In his book On Fire (Paper Monument, 2016), Jonathan Griffin interviews ten unlucky artists whose studios burned down, asking what effects the disaster had on their practices. Los Angeles–based Matthew Chambers is one of Griffin’s subjects. He lost eighty paintings when the studio he shared with Brendan Fowler was destroyed in a 2011 blaze, prompting Chambers to start from scratch in a new space. The exhibition “(My) Los Angeles Paintings” presents brightly colored canvas panels that feature an eclectic array of subjects and styles, from floral patterns to figurative images to abstractions. Viewers can also browse unstretched paintings bound in books and kept in open wooden boxes on tables throughout the gallery. In lieu of a press release there’s a personal letter in which Chambers describes the tension he endeavored to create between seeing his works in person and in online reproduction.
While the paintings here look great on Instagram (the artist’s loose portrait of comedian Louis C.K. has been particularly popular on social media), the unusual surfaces and layouts of the works—most notably the use of velvety nylon flocking on the panel surfaces—offer an exceptional in-person viewing experience. Presenting no one coherent thesis or ideology, the exuberant paintings instead evince Chambers’s drive to experiment and work through new ideas, turning ashes into diamonds. —Julia Wolkoff
Pictured: View of Matthew Chambers’s exhibition “(My) LA Paintings,” 2016; at Feuer/Mesler, New York.