The Oregon Coast Council for the Arts welcomes Mathew Boulay’s exhibition, “Yellow Squares, or the Opposite of War,” from May 4-26 in the Upstairs Gallery at the Newport Visual Arts Center. Boulay’s exhibition will include a series of oil and acrylic paintings on canvas, featured in an installation-like setting. A First Friday opening reception will be held on May 4, 5-7pm, with the artist talking about his work at 6:30pm.
Matthew Boulay has studied in Baltimore, New York and Madrid, and his work is informed by his experiences as a Marine in Iraq. He holds a PhD from Columbia University’s Teachers College, led the Campaign for a New G.I. Bill, and is the founder of the non-profit National Summer Learning Association.
“Why paint a square?” Matthew Boulay asks. “Because the square is simple and straightforward and honest. The square doesn’t deceive us--the square simply is what it is, and that’s encouraging.”
Boulay’s exhibition and installation references the place that the painted square holds in the history of contemporary art. Boulay harkens back to the the Russian avant-garde artist Kazimir Malevich, who, in 1915, unveiled a radically abstract painting of a black square on a white canvas. Malevich’s “Black Square” was a dramatic break from the hundreds of years of representational painting, and historians still refer to it as the first abstract painting,” writes Boulay. “Malevich himself boasted that it represented the ‘zero point of painting.’”
Boulay also references the minimalist artist Robert Ryman, who painted a series of “white squares,” which the artist described as not being about anything other than what’s right before your eyes.
More recently, Boulay suggests, the Iranian-born artist Shirazeh Houshiary created Veil, a black square that she presents as a protest against knowing, a kind of commentary on how difficult it is to perceive the nature of reality.
“And so my yellow squares? Boulay posits. “I came home from the war in Iraq confused and angry. I came home–that’s just it: I came home. A square is just a square and yet my yellow squares are more than that. My yellow squares are an expression of gratitude, a celebration of the life I get to live.”
Matthew Boulay (b. 1970, Arizona) lives and works in Salem, Oregon. His work is typified by his exploration of issues such as collective memory and the experience of war, and his use of materials that are tactile and complicated. He works in multiple media, including painting and large-scale installations, and frequently engages in inter-textuality with other works from the visual arts, literature, and history.
“As a veteran, I see the present through the lens of our complicated and contradictory history of warfare. I aim to create art that is interactive, visually appealing, and intellectually challenging, and I try to pose questions such as: What is the difference between a piece of art and a monument or memorial? Or, what do we collectively choose to remember and what do we allow ourselves to forget?”
The Upstairs Gallery is open Tuesday-Saturday, noon to 4pm.
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