Spring Northampton SMARTtalk: Chess Mastery

Smart Talk by Matt Johmson

Matt Johnson's Chess Set

Detail of Matthew Johnson's massive chess set

Detail of Matthew Johnson's massive chess set

'Portal' by sculptor Matthew Evald Johnson

SMARTtalk Logo

Chess Mastery

Matthew Evald Johnson

Take warriors from ancient Greece, put them in an epic battle with Medieval knights, and add the imagination of metal sculptor Matthew Evald Johnson – and you have “Chess Mastery”! The subject of Johnson’s furniture and sculpture, regardless of its figurative or non-figurative qualities, is always the assemblage and manipulation of raw materials reclaimed from the urban-industrial environment. He says, “I hope to merge grace and brutality to produce an unexpected object that not only records my personal involvement with the process but also retains some of the force from what it once was.”

Johnson’s sculpture has often used mythology as its muse. Whether it is a twelve-foot-tall “Gorgon” or a pedestal-scale “Sisyphus”, each work shows a tension between narration and his love for the manipulation of the medium. His “Smart Talk” promises to be educational, entertaining and, given his outsize personality, maybe a little raucous!

He writes, “I made my first chess set, which was titled “Classicus vs. Medievalus” in 2016, fulfilling a plan that had been in my head probably my entire life. Inspired by a longtime interest in myth and folklore, I began by sculpting the thirty two outsized figures that would comprise this monumental work. I wound up creating an environment that enhanced the actual interaction of the players, with all of the supporting structures and accoutrements underscoring the feeling of an epic battle between a crudely classical cast of characters and a crudely medieval cast.”

“I am currently working on a new set, titled “Titanomachy!”, referring to ancient Greek cosmogenesis mythology. It will also be an oversized set re-imagining and celebrating gods and monsters that occupied another specific era of ancient humanity. The board itself is Thessaly, the land between Mount Othrys and Mount Olympus, a battleground that will be held aloft by four different columned Atlases that comprise the legs and structure of the table. There will be many direct references to interpretations by artists throughout history (for example; Chronos, Zeus’s father and enemy, calls upon one of my favorite Goya paintings “Saturn Eating His Children”).”

Johnson sold “Classicus vs. Medievalus” at the Paradise City show in Northampton, MA last spring. These sets command his primary attention for around six months at a time, during the phases of conceptualizing, researching, sketching and fabrication. “Titanomachy” will be on display at Paradise City in Northampton, MA on Memorial Day Weekend. Johnson’s work can also be seen in the permanent collections of the Clifton Sculpture Park Art Center, Clifton, NJ, The Harborside Financial Center, Jersey City, NJ, Fulton Ferry State Park, Brooklyn, NY and the Museum of New Art, Detroit, MI.

A Paradise City “Smart Talk” on Chess Mastery will be scheduled each day at Matthew Johnson’s Booth 331.