Matti Braun
La Ku
May 13 – June 24, 2023

German-Finnish artist Matti Braun traces the intersection of research obscurities, exquisite materiality, and conceptual art to create richly beautiful paintings and objects that address understudied and unseen narratives of cross-cultural exchange and slippage. His inquiries have generated new understandings of catalytic 20th century figures including legendary Bengali filmmaker Satyajit Ray and Senegal’s first president Léopold Sédar Senghor, as well as of the history and transmission of batik, and cultural icons including E.T., among other global sci-fi tropes. For his latest exhibition La Ku at OMR, Braun draws upon these and other threads to offer new directions in his long-standing exploration of silk and glass.

Braun thrives on polysemy and narratological misunderstandings, including in the fleeting appearance that he is simply a virtuosic abstract painter and object maker. Under this surface, Braun approaches his work scientifically, even alchemically, while valuing the poetics of grace and chance. His technical processes generate unique compositional and color constellations to reveal the potential of various grounds and mediums, evoking the oblique and rhizomatic histories that he references. He has returned time and again to glass and silk, in part for how they reflect and absorb light, and honoring their importance and ubiquity across cultures and times. Braun’s works in these materials also challenge conventional categorizations and hierarchies of painting, sculpture, and craft. The silk works are ensconced in German Elm (a departure from aluminum for the first time), inhabiting a space between two and three dimensions; and the glass orbs, produced in collaboration with a traditional Bavarian workshop, transform a silhouette traditionally held to the realm of decorative arts into conceptual abstract sculptures (though they also allude to human and alien heads and eyes, as well as to world-making). The orbs sit on circular tables made of Mexican Ash, an abundant native tree species that partially approximates endangered Elm.

Braun’s experiments with varied scales among the silk works in this exhibition show the dramatic power of the miniature and reflect on the complex relationships between the human and cosmic. These silks also reflect two different formal approaches: one marked by seamless saturated gradients and the other by bold colors layered into painterly, fluid patches. The latter structure is evocative of oil-filled “space fidgits,” a novelty children’s toy popular in the 1970s and 80s. Through the handheld memory of an often-leaking plaything, a record of the vibrant palette of a moment, we return to moon landings and long-sought independences, a metonym of the end of modernism.

–Text by Beth Citron