Matt Rota – Artist Spotlight (The National Arts Club, NYC 2013)


Matt is a New York-born artist who lives and works in New York City. He was interviewed by a fellow artist Rob Zeller at the National Arts Club on January 17, 2013. The theme of the event is Nocturnes: Romancing the Night. His works can be seen at his web site:

About the exhibition:
WHERE: The National Arts Club (15 Gramercy Park South, New York, NY 10003) (212) 475-3424
Grand Gallery, January 17 – 30, 2013
WHEN: Opening Reception: Thursday, January 17, 6:00PM – 9:00PM

The genre “nocturne painting” is attributed to James Abbott McNeill Whistler who used the term to describe paintings that depicted night scenes or subjects blurred in a veil of twilight. The style privileged a dreamy, pensive mood which Whistler heightened by christening his works with terms associated with music such “symphony”, “harmony”, “study” or “arrangement” – these terms foregrounded the works tonal qualities and compositional strategies while de-emphasizing the narrative content. In northern Europe, the Dutch Golden Age produced one of the greatest artists of all time.

In keeping with this season, and its short days and long nights, the NAC has brought together a group of well known mid-career artists and their emerging prodigies who, like Whistler have endeavored to explore the hither world between light and darkness. Odd Nerdrum heads this procession; a celebrated figurative painter of immense beauty and timeless mystery, his painterly style recalls the American Tonalist movement of the late 19th century and early 20th century which was characterized by soft, diffused light, muted tones and hazy outlined objects, all of which imbued the works with a strong sense of mood. In this twilight dreamscape, Nerdrum situates a tribe of migrating nomads whose circuitous wanderings is a symbolic night-sea journey—or a lost generation’s 40 year haul across a barren desert.

A similar limbo awaits Steven Assael’s figures – in this instance brides and club kids caught in the act of becoming. Collapsing formalist device with narrative intent, Assael brings his figures to half-life with form building paint strokes that read like shards of light. Open and pulsating, they rally against the darkness – a fathomless murk that is as deep as the night is long.

Totemic animals, animated by firelight, and seemingly racing across dank cavernous walls, inspire the mixed media paintings created by artist and illustrator Marshall Arisman. Imagined to be like cave walls, once thought of as permeable skins separating the living from the dead, Arisman’s paintings traffic imagery that privileges ancestral worship, myth and magic—the visual language of the night.

Lastly, “Nocturnes” does not necessarily mean dark and foreboding; Bo Bartlett reaches for the sublime with his painting of winsome maidens drifting off in quiet slumber. Other participating artists include Beth Carter, Jefferson Haman, Alexandra Pacula, Richard T. Scott, Alexander Rokoff, Martin Wittfooth, Rob Zeller, And Jason Yarmosky.




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