NEW YORK — With a title like “Cum Together,” one might expect to walk into Matthew Brannon’s solo show at the Friedrich Petzel Gallery and be confronted by an onslaught of writhing naked bodies. But the titillated attending tonight’s opening will be disappointed, for despite its come-hither nomenclature, Brannon’s works offer a much quieter — though no less provocative — experience.
A mixture of tapestries, silk screens and letterpress prints, the pieces combine text and images to explore questions of sexual relationships, career ambitions and human disconnectedness.
“It’s actually not a critique of commercial means more than it is using the strategy of fashion or design to camouflage a more subversive content,” explains Brannon, a baby-faced 35-year-old from Idaho. “I like the way that fashion and graphic design have an immediacy to it on a first read … But I always appreciate the opposite strategy: having a first read and then a second read. “
Indeed, much like his complicated explanations, Brannon’s pieces require multiple explorations. His letterpress prints, which draw their inspiration from film poster templates, juxtapose random objects with seemingly unconnected prose poems. A series of six foil press and silk prints display metallic records with titles such as “Young Plumbing” and “Cold Dinner” that easily could be the names of hit songs. And his tapestries (inspired by the Marimekko room dividers his parents loved) combine silk-screening with hand-embroidered images such as bamboo and swordfish.
Brannon, whose work currently can be seen at the Serpentine Gallery in London and who has an upcoming solo show at the Whitney’s Altria in March, attributes his obsession with these non-fine art references and graphic design techniques to his rural upbringing.
“I’ve always been a fan of the poster more than the film,” he says. “I think that might come from the fact that I grew up in Alaska and Idaho and places like that where we were always seeing the ad represented before we had the thing, if we ever had it, so that this sort of removal is something I’ve sort of appreciated, investigated and played with.”