The Language of Objects is a three-person exhibition featuring artists Matthew Craven, Brendan Fernandes, and Alyssa Phoebus Mumtaz. On view at the UB Anderson Gallery of UB Art Galleries from April 22 through July 30, 2017, this exhibition showcases artists who appropriate cultural objects in their practice. Referencing the Cravens World Collection—a collection of archaeological and ethnographic objects from around the world dating as far back as 4,500 BC on view in the Cravens open storage room—each of the three artists work across geographic borders and in a variety of mediums. The artists create pathways that add to the history of the objects they select. Each artist is working with a collection of objects, and enlist them in the gallery space to construct new narratives. Philosopher Theodor Adorno argued that museums and mausoleums were within the same realm and that objects, once inside a museum, are removed from the flow of culture where new connections can be established. The artists in this exhibition dissuade this theory by continuing to spotlight new narratives through the varied connections with cultural objects and diverse artistic processes.
Matthew Craven sources his images from out of print textbooks that he collages on the backs of vintage movie posters. The work is analog; the artist purchases multiples of books in order to utilize the actual printed imagery instead of digital copies. His repetitive use of the object keeps the objects ever-present in his work. His sophisticated eye combines repeated imagery such as Greek vases, Roman busts, African wood carvings and Neolithic tools and sometimes incorporates them with hand-drawn patterns that exist across cultures and time periods. With many of the fundamental shapes he uses often unspecific to place, his collages are scattered across millennia, compressing time and allowing for diverse histories to intertwine.