A Beautiful Mind: Matt Shlian at Loyola University

Tasia Kastanek reviews Matt Shlian at Loyola University.

Matt Shlian, Apophenia 2, 2013. Black Strathmore Paper. Courtesy the artist. Photo by Cullen Stephenson.

Matt Shlian
Collins C. Diboll Art Gallery
Loyola University New Orleans
February 6–March 21, 2014

Matt Shlian’s “Apophenia” comprises sculptures, drawings, collages, and artist’s books that readily expose their associations with biological and architectural principles. Shlian is a paper engineer, who has collaborated with a range of scientists and engineers on projects such as solar cells and emergency shelters, which have a reciprocal relationship with his artworks. Though displayed at rest, the interactive and kinetic possibilities of the works on view are apparent, evoking motion in the play of light and winding progression of folds. In Unlean Against Our Hearts, 2011, rectangular planes form crests and valleys that cascade into an arch, while the light creates tonal gradations on the black Tyvek that transition from soft grey to ebony. In an untitled work using the same material, sharp angular folds zigzag toward the ceiling, creating a tower of aggressive yet delicate surfaces. In addition to folds, Shlian experiments with cutting into paper to make geometric designs. In Six Process Pieces, 2013, successive shifts in angle and layers of squares, triangles, circles, and waves meander into strata of spirals or recesses of echoing forms.

The repetition of Apophenia 1-4, 2013, displays the central theme of the show—the relationship of forms across square reliefs constructed from arrangements of geometric cells. A central pinwheel amidst clusters of triangles and rhombuses emerges from the ground across the four frames to imply a mathematical progression. Yet Shlian gives the viewer a reason to doubt the order: "There is a term called apophenia, which means seeing patterns where none exist. I think I may have it…I want to see how far I can push the base pattern, forcing the overall piece ever more towards the chaotic." Whether based on the illusion of logic or true mathematical arrangements, Shlian’s constructions demonstrate an array of complex and intricate formations that evince a kind of dazzling and lyrical sense.

Matt Shlian, Process Series 2 (WAVE), 2013. Courtesy the artist. Photo by Cullen Stephenson.