Los Angeles-based artist Matthew Monahan (American, born 1972) works in a variety of media, including drawing, painting, printmaking, and sculpture, often assembling all these media and modes into singular three-dimensional works of art. A graduate of Cooper Union School of Art in New York City and the intensive independent artist training program, De Ateliers, in Amsterdam, Monahan has been an integral part of a prominent new generation of artists living and working in Los Angeles that includes Aaron Curry, Thomas Houseago, Elliott Hundley, and Lara Schnitger among its cohort. His work is widely recognized for having reimagined and revivified the genre of figurative sculpture, often suggesting ancient sources from the art historical and literary past yet contending with Modernism and speaking to the present human condition. This exhibition celebrates the recent gifts to the Nasher of five important works by Monahan.
Monahan’s sculptures also reconsider traditional elements of museum presentation as evocative aspects of the work of art. Recalling the work of Constantin Brancusi (French, born Romania, 1876–1957), Monahan’s assemblages incorporate their supports—open boxes supporting figures, or pedestals made of drywall over wood frames, some clad in sheets of glass strapped to them—as integral parts of the work of art.
Although the recent gifts on view here are the first works of the artist to enter the Nasher Collection, Monahan’s work is not new to the Nasher Sculpture Center. His sculpture played a prominent role in the exhibition, Statuesque, presented in the Nasher Garden in 2011. Last year, however, the Nasher received several extraordinary gifts of important work by Monahan from collectors across the country. Such impressive largesse was due in part to the Nasher’s reputation as a leading museum uniquely dedicated to modern and contemporary sculpture, but also to our Director Jeremy Strick’s early support of Monahan’s career: the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (MOCA LA), mounted Monahan’s first solo museum presentation in 2007 when Strick was the director there. Comprising five sculptures (one a promised gift not shown here) and one drawing, the gifts to the Nasher represent different phases in the artist’s career, from important early breakthroughs to large-scale assemblages. Each of the works connects with the others and with numerous objects by other artists also represented in the Nasher Collection.