Brent Green: Perpetual and furious refrain / MATRIX 232
May 2, 2010 - September 12, 2010
Download the exhibition brochure (PDF).
We do things for reasons even we don’t understand. We may think our motivations are love or safety, but really they may be fear, or denial, or the fact that without doing something we feel powerless. Leonard Wood did something incredible: he built a house by hand, but not a normal house—a house chaotically filled up with rooms, some with twenty-three-foot ceilings, some with floors placed halfway up the doors to other rooms, so you had to hoist yourself inside. He started building this house when his wife Mary was diagnosed with cancer; he built it for her, and in his mind maybe it was a healing machine with colored panes of glass to affect her health; maybe it was a secular cathedral, built to invoke a miracle from God; maybe it was his own therapy, to help him cope with such an unbearable loss. Maybe it was all of those things or none of those things. But he kept building it, even after she died, and he kept talking to Mary, yearning to be reunited.
Brent Green also built a house by hand; actually, he built a whole movie set, with houses, crashed cars, kinetic props, wooden stars that hang on wires, and a giant crescent moon that glows through its balsa wood form, all to make a film inspired by Leonard. Of course Green’s reasons for making the film aren't that simple, since when we tell stories about other people, we are telling stories not only about how we see the world, but also about ourselves and our own obsessions. Green has always been a builder, a sculptor who is also an inventor, building pianos from scratch or constructing hand-crank animation machines. This interest in building ties to an interest in movement, manifested in kinetic sculptures that move to produce sound and image, or in animated films that involve moving objects and images frame by frame to build narratives. More poetically, Green engages movement through emotion, crafting fables from the details of curious biographies like Leonard Wood’s, and revealing underlying fascinations with death and spirituality, love and obsession, things that define our humanity.
Green’s MATRIX show coincides with the completion and premiere of Gravity Was Everywhere Back Then, his first feature film, in which the urgent gothic aesthetic of his hand-drawn animation marries for the first time with stop-motion animation of actors. Music is integral to Green’s films, and the narrative is advanced not only through passages of dialogue, but through the score, composed and performed with a loose band of musical collaborators, and its interplay with Green’s own kind of personal exposition delivered in a manner somewhere between a lunatic preacher and Tom Waits. Green is also making sculptures, not props per se, but objects that extend the narrative of Leonard Wood’s spiritual obsessions with sound, including a giant thirteen-voice choir, figures that sing from a sound machine based on Thomas Edison’s early wax cylinder recorders, and a series of smaller animation machines crafted from sewing trestles and accordions.
Brent Green was born in 1978 and lives and works in a barn in Cressona, Pennsylvania. His work has been a regular feature at Sundance, and received acclaim at the Hammer Museum, Wexner Center for the Arts, Walker Art Center, and Getty Museum of Art. Gravity premieres at the IFC Center in New York in early May 2010; upcoming screenings and exhibitions in 2010 include MoMA, New York; SITE Santa Fe Biennial; Diverse Works, Houston; and Arizona State University Art Museum. Brent Green is a 2005 Creative Capital grant recipient.
Phyllis Wattis MATRIX Curator
The MATRIX Program at the UC Berkeley Art Museum is made possible by a generous endowment gift from Phyllis C. Wattis; The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts; and the continued support of the BAM/PFA Trustees.