Memphis, TN | Painting, Sculpture, Mixed Media, Printmaking, Drawing, Sound, Performance, Installation
Lawrence Matthews is an artist from Memphis, TN working in music, photography, painting and filmmaking. Matthews received his B.F.A. from The University of Memphis in 2014. Since being awarded the Arts Accelerator grant in 2016, Matthews has had many group and solo exhibitions spanning galleries and museums across the mid-south as well as the residency program at Crosstown Arts. His exploration of photography has focused on areas and moments within black communities in Memphis that have been greatly affected by gentrification, systematic disenfranchisement and city planning. Recently acquired by international artist Derek Fordjour and The Kim & Elliot Perry Collection Matthews’ photo work captures moments of openness and the haunting reminders of things that once were, highlighting the conflict between remanence of the past and the modern-day city imposed infrastructural decay. As the former Gallery Director, Program Director and Curator of TONE, Matthews has led impactful programming and exhibitions providing opportunities for black artists in the Memphis area.
My work is a glimpse into the experiences and circumstances of African Americans throughout history. My work reveals the peculiar history and circumstances of African Americans, as well as addresses the lack of attempts to understand people of color. This work is being created from the point of view of a young black man, who grew up with constant awareness of his “otherness”. Being raised in an all white neighborhood, being told by kids parents that I couldn’t play with their children, as well as having my home vandalized multiple times, informed me that I was different. Being the only black student in class, followed in stores, being followed and harassed by police, only made me more aware of my race and societal limitations.
I bring my experiences and the experiences of others into this work and the work I choose to create. My goal is to not only provide a new life and audience to these stories and appropriated historical images but also to educate and draw similarities to modern injustices. Using book pages from African American authors, scholars and activists, I construct a collaged surface upon which I paint these images. The paintings are graphic and appear to be created on found wood and aged book pages. I use black oil paint to bring out the weight and bleakness of the situations being painted, and watercolor to create the allusion of aged book pages and photographs. Varying series to series I expand into photography, performance, installation and the use of found objects and vintage technology.
My work holds a mirror to the ignored past of this country. These projects are about emotion, hope, pain, suffering, love, hate, sadness and anger. My goal is for the history to be felt. From police brutality to poverty and other issues plaguing the African American community, I hope to create work that puts one in that moment in time. For viewers of all races, the work allows one to confront topics that are uncomfortable with the goal of creating a dialogue which can open minds and educate on all sides. My art is facing our own reality, our own past, and communicating that if we choose to ignore it, we are doomed to repeat it.