Walking down a dark stairway at night never made so much sense until the recent opening of Matthew Montecino’s “Reality Strikes Back” series at Division 9 gallery in Riverside. If getting past the day-old urine stench at the foot of the door wasn’t enough of a slap in the face, entering the underground brick-walled downtown space and facing Montecino’s large acrylic and charcoal on wood paintings would definitely knock you out.
The 30-year-old IE resident and recent 2008 Cal State San Bernardino graduate opened his first solo show at Division 9 as a part of the traditional Riverside Arts Walk this month.
“It’s about life in general, stuff that you have to deal with every single day, stuff people have to deal with every single day,” says Montecino. “On the outside, people look a certain way but when you talk to them, they’re deeper.”
The series depicts human emotion through different trials of life, moving away from the smiles and plastic facades and into the innards of human existence with an ’80s hip-hop/skate twist. Through the repetition of words painted in the background of mostly human images, Montecino captures the essence of what goes on behind closed doors, when the cameras are off and no one is watching, narrowing in on the subtle masked emotions of everyday life.
Through paintings as Slick Solo and The Complex, Montecino was able to capture personalities behind exteriors by juxtaposing key words with facial images exemplifying many of San Bernardino’s youths. Soul Side was another piece illustrating youth culture.
A New Years Day rose as a prominent painting in the gallery. The average-looking Joe with an average sweater vest, button-up shirt and tie surrounded by the words “life” looks old, worn and tired. The hints of grey suggest his life was one filled to the brim with the good and bad. And on a sunny day he may even seem content, but during trying times he’s a figure who’s seen enough and still stands tall.
With the recent economy in ruins, many visitors found the series to not only be comforting, but relatable.
“They can relate as a viewer with what they see on the wall, especially with what’s going on right now,” says Division 9 director Cosmé Cordova. “Even down to the materials used; he found the wood or it’s what you can buy at Home Depot.”
But while Montecino’s work is remarkable, there lies within the charcoal lines, cracked wood and faint messages the irony that outlines this whole series and runs parallel to the basic paradox of an artist’s work: The subject that draws in viewers also pushes them away. In Montecino’s case, the recession enhanced many art lovers’ sensitivity to the images of emotions displayed, but they left them in the gallery as they exited.
“A lot of people were interested and said, ‘If I had the money I would buy that,’” says Cordova. Montecino’s work remains at the gallery un-purchased while Cordova keeps faith in the art industry. “[Despite all this], at the low point [artists] tend to produce the most amazing work.”
For Montecino though, vending wasn’t really a goal. “Right now I just want to keep on making original art, keep on putting it out there. I don’t really care about selling, I’d much rather have exposure; I’d rather be a known artist than make money.”
Whether you just got a raise or lost your job of 10 years, Matthew Montecino and Division 9 can definitely provide you with a dose of reality straight through your pupils and into your frontal lobe.
Matthew Montecino’s “Reality Strikes Back” at Division 9 Gallery, 3850 Lemon St. Riverside, (951) 862-5990; www.division9gallery.com. Thru July 2.