The Contemporary Arts Museum Houston will present Matthew Ritchie: Proposition Player, opening December 13, 2003 in The Brown Foundation Gallery. The exhibition will be the first major museum exhibition of this multi-media artist’s work. Featuring works made in 2002 and 2003, the exhibition includes major installations created specifically for the soaring interiors of the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston. Matthew Ritchie’s complex and imaginary story of the history of the universe is told through his monumental yet intricate work which includes paintings, drawings, sculpture, and digital animation.
Matthew Ritchie: Proposition Player will remain on view at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston through March 14, 2004.
“Our mission at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston is perfectly embodied in the exhibition — a spectrum of the work for which Ritchie has become internationally known,” remarked Marti Mayo, Museum Director. “His ebullient paintings, all-over wall works, ethereal light boxes and delicate drawings on vellum will combine with the new works into a glorious installation that sums up this climatic moment in his work. The exhibition continues a tradition at the Museum of providing our audiences dynamic experiences and insight into the contemporary world of art and ideas.”
Matthew Ritchie explores a self-created cosmological system through his work — an endless and complex landscape where different kinds of information can coexist. He draws upon a vocabulary of scientific notations, cartoon characters, mythology, biblical tales, and pulp fiction to illustrate the workings of his alternate universe. At the core of Ritchie’s art is “information,” a sort of raw material from which all of his work evolves, as it is mapped and diagrammed through his own systems of color, line, paint, metal, and light. Through Ritchie’s sweeping, and incredibly detailed creations, viewers are engaged in his metaphorical search to determine man’s place in the cosmos.
Matthew Ritchie: Proposition Player is the most ambitious installment to date in the artist’s ongoing narrative and with it his work has reached a pivotal point where hisversion of the evolution of the universe is now laid out in its entirety. As such, it has taken on a new life and revealed itself to be as much a game as a story. A “proposition player” is an independent contractor in the gaming industry who is paid by the “house” or gaming establishment to start games. Ritchie has commented, “He’s the stranger who comes up to you in the casino and says ‘Fancy a friendly game of cards?’”
The opportunity to create a large-scale site and time-specific work for the wide-open spaces of the Museum’s Brown Foundation Gallery inspired Ritchie to think and work on a grander scale than had heretofore been possible for the artist. Accompanying the paintings and drawings for which the artist has become internationally known will be a number of works in new media. They include a one-hundred foot long three-dimensional drawing that literally comes off the wall winding in and around the viewer; an interactive craps table with digital animation that invites viewers to roll the dice for the future of the universe; an enormous rubber floor mosaic that invites viewers to walk into the heart of the piece; and a deck of cards featuring Ritchie’s cast of characters. New characters in the form of sculpted heads have been created by the artist in collaboration with students at Wharton Elementary School in Houston especially for the exhibition. A selection of the new digital animation will be available on the Museum’s web site, www.camh.org.
“At the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, Ritchie’s work will be, more than ever, a multi-media history of the universe that viewers can enter into and interact with,” remarked Lynn Herbert, Senior Curator at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston. “For Ritchie, the work has always been about ‘the pure pleasure of thought’ and ‘the exhilaration of connecting with knowledge.’ Immersed in Ritchie’s realm, viewers will be able to lose themselves in the sheer energy, vibrancy, and movement the work exudes. Those with a decoding bent can explore the inner system and iconography that had fed this rich and all-inclusive oeuvre. And all will be able to see how what began as a systematized cosmology has evolved into something that now more closely resembles a force of nature.”
Matthew Ritchie was born in 1964 in London, England. He attended Boston University in 1982 and received his B.F.A. from the Camberwell School of Art, London in 1986. He has had recent solo exhibitions at c/o Atle Gerhardsen, Berlin (2003); Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York (2002); White Cube, London; and the Dallas Museum of Art, (2001). His work has been included in group exhibitions such as (The World May Be) Fantastic, Biennale of Sydney, Australia (2002); Sprawl, Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, Ohio (2002); Urgent Painting, LARC/Musee d’Art Moderne, Paris (2002) and Drawing Now: Eight Propositions, Museum of Modern Art (MoMA QNS), New York (2002).
Matthew Ritchie lives and works in New York City. Matthew Ritchie: Proposition Player has been organized by the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston and is curated by Lynn Herbert, Senior Curator at the Museum. It is accompanied by a 136-page fully-illustrated catalogue published by the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston in association with Hatje Cantz Publishers, Germany. It contains essays by Herbert, Laura Steward Heon, Curator, Massachusetts Museum of
Contemporary Art, and Jennelle Porter, an independent curator and writer. The cataloguealso includes an interview with the artist by writer Thyrza Nichols Goodeve, a checklist of the exhibition and documentation on the artist’s career. The catalogue is made possible by a grant from The Brown Foundation, Inc.
The exhibition will also be seen, in a slightly different form, at Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams. Matthew Ritchie: Proposition Player has been made possible by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, a Federal agency, and by the patrons, benefactors, and donors to the Museum’s Major Exhibition Fund: Major Patron—Fayez Sarofim & Co.; Patrons—Eddie and Chinhui Allen, Mrs. Nancy C. Allen, Mr. and Mrs. A. L. Ballard, Mr. and Mrs. I.H. Kempner III, Ms. Louisa Stude Sarofim, and Mr. and Mrs. Michael Zilkha; Benefactors—Robert J. Card, M.D./Karol Kreymer, George and Mary Josephine Hamman Foundation, Rob and Louise Jamail, and the Susan Vaughan Foundation; Donors—Baker Botts L.L.P., James A. Elkins, Jr., Jeanne and Michael Klein, KPMG LLP, Lester Marks, Karen and Eric Pulaski, David and Suzanne Saperstein, Jeff Shankman, Leigh and Reggie Smith, Stephen and Ellen Susman, and Mr. and Mrs. Wallace S. Wilson.