NOTCOT covers Matthew Grabelsky’s “Underground”

Notcot Grabelsky Feature

Design and lifestyle site NotCot.com featured Matthew Grabelsky’s “Underground” as an exhibit one must see. Grabelsky’s solo exhibition in the Thinkspace Gallery project room is on view until May 21st, Tuesday through Saturday noon to 6pm.

View the full write up on their website.

“His surreal/realistic oil paintings of NYC subway riders reading magazines (and kid’s books) are stunning with a twist… all males are animals! If only they had prints of some of these paintings, the whole show is too stunning to pick from, though Canal Street (tiger reading Car and Driver) is my current favorite…” -NotCot.com

Interview with Matthew Grabelsky for “Underground”

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Thinkspace Gallery is proud to present Matthew Grabelsky’s first solo exhibition with us, Underground, in the gallery’s project room. In anticipation of the show we have an exclusive interview with Matthew Grabelsky sharing with us insight into the anthropomorphic nature of his work, the special place a subway holds in society, and his artistic influences.

Please tell us a lil’ bit about your background?
I come from an artistic family (Father – film and television producer; Mother – dancer), so I’ve been making art for as long as I can remember. I was fortunate that my parents always encouraged and supported me in it. In college, I studied both art and science, and I graduated with a BS in Astrophysics and a BA in Art & Art History. Although I chose to pursue an artistic career, I have found that my scientific background has influenced my work significantly. My paintings are highly technical, and I often employ a scientific, analytical approach (knowledge of light, perspective, physics, etc.) in creating my images, both in terms of conception and execution. After graduating from college, I moved to Florence, Italy, where I spent four years studying representational painting. Afterward, I lived in Paris for several years, where I continued to paint and studied from the vast troves of art in the Paris museums. I currently reside in Los Angeles.

Matthew Grabelsky Franklin Street

Why the representational use of animal heads in your work?
I’ve always loved animals and mythology, as a result of being exposed extensively to both as a child. My parents were always taking me to the zoo and spent tons of time reading all kinds of stories to me. As I grew older, I became enthralled with the ways in which mythologies from different cultures make use of animal and animal-human hybrid characters to symbolize the mysterious nature of the subconscious.

These creatures in my paintings serve to inject an element of surrealism into one of the most commonplace experiences of life and of New York (e.g., public transportation). The characters are symbolic of the kinds of thoughts that lie under the surface of people’s minds, and they reveal that the most extraordinary can exist in the most ordinary of everyday settings. This theme is communicated through the juxtaposition of these ostensibly irrational images with otherwise completely mundane scenes. My idea is that my creatures are not original but are ultimately part of a much larger cultural continuum. My paintings are not intended to be explicit fantasy; rather, they are representations of the subconscious on which viewers are invited to form their own interpretations.

Couples seem to play an important role in your work. Care to elaborate?
In an image of a pair of people, the body language and the relationship of a couple are momentarily frozen. I am fascinated by the story-telling possibilities that spring from this moment.

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Any significance to the fact your subjects are often times found reading?
I like to have my subjects reading (magazines, newspapers, books, smart phones) because that provides a vivid and detailed point of interest in the painting, from which I create an entrance into the narrative that is taking place between the couple. Sometimes I’ll choose more serious fare like The New Yorker or The New York Times, and sometimes I’ll choose something from contemporary pop culture, like Cosmopolitan or GQ; the choice depends on the subject matter. I love to juxtapose the medium of a very polished and refined oil painting with the momentary, disposable pop culture that is represented by the reading material. The result is a fascinating mixture of high-brow and low-brow.

The magazines, in particular, are kind of amazing from a very base psychological standpoint; even if you think they are ridiculous, the covers are vividly designed with color, images, and text that grab your attention. You can’t not look at them at the check-out counter at the supermarket. In a sense, they similarly utilize the heightened visual language that I use in creating paintings that attempt to grab viewers and bring them into the world of my paintings.

Why do only the men have animal heads in your paintings?
My paintings are very personal. Therefore, I enter them through the perspective of a man, and I imagine scenes through a man’s eyes. The male figure is my avatar, while I view the female figure externally. The female figures are representative of the different women in my life. People have asked if I am saying that all men are animals. That is not my intention. If you look into world mythologies, you will discover that it is almost always the male who has an animal head. Two examples that come to mind are the bull-headed minotaur in Greek mythology and Ganesh, with an elephant head, in Indian mythology. Thus, I believe that representing the male with an animal head furthers my goal of tying my paintings into the larger continuum of world mythology.

Matthew Grabelsky Houston Street. Underground

How do you choose your models?
My models are all friends and family members. I really enjoy working with people I know well, because that helps me to capture a sense of realism in my characters. Using actual couples provides a kind of dynamism, which comes from the manners in which the couples pose. Generally, I’ll give them some instructions on what I want them to be doing, but the real spark comes from how they react to each other and their particular body language.

How do you choose the animal that you’ll feature?
I have my models pose in my studio, and I shoot a bunch of reference photos. Then, I review the photos and pick the most interesting ones. Sometimes I’ll have had a particular idea in mind for the painting, along with which animal I want to use. Other times, a certain pose, expression, look, gesture, or item of clothing will suggest a specific animal. There are times during which I’ll try several different animals, and then one will just pop.

Matthew Grabelsky Subway WIP

Why have you chosen the subway as your setting?
The subway is the circulatory system of New York. It’s a place where everyone comes together. No matter who you are, you will be on the subway at some point during the day. It is iconic and instantly recognizable. I grew up in New York, and I spent countless hours riding the subway. Although I live in Los Angeles now, my imagination puts me back on those trains whenever I think of my past. I often visit New York, but I find that painting these scenes while I am away from there gives me a form of clarity and allows me to reflect on that inspiration and organize it into my subway scenes. Memory is essential to my process; as an artist, I take different elements from my memory and combine them in an image.

Any major influences you care to share?
I draw a great deal of influence from painters and filmmakers who mix surrealism with realism. A few painters that have an outsize influence in my work are Arnold Böcklin and John William Waterhouse – both 19th-century artists – particularly because of the naturalism (rather than an allegorical approach) with which they paint mythological subjects. As for filmmakers, my absolute favorites are Terry Gilliam (12 Monkeys), Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth), and David Lynch (Mulholland Drive).

Additionally, I am always looking at imagery wherever I go (ads, billboards, magazines, film, etc.), and I draw ideas from everything I see.

Matthew Grabelsky Lincoln Center Underground

Care to elaborate any more on your style and technique?
My technique is highly realistic and heavily influenced by my studies of 19th-century academic and naturalist painters. These methods appeal to me, because of their rigorous approaches to accurately capturing visual appearances. Using those paintings as a jumping-off point, I’ve developed a visual language that allows me to create personal contemporary compositions. While people often describe my work as hyperrealist, my goal is to portray light, form, and texture very realistically but not to the level of microscopic detail, such as the pores of the skin.

I chose this technique because I want to depict my surrealistic elements in a manner that is so realistic that you feel like you are actually sitting on the subway with these creatures; even though they are fantastical, the realism and candor with which they are painted makes you forget that fact. At the same time, I arrange the figures, backgrounds, and colors in specific ways, in order to provide the sense of a heightened moment. It is like a snapshot that just happens to capture the moment when everything lines up perfectly. My paintings are executed in oil and currently I paint on panels.

Matthew Grabelsky WIP 3 Underground

Please join us this Saturday, April 30th from 6-9pm for the opening reception of Matthew Grabelsky’s, “Underground.” All additional information on the exhibition can be found on the Thinkspace Gallery website.

Upcoming at Thinkspace Gallery, Matthew Grabelsky’s Project Room Solo Exhibition “Underground”

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Matthew Grabelsky: Underground
April 30, 2016 – May 21, 2016

Concurrently on view in the Thinkspace project room is Underground, featuring new oil paintings by Los Angeles-based artist Matthew Grabelsky. His works combine a hyperrealistic painting technique with a surreal penchant for unlikely juxtapositions. Raised in New York City, Grabelsky uses its subway’s underground world as the setting for his unlikely pairings.

Grabelsky’s works depict couples on subways, often nonchalantly reading magazines or newspapers, but the male figures in these dyads are strange, quasi-mythological human hybrids with animal heads. Deer, bears, elephants, tigers, and everything in between, make a suited appearance in rush hour. By contrasting the platitudes of the day-to-day with the presence of the extraordinary and unlikely, Grabelsky stages the unexpected within the most unassuming of circumstances.

The appearance of the animal head feels distantly totemic, an archetype for something primordial, ancient, and psychologically motivated. Fascinated by the persistence of animal imagery in mythology and communal cultural imaginaries, Grabelsky superimposes its presence onto his depictions of the contemporary world. For the artist, the animal becomes a manifestation of the inner workings of the hidden subconscious, literally revealing the latent identities and motivations lurking beyond the composure of the human mask.

Technically inspired by 19th Century academic and naturalist painters, Grabelsky creates these unlikely, surreal scenes with a staggering degree of realistic detail. The contrast created between the visual verisimilitude of the works, and the surreal improbability of their content catches the viewer in a prolonged moment of convincingly suspended disbelief.

Matthew Grabelsky Postcard

Opening Night of Gumbo, Beautanica, and Contenders

Thinkspace hosted a gallery full of art lovers for the opening night of Gumbo, Beautanica, and Contenders. Gumbo is a group exhibition featuring works by Alex Yanes, James Bullough, Matthew Grabelsky, Ryan Hewett, Sergio Garcia, Troy Coulterman and Troy Lovegates. A diverse group of artists that reflect the diversity of our steadily expanding gallery roster. It’s a fantastic exhibition showing various styles, from sculpture to figurative abstract portraiture. Australian artist Bec Winnel exhibited her new work in our project room, featuring ethereal beauties who mesmerized guests. Forcing collectors to stare on, torn between which pieces to purchase. And sold out before doors opened, Brian Mashburn’s new work for ‘Contender’ is a captivating teaser for his upcoming show in July.
You can view all the photos from the opening night on Flickr or Facebook. The exhibitions are on view from April 25 through May 16 during gallery hours.


Above photos and all opening night photography is by photographer Sam Graham.

An Interview with Matthew Grabelsky for GUMBO

Matthew Grabelsky Brooklyn Bound Gumbo

A short but sweet interview with Matthew Grabelsky for his upcoming show ‘GUMBO’ at Thinkspace Gallery. ‘GUMBO’ will be featuring new pieces from seven Thinkspace artists who all bring a different style, voice, and flavor to their art. GUMBO opens Saturday April 25th from 6-9pm, and will be on view till May 16th. 

SH: What artist in the upcoming ‘Gumbo’ show would you want to collaborate with and why?
MG: Alex Yanes because his speaker piece was amazing.

SH: When do you get the most work done; morning, noon, or night?
MG: Usually between noon and midnight.

SH: In three words, describe your artwork.
MG: Subway, Animals, Surreal.

SH: How long does it take you to finish a piece? What is your processes?
MG: Depends on the size and complexity – generally between 2 weeks and 2 months. I start with a general idea and then have friends come and model to work out the composition. I sketch it out in pencil and then attack it in oil painting in a couple of layers.

Matthew Grabelsky Gumbo Back Uptown

SH: Do you remember the first time you showed your work to the public? Where was it?
MG: 6th grade. My art teacher organized a show in the lobby of a big bank in NYC and included this crazy mixed media fantasy animal sculpture I made.

SH: Do you have any wise words for a fledgling artist who admires your work?
MG: Figure out what you want to do, master your craft, create something personal and original.

SH Bonus question: Speaking of gumbo, have you ever been to New Orleans? If so, tell us a tale! If not, tell us another tale.
MG: The last time I was in New Orleans I ate at a restaurant called N’awlins. When I told a local about it she was amazed how well I pronounced the name which confused me. It wasn’t until I got home that I realized N’awlins was how locals pronounce New Orleans.

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Group Exhibition GUMBO Opens Saturday April 25, 2015

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Gumbo – Alex Yanes, James Bullough, Matthew Grabelsky, Ryan Hewett, Sergio Garcia, Troy Coulterman, Troy Lovegates

Opening Reception: Saturday April 25th 6-9pm
On view April 25, 2015 – May 16, 2015

Thinkspace is pleased to present Gumbo, a group exhibition featuring works by Alex Yanes, James Bullough, Matthew Grabelsky, Ryan Hewett, Sergio Garcia, Troy Coulterman and Troy Lovegates. A truly divergent group of Thinkspace artists, the show reflects the steadily expanding diversity of the gallery’s roster. Firmly forward-looking, while ambitiously setting the pace for the New Contemporary movement, these artists have phenomenal contributions to make and are consistently raising the standard. Gumbo is an exciting grouping of the gallery’s contrasting visions, personalities and media.

Alex Yanes creates whimsical multi-dimensional works, inspired by everything from subculture to his recent initiation into fatherhood. Based out of Miami, a vibrant urban culture that sings through his aesthetic, Yanes creates installation based pieces out of wood, acrylic, resin and enamel. With hyper-saturated colors and contrasts, immaculately finished surfaces and electric energy, Yanes’ spatial installations and objects command a physical and experiential presence. They combine a graphic sensibility, drawn from his formative years immersed in tattoo, rock, hip-hop and skateboard cultures, and an imaginative expansiveness that transforms the familiar into something entirely new. Elevated by an undeniable vibrance and individuality, his stylized works feel like living things.

James Bullough is an American born artist living and working in Berlin, Germany. His paintings, and huge monumentally scaled site-specific murals, are phenomenal combinations of realist painting technique and graphic punctuation. Inspired by gritty urban graffiti as a young artist growing up in Washington, DC, Bullough harnessed its energy in his work, and perfected a realistic oil painting technique from his study of the Old Masters. Combining the momentum of the one and the technical precision of the other, his work is about staging compelling contrasts and juxtapositions. Working in everything from oil, spray paint and ink on canvas, Bullough’s paintings strike a balance between realistic figurations and stylized interruption. Disjointing the realistic elements with graphic areas and fractured or striated planes, Bullough intends to challenge the viewer’s perception.

Matthew Grabelsky’s implausible, and wonderfully fantastic, paintings depict surreal manifestations of the subconscious in unlikely urban contexts. Influenced by 19th century French Academic painting, his technical sophistication and refinement contribute to the delightful contrast of these unlikely scenes and humorous mixed-reality paintings. In his recent body of work the New York City subways are invaded by quasi-mythical creatures, part human and part beast, or surreal appearances by other wonderful grotesques. In these otherwise unassuming daily scenes of public transit, Grabelsky inserts a cast of characters borrowed from fairytale and the zoo, delighting in the absurd and the impossible. Intending his work to inspire sub-conscious free association in his viewers, Grabelsky plays with context and expectation.

Ryan Hewett approaches portraiture with an expressive and painterly aesthetic. Pursuing the capture of energy rather than the practice of verisimilitude, the South African artist has a distinctive painting style that seizes the energy and observed experience of his sitters. With loosely layered surfaces that emanate depth, light and dimension, Hewett creates emotive and passionate representations that embrace the materiality and texture of his medium. Working with oil paints, his figurative impressions align themselves with the tumultuous tradition of expressionism. With rich hues and suggestive glimpses, his works are intense painterly interpretations of the body.

Sergio Garcia is inspired by the unconventional and the creative subconscious. The Texas based painter and sculptor, constructs works that are surreal combinations that place familiar situations and objects in extraordinary circumstances. A Hyperrealist in the truest sense, his sculptural works are uncannily true to life and play with the viewer’s spatial and contextual expectations. Wonderfully bizarre, they transform the mundane into fantastic phenomena, and encourage mind-boggling encounters in unexpected spaces. Similarly, his paintings offer whimsically unexpected combinations and creatively evocative scenes, inspiring free association and speculative wonder.

Troy Coulterman, Canadian artist, creates resin sculptures that seem like graphic novel or comic book characters come to life. Rich with suggestion, Coulterman artfully conveys ideas, metaphors and themes with graphic concision, capturing extensive narrative moments in a single sculptural body or gesture. Inspired by graphics and comic books, his cast of wonderfully bizarre characters emote and convey with exciting presence. As three-dimensional objects that read partly as animation come to life, and partly as dimensional drawing, they command our attention with an unrelenting pull. Distinctly human in their emotive power, but clearly other in their wonderful absurdity, his figures are captivating.

Troy Lovegates, widely known as “Other”, creates ambitious large-scale mural works with precision and detail. A street artist from Canada, his works are heavily patterned, saturated with hyper color, and incomparably dense and rich. With an impressive attention to detail and line, Lovegates builds figures and motifs through heavily condensed mark making. The figures in his work are wonderfully exaggerated and poetic, sympathetically drawn from equal parts caricature and realistic observation. His smaller format works are executed in several materials, ranging from weathered wood, books, paper and linoleum cuts. Self-described as an artist who enjoys the chaos of simultaneity and messy working conditions, Lovegates is constantly revising and adapting previous efforts, reintegrating them into current bodies of work that reflect the history of their making.