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Taj Matumbi

 

Taj Matumbi "Westword"Taj Matumbi "Westword"

October 28 - December 17, 2022

 

Taj Matumbi

Westword

 

Westword


History, pop culture, urban folklore, and improvisation drive my work as an image maker. I’m interested in how this source material translates to shape, text, and color that coalesce into meaning within abstract fields. In recent paintings, I blend formal abstraction with poorly rendered figures that recall my primary school days - an intentionally naive and self-taught drawing approach that allows my subject matter to more fluidly inhabit both real and imagined worlds.

Westword comprises a selection of paintings that evolved amidst Trump’s rise to power, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the explosive civil rights protests that emerged in the wake of George Floyd’s murder by the Minneapolis Police in May of 2020. This period of turmoil prompted a reflective turn inward in my studio practice, resulting in more overt exploration of my identity as an African American through kindred themes of isolation, otherness, trauma, and rites of passage.


- Taj Matumbi, October 2022


 

 

 

 

 

Taj Matumbi "Food Bank"Taj Matumbi "Food Bank"

Taj Matumbi

Food Bank

2020

acrylic and oil pastel on paper on canvas

41.25 by 55.25 in. (104,8 by 140,3 cm)

 

 

 

 

Taj Matumbi "Camouflage Cowboy"Taj Matumbi "Camouflage Cowboy"

Taj Matumbi

Camouflage Cowboy

2020

acrylic and oil stick on fabric

approx 54.5 by 54.5 in. (138,4 by 138,4 cm)

 

 

 

 

Taj Matumbi "Southern Sun"Taj Matumbi "Southern Sun"

Taj Matumbi

Southern Sun

2019

acrylic, spray paint, presto whiteout, vinyl, and felt on canvas

48.25 by 48 in. (122,6 by 121,9 cm)

 

private US collection

 

 

 

 

 

Taj Matumbi "Red Rover"Taj Matumbi "Red Rover"

Taj Matumbi

Red Rover

2020

acrylic and oil stick on paper on canvas

approx. 61 by 63 in. (155 by 160 cm)

 

private US collection

 

 

 

 

 

Taj Matumbi "Cage Free vs. Free Range"Taj Matumbi "Cage Free vs. Free Range"

Taj Matumbi

Cage Free vs. Free Range

2020

acrylic and oil stick on paper on canvas

approx. 59.5 by 60.5 in. (151,1 by 153,7 cm)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taj Matumbi - installation view of Self-Portrait within Parallel Planes at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2021Taj Matumbi - installation view of Self-Portrait within Parallel Planes at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2021

Taj Matumbi - installation view of Self-Portrait within Parallel Planes at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2021

 

 

Self-Portrait within Parallel Planes

My identity forces me to live in between place and space where the imaginary and the real collide. In this series Self Portrait within Parallel Planes, I paint interlocking and overlapping figures that draw into question the boundaries between individual and collective space. Over the last four years, I have developed a painting vernacular made up of iconography that falls between these two junctions.

In exploring inbetweenness, duality of self and the multiple emerged as conceptual parameters for this exhibition. The multiple is a constant change that affects us all, but on a more personal level as a biracial person, I subconsciously and consciously project a version of myself that is fitting to the context of a space. Some refer to this as code-switching or even “passing” which leaves the individual between a space of reality and fiction.

In this body of work, I delve into repetition, motif, and movement through the framework of the multiple to explore narratives surrounding my biography, shadows of myself, and inbetweenness. I grew up skateboarding from a young age in Northern California. Skateboarding was one of my first forms of self-expression. It taught me skills and gave me tools that would later transfer to my painting process. As a skater, I learned the importance of commitment, style, and speed. I approach painting the same way I approached skateboarding, but instead of doing a hundred kickflips, I make multiple versions of the same painting, striving for consistency while embracing variation, in the way each landed kickflip looks both different and the same.

I often feel othered in any given space due to my background and identity, which often contradict assumptions. While I’ve enjoyed many privileges like studying abroad in India or going to grad school for fine art, I also grew up on welfare, and would sometimes busk by doing skateboard tricks for people at my local farmers’ market so my brothers and I could scrounge up enough money for burritos. These are a few biographical examples that highlight the paradoxical nature of my existence.

These contradictions often make me think about possible versions of myself that I am not aware of, and how feeling in between reality and fiction can give airtime to darker aspects of myself often manifesting in forms of self-doubt and sometimes masochism. Carl Jung speaks of shadows as being an unconscious aspect of yourself that can be harmful when left unchecked or ignored. I titled this series of paintings Self Portrait within Parallel Planes to acknowledge my fragmented self and to find healing.

- Taj Matumbi

 

 

 

 

Taj Matumbi "Self-Portrait with Parallel Planes (Grey Scale)"Taj Matumbi "Self-Portrait with Parallel Planes (Grey Scale)"

Taj Matumbi

Self-Portrait with Parallel Planes (Grey Scale)

2021

acrylic and oil stick on canvas

installed approx. 72 by 98 in. (ca. 182,9 by 248,9 cm)

diptych, each individual element approx.  72 by 48 in. (ca. 182,9 by 121,9 cm)

 

 

Taj Matumbi "Self-Portrait with Parallel Planes (Beverly Hills Hunting)"Taj Matumbi "Self-Portrait with Parallel Planes (Beverly Hills Hunting)"

Taj Matumbi

Self-Portrait with Parallel Planes (Beverly Hills Hunting)

2021

acrylic and oil stick on canvas

installed approx. 72 by 98 in. (ca. 182,9 by 248,9 cm)

diptych, each individual element approx.  72 by 48 in. (ca. 182,9 by 121,9 cm)

 

 

Taj Matumbi "Self-Portrait with Parallel Planes (North West Pacific)"Taj Matumbi "Self-Portrait with Parallel Planes (North West Pacific)"

Taj Matumbi

Self-Portrait with Parallel Planes (North West Pacific)

2021

acrylic and oil stick on canvas

installed approx. 72 by 98 in. (ca. 182,9 by 248,9 cm)

diptych, each individual element approx.  72 by 48 in. (ca. 182,9 by 121,9 cm)

 

 

Taj Matumbi "Self-Portrait with Parallel Planes (Miami Vice)"Taj Matumbi "Self-Portrait with Parallel Planes (Miami Vice)"

Taj Matumbi

Self-Portrait with Parallel Planes (Miami Vice)

2021

acrylic and oil stick on canvas

installed approx. 72 by 98 in. (ca. 182,9 by 248,9 cm)

diptych, each individual element approx.  72 by 48 in. (ca. 182,9 by 121,9 cm)

 

 

Taj Matumbi "Self-Portrait with Parallel Planes (Rights of Passage)"Taj Matumbi "Self-Portrait with Parallel Planes (Rights of Passage)"

Taj Matumbi

Self-Portrait with Parallel Planes (Rights of Passage)

2021

acrylic and oil stick on canvas

installed approx. 72 by 98 in. (ca. 182,9 by 248,9 cm)

diptych, each individual element approx.  72 by 48 in. (ca. 182,9 by 121,9 cm)