Monday, September 22, 2008
Rob Matthews’ The Dumbest Man series from 2004 seems to have begun as a cynical critique of the multi-millionaire adventurer/aviator Steve Fossett and developed into a study of selfish and arbitrary pursuits made by those with money to burn. Fossett attempted to go around the world in a balloon six times and was finally successful on the seventh. Since Matthews completed this series, Fossett has disappeared and while pronounced legally dead, no one has found his plane or his body. It was also the most expensive rescue effort on US soil, costing $1.6 million.
What I like about The Dumbest Man series is that Matthews takes a subtle conceptual approach, but that his jumping off point is not easy to pinpoint. The Dumbest Man Over Austin TX was actually the first drawing I saw of his, knowing nothing about the Steve Fossett angle. The drawing, of Fran’s Hamburgers in Austin, TX, was of particular interest to me because I used to live near Fran’s and I always loved its back-story. As the story goes, Fran opened Fran’s after divorcing Dan, who runs Dan’s Hamburgers. I always imagined the statue of this young girl with a guitar on Fran’s was a kind of f-you to Dan, who didn’t have a cool statue.
Since many of the works of the series are scenes of Texas, I decided to pull these out as a group. Texas, despite it’s many great attributes, really drives it home when it comes to such oddities and excesses. For some reason, this series makes me think of other Texas treats like the new $1 billion+ Dallas Cowboys stadium, border crazies, megachurches, Shrub, and the Big Texan.
Matthews currently has a solo show up through Nov. 15 at Daniel Cooney Fine Art and is in Vocabularies of a Metaphor at Hosfelt Gallery in San Francisco. He also has a blog: Matthews the Younger, where you can find links to his works and more.