Matt Neuman: One Step Ahead of the Curve
Matt Neuman is a prodigy. Period. I started watching his work evolve from the moment he set foot in my studio in 2007 in Aspen, CO fresh off an impressive undergrad arts degree from Skidmore and a prestigious internship at the world-renowned Anderson Ranch Art Center in Snowmass, CO. He was 22. He moved in to work in the Highlands mountain space with his oil paints and a disconcerting amount of confidence.
Solstice #3 | Woodcut mono print on paper | 14 x 14 inches | 2018
His resultant series painted from his imagination about beavers taking over his family home were proof of a virtuoso’s painting touch and a Hopperesque understanding of light and form that went far beyond his years. An old soul, he moves around his art with a calm posture and presence.
These surrealistic narratives flew off the walls, catching the eye and capturing the hearts of great collectors and stunning the general Aspen audience. He would modestly explain his process while also letting fans take a look at his Hollywood-worthy Ironman costume in progress for Halloween with wired lighting included. Matt is an engineer and a painter. No surprise that his work has evolved from paintings and pastels pushed beyond the level most ever achieve of beauty and technique, through assembled wood paintings to the process-based current, geometric works. He lives in Brooklyn with college sweetheart, now wife, Ashlee, brand new baby girl, Vera, and chocolate lab, Gesso. Stepping into his Bronx, NY studio is like stepping into the workshop of a driven constructor.
“My studio is heavily centered around woodcraft, so I’m surrounded by machinery and tools. Building out my studio over the years has been an education as valuable as any of my academics.”
Untitled Collage #8 | Woodcut prints cut and collaged on paper | 14 x 14 inches | 2017
He makes his tools, his vacuums, his templates - all as important as the layers of paint they ultimately control. At the ripe age of 30, he is represented in galleries around the country, makes a great showing yearly at ArtBasel’s satellite fair Scope and has been written up in art journals of note. He is comfortable and accustomed to being in the spotlight including a 2016 solo show in NYC at E. Tay Gallery.
Moving to a city for the first time in 2009 to complete his MFA at BU, where he also was a standout gaining placement in a show with Alpha gallery upon graduation, began his passage from what he calls his “painterly flirtation” to his current printmaking work. “My paintings from the past few years (before grad school) were filled with people and objects and action.
Shibboleth | Woodcut mono print on paper | 65 x 65 inches | 2016
The city too, filled with the same clutter. At first it seemed like an apropos reflection on life but soon it became stressful and mentally exhausting not to have any respite from visual chaos. I began to simplify and eliminate.” Matt’s color field paintings resulted: works incorporating poured paint and wooden elements embedded in the surface. They are another piece in the puzzle of process as he works to allow color and shape to “viscerally impact” his core and that of the viewer. When Neuman finds a focus, let’s just say he’s all in. His latest passion is “impossible geometries." He craves the life of a physicist and dreams of “using creative thought to unlock the great secrets that prop up the natural world.” Over the past year his paintings function along “the Z axis….using line and color to suggest a willingness for the picture plane to shape-shift and fold into an unknowable yet somehow tangible secondary form.”
Music Box | Record cases and CD’s | 14 x 14 inches | 2010
I know Matt and I know he will not let this rest. He will keep pushing the technical until he feels he has shaken hands with a universal language he knows is out there. He knows this intuitively, he pursues it relentlessly with the tools of math, facts, function, process. If you didn’t see his studio, his works in progress and touch his final pieces, you would question if they are man-made.
His self-awareness, his complete trust in his direction is just as unreal and inspiring. A “small town kid born in ‘85 in Vermont,” he always “had the creative bug.” His dad he names “functional craftsman around the house” and credits with his creative confidence.
He loves the city. “New York has been great to me.” He covets power tools. He paints and prints with his intricate hand-made presses often in “chilling silence” versus with music’s distraction.
The Folly of the Beaver | Oil on canvas | 60 x 60 inches | 2008-9
He treasures the support of his family to pursue his dreams. An avid skier, sports still provide release from his self-described compulsive perfectionism. Being a “better artist” drives him and his biggest fear is that a “crowning, creative accomplishment” be something in his past versus something towards which to strive.
Every time I meet with Matt Neuman, see his new works, engage in a discussion, I cannot help but tell him how I miss his narrative paintings, his brush strokes so effortlessly capturing shapes, defining spaces that far supersede the predictable spaces we inhabit and most artists attempts to paint them. Every time he reminds me that those paintings and the concentric circles and recent geometric dissections of the infinity shape, the Lemniscate, were just a “blip” in his real life’s body of work.
Ambivert | Woodcut mono print on paper | 65 x 65 inches | 2014
You see, Matt knows he is on the right track. He knows the universe is giving him the next step, the next key to its language and building block. He trusts the process and for us, we can watch amazed as he masters it every step of the way.