Last Saturday at Last Rites Gallery in New York City, Menton J. Matthews III — known as menton3 — opened “KATABASIS,” a solo exhibition that journeys through the folds of the psyche, manifesting the artist’s internal struggles through a haunting collection of paintings and drawings. During the intimate talk that the gallery hosted on Friday evening, the Chicago-based artist shared the meditative process behind his practice to a private audience.
menton3 stood beside Melancholia 2: Philo Sophia, which he calls his most personal piece of the show: a blue-hued painting of a woman wearing a white dress with gently grooved pleats. The painting pulls apart the word “philosophy” into philo (“love”) and sophia (“wisdom”), and casts the woman character as a literal and visual embodiment of interior knowledge. The tears of her skirt, he continued, are much like the pieces that men have taken for themselves throughout their emotional journeys.
The entrancing female figures that frequent his paintings, although oftentimes modeled after his wife, are intended to be nonsexual, and instead symbolize (on an archetypal level) the male psyche’s entrance into the subconscious — the anima of Jungian psychology. menton3 explained that the omission of nipples is done purposely to take away the sexual context, so that, in many ways, he is able to paint himself as a woman, as the ultimate externalization of his inner being. The artist described that the landscape of the internality is “the most undiscovered country,” and that for him, “KATABASIS” meant visiting the darkest scenes of his psyche, to his phobias and childhood, and pulling back those images onto a surface.
As for his pivotal influence, menton3 honors Hieronymus Bosch for having such a skilled mastery of symbols that his paintings would take on a transformative nature emulating the ever-changing planes of the subconscious. menton3’s own prowess of iconography was more than obvious this evening. But the understanding of his magnetism and success as an artist came through during his most earnest confession: amidst all the mythology, one of the most recurring motivations in his practice is found in the dialogue of colors, his insatiable fondness for the smell of paint.
“KATABASIS” will be on view from April 19 through May 24. All photos by Soojin Chang.
menton3 with his work.