There’s a palpable sense of space in Matthew McLaughlin’s prints, which suggest maps, landscapes and architectural drawings. But who could inhabit these abstracted realms? In the six collaborations featured in Pyramid Atlantic Art Center’s Spatial Rapport, McLaughlin’s territory is claimed by figures from the collages of Brett Ferguson Schieszer, the show’s other contributor. Schieszer’s photo-derived interlopers turn McLaughlin’s austere compositions into mid-20th-century American suburbia.
The artists are longtime friends who constructed the combined works across a divide. (McLaughlin lives in Maryland, Schieszer in Ohio.) Their individual pieces are different in look and mood, yet use similar techniques. Both artists collage digital images, print them on panels and then finish the pictures by hand, applying ink, pencil and foil. But where McLaughlin arrays inkblot continents and seemingly receding lines, Schieszer scatters pictures of dogs, old cars and baby boomers when they were still babies (or at least hadn’t yet reached puberty). These time travelers, some of whom recur in multiple pictures, live on planes of graduated pastel hues, secured in wooden boxes.
McLaughlin’s collages are more cohesive, but both artists simulate three dimensions. Schieszer’s flat people treat this imaginary depth as if it’s for real. They seem to walk, perch or pull on the stripped-down scenery. In Spatial Rapport #1, children appear on parallel bars of color as if they’re climbing a monumental staircase.
Aside from technique, the two collaborators also share a concern for how people fit into their surroundings. In an age when nearly everyone lives in a place that’s more technological than organic, the artists call attention to manufactured environments. If only the world of highways, office blocks and cul-de-sacs were as congenial as the one McLaughlin and Schieszer built from lines and colors.
Matthew McLaughlin & Brett Ferguson Schieszer: Spatial Rapport Through Feb. 23 at Pyramid Atlantic Art Center, 4318 Gallatin St., Hyattsville.
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