Matthew Ritchie

Andrea Rosen Gallery, through Sat 28

“The Universal Adversary”

“The Universal Adversary” Photograph courtesy Andrea Rosen Gallery

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>0/5

Matthew Ritchie opens his show with a big bang. Posting a quote from the book of Ezekiel on the facade of the gallery, he sums up his omnifarious approach: their appearance and their work was as if a wheel within a wheel. In Ritchie’s polymath practice—which spans painting, digital animation and sculpture as drawing-in-space—religion joins string theory, noir fiction, neuroscience, gambling, alchemy and politics as fodder for art. Czanne had apples; Ritchie has too much information.

The show’s title, “The Universal Adversary,” is lifted from a Homeland Security list of the top 15 national threats (the phrase also dovetails neatly with Ritchie’s interest in game theory). The work follows somber suit. A 30-foot, black-steel lattice looms overhead like a cloud-darkened sky. Climb a circular staircase and you’ll loom over it, viewing a round video animation encased in the steel. (Seen from below, it looks like a giant eye). Back on earth (read: downstairs) there’s a 42-foot lightbox and four giant paintings of gaunt figures in celadon waters dwarfed by roiling skies. They’re marked with hand-scrawled equations and cryptic phrases like ghost operator. Gone are the veiny blues and corpuscular reds of previous paintings, replaced by a Polke-like palette of ochre and rust.

This is the most ambitious, cohesive and controlled show New Yorkers have seen from the artist, but also, paradoxically, the most subdued. Ritchie’s commanding grasp of materials and mythos could stand to be loosened, upping the ante on his already high-stakes game. — Andrea K. Scott