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Matthew Hansel "Giving Up The Ghost" at The Hole

What does it mean to reproduce an old Dutch master painting and place it in a contemporary art gallery?  To go even further, how does a complete manipulation of these classic images affect our perception of what art is and the overall discipline of art history?  Artist Matthew Hansel proposes these questions in his new exhibition, “Giving Up the Ghost”, at The Hole on the Lower East Side.  With bright green oceans, misshapen canvases, and half painted images, Hansel creates a visually stunning array of unusual oil paintings, and due to the stark, enveloping whiteness of The Hole’s interior, Hansel’s paintings are even more striking and immediately attract viewers.


As we are pulled in by these distorted canvases, our own knowledge of art history is called upon as we see the familiar characteristics of European still lifes such as lobsters, lemon peels, and jugs of ale, but in such an unfamiliar form.  We inevitably wonder about this intentional disfiguration, in which Hansel creates conversation amongst viewers as he takes our "misremembered museum memories into a new era of imagery”. He achieves this new kind of imagery with modern technology, therefore manipulating this renowned canon of art history with mediums of the contemporary art canon today.

As a result of Hansel’s thoughtful manipulation and creative eye, we’re able to experience the work of old Dutch masters in a more playful manner, rid of the usual stuffiness that corresponds with such an esteemed era.  Most significantly, Hansel challenges the convention of the square, symmetrical canvas as he manipulates it into unusual shapes, or at times, leaves half of it blank; this creates the illusion of the painting as still loading, a convention that we are only too familiar with today.

Who ever thought that such serious paintings by Flemish masters could appear to resemble a half downloaded photo on Instagram or look almost psychedelic?  Don’t miss Hansel’s reconfiguration and modern view of these images, as he participates in a much needed ressassment in our understanding of art history.

Contributor Chloe K.