Louisville is about to get a double helping of artist Matthew Ronay. The Louisville native and Manual Visual Arts Magnet alumni has exhibited nationally and internationally and will now have concurrent solo shows of his work locally. The first will open on February 15 at the Kentucky Museum of Art & Craft, followed on March 7 by a show at the Allen R. Hite Galleries in Schneider Hall at the University of Louisville. Recently Mr. Ronay answered a few questions for Arts-Louisville:
Arts-Louisville: You achieved a good deal of recognition for your earlier work – playful forms painted bright colors which were often described as being like toys. A few years ago you experienced what has been described as a “disillusionment” and the work changed dramatically, both in the choice of materials and in a shift to more elemental themes. How would you describe where you see your work moving at this moment?
Matthew Ronay: Well, what at the time felt like disillusionment now appears as an unlocking of a new chamber of the same cave. The work I am showing at KMAC as well as the show at the University of Louisville is from within this period of change, and I see that I am now entering a new movement of change. Each movement must often disregard the one before it, if only to meet it again with affection. In the end, all manifestations of the imagination come somehow from within. I notice that most change comes from this unbalanced state. Balance, although desirable, is a temporary state like everything else and depends on its opposite to exist. At this moment, I feel like I am working toward works that make as their focus – cycles. This includes the respiratory system, the digestive system, the passing from one state to another, and the use of the un-useful, or recycling. Somehow I see these cycles as tranquil, yet unrelenting.
AL: How does going through such a fundamental shift in how you view your own work affect how you perceive other artists?
MR: It makes me listen and look more intensely, because often the biggest pleasure is finding yourself enjoying something you never thought you would enjoy. The future is often based on how far we can expand our imaginations in the present. But as time goes on, you hopefully expand past that and end up where you would never believe possible. Because of this, I’m curious about things and works that I don’t respond to immediately.
AL: Performance has been an element in your work many times, including a 2011 opening where you installed yourself inside one of the pieces for three hours. You have also spoken of relishing the isolation of working in your studio. Are you uncomfortable with the role artists must play at openings and events?
MR: Yes, often. Although through doing a performance you miss the entire opening and gain an appreciation for the purpose of an opening, which I think is not only to celebrate the works that have been made but also to endure standing there in front of them and owning up to your actions.
AL: You have exhibited all over the world, but this is the first time you have had a show in your hometown. Why Louisville, and why now?
MR: I’m not quite sure. John Begley and I have been in talks for some years about my show at the University of Louisville. We were introduced by my sister-in-law Lindsey Brown Ronay, and I met Aldy Milliken relatively recently through my gallerists in Los Angeles and Copenhagen. The timing was right, and I think we built up some momentum, and the thing just started moving. I’m still surprised it’s happening.
AL: Without giving too much away, what can you tell us about the first installation at KMAC?
MR: It’s a large model that seems to chart the transformation from one state to another. It consists of a shelter that mimics a womb and an altar that is covered with many different shaped phalluses. These two things stand in line with each other yet also in opposition to one another. Above this is a long batik that emulates the heavens. The entire piece is illuminated by hand carved wood and leather lamps. During the opening, I will lay in the shelter in a costume of beads, tied to a long staff that terminates in wires, and I will massage the phalluses creating an eerie dry sound.
AL: How much of a challenge is it having two concurrent shows in the same city, theoretically drawing the same audience?
MR: It is a clerical challenge, in terms of organizing the transport of the works from New York, Berlin, and Los Angeles to Louisville. John Begley and I spent a long time considering what would best work for the space and we decided on a selection of works that span 2007 to 2010. The challenge now will be to find a proper way to install the works in those three rooms. Altogether, though, I think it’s a great opportunity to have the two shows run concurrently. This way, we are able to show quite a lot of works.
Tim & Dair Mathistad
Katie & Chris Haulter
Kathy Todd Chaney
Angie Reed Garner