Shotgun Review

In Case You Missed It: Land Use

By Mary Anne Kluth September 10, 2010

Bill Mattick’s understated, gracefully composed photographs of rural and suburban landscapes set the tone for Land Use at Swarm Gallery. Using a deep field of focus, each image presents many registers of organic textures divided by hard, man-made lines. Avoiding a pat distinction between the natural and the artificial, Mattick instead documents an ironic range of visual juxtapositions. In 329(810) (2008) he situates jumbled dirt tracks from farm equipment amongst orderly fields of uniform crops. Mattick depicts a contained, dense swath of cattle in a feedlot above the sparse, dead grass on a nearby embankment in 371(810) (2006), and picking out a skeletal windbreak row of trees around a rest stop behind a field of arid scrub brush in 322(810) (2005). These relationships make clear that our way of life is made possible by intervening in the land we live on, but they also question how long we will be able to maintain our current intensive use of resources.

Chris Sicat’s Broken Tag a Log (2010) is an eight-foot section of burled redwood completely coated by hand with shining pencil graphite. The natural wood texture is heightened, each crevice darker, each curve brighter, looking computer generated, transformed through Sicat’s assiduous labor. The effect is at once marvelous, playing up the beautiful natural

Bill Mattick. 371(810), 2006; chromogenic print on Dibond, 42 x 52 in. Courtesy of the Artist and Swarm Gallery, Oakland.

materials, and uncanny, as if predicting a possible material outcome should one of Mattick’s precarious natural arrangements eventually collapse.

Reenie Charrière’s plastic and tar gel mobiles in Eleven (2010), in the project space create organic shapes and shadows out of found synthetic materials, turning garbage into decoration, echoing the sentiment that our impact on the world deserves greater examination.


Land Use was on view at Swarm Gallery in Oakland from July 30 to September 12, 2010.

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