brien's work is directly influenced by Wojnarowicz, but he is surely a result of art from that period of time and place. His drawings are iconic–meant for the wall, yet they also seem to be illustrating a narrative. The drawings in Hug the Gray were originally part of an exhibit of the same name, but in book form the narrative/journal aspect of his work is better served. Personal rock icons and Intricately drawn hats and shoes are collaged together with idiosyncratic notes and observations. His work is reminiscent of Raymond Pettibon, yet more romantic. Like Pettibon, his work is inspired by the graphic nature of comics, yet it is also spontaneous, and often anatomically and Spacially incorrect. His hand and eye love the pleasures of detail, yet never give in to perfection. I enjoy this work, and it's process (I can relate to it quite a bit), but O'Brien is still searching for his voice. He is lacking the passion and blood and guts rawness of Wojnarowicz. Only time will tell if he'll get there, but I'll definitely be keeping an eye out.

Hug The Gray is available at Seems Books

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