This month’s cover image is somewhat atypical of Chris Metze’s recent work. The thin color-test strip is there, yes, as well as the cartoonish elements (note the “South Park”esque hooded figure standing under what looks like a golf tee in the top-right quadrant of the painting), and the brown horizontal sweep like an angry mark of redaction. What’s not here is the idea of landscape you get from many of Metze’s paintings, the sense of looking down on the world from above. To stand in a room with Metze’s work is like looking down during a cross-country plane journey, noting the fields of color as they pass beneath—the sandy wheat, the green forest, the orange dust, the pale blue water—and the indicipherable patches that call us to wonder.
On a recent visit to Metze’s Woodstock studio, it was interesting to note a copy of famed aerial photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand’s Earth From Above on a drafting table, open to a photo much like a Metze painting—a block of muted desert brown bordered by soft blue. Metze says that leafing through Arthus-Bertrand’s work is like strecthing before exercising. And although he doesn’t work from photographs, like Arthus-Bertrand, Metze uses color in a compositional capacity. To Metze, color is an object within the work, a thing in and of itself, a block of three-dimensionality trapped in two dimensions. On top of this, sometimes literally, he has started adding actual bits of industrial detritus—twisted bits of metal from decaying crab traps and the like. “I love things that are manufactured and aged—the manmade element that’s decaying,” Metze says.
Also of note: All of Metze’s paintings are untitled, based on his belief that the experience of his work should be completely open to interpretation. “I don’t want to lead the viewer down a specific path,” says Metze. “The more I explain it, the more I take away from it. It loses a bit of its magic.”
Recent work by Metze is being exhibited through February 7 as part of the “New Beginnings: 2009” group show at the Fetherston Gallery in Seattle.