Matthew Ronay’s art occupies a space where illustration, tableau, sculpture, and installation all intersect in harmonious indifference to one another. Beginning in 2004, his arrangements of discreet, colorful, mutated objects evoked wild manifestations of surrealist imagination and hallucinogenically induced visions, with distended narratives designed to provoke or even outrage viewers through their irreconcilable compositions and outrageous imagery, such as drooping anuses skewered on a pole. Indeed, like Dada and Surrealist artists earlier in the 20th century and American Funk musicians of the 1970s, whose work employed metanarrative, metaphor, provocation, and fantasy as devices for addressing human behavior in times of social upheaval, Ronay’s work has been a manifesto of the spirit, screaming back at us with pieces that suggest that fear, pain, and violence have replaced pleasure in a society increasingly indifferent to war and terrorism.
His more recent work might seem like an abrupt departure from these more sensational projects. Brightly colored cartoonish objects have been replaced by muted organic elements rendered in earth tones. Their Primitivist aesthetic shares more with early works by Louise Bourgeois or Martin Puryear than they do with the cartoon antics of Ren and Stimpy. But while the look and feel of his work has shifted, the core concerns have not. If anything, now Ronay has stripped away the elements that link people and things to a specific time and place and has uncovered at a more naked reality, where universal truths might be said to be incapable of disguise.
For his testsite project, the artist will make his first foray into performance. While he can be said to have flirted with it in the past, such as his collaboration with Nathan Carter in the hardcore band, the Final Run-ins, which combined the two artists’ visual acumen with original songs and music, this is the first time the artist is experimenting with costume and engagement. His piece will consist of a discreet period of interaction with visitors during the exhibition’s opening, where he will don a costume he has been working on for the occasion and will inhabit a blacked-out space and encourage viewers to physically explore him. It is an experimental foray into what might become a more resolved fusion of sculptural and performative elements into environmental or installation works. But for now, Ronay just invites you to cop a feel.
Artpace San Antonio