And….CUT! An Artist Profile of Matt Lipps
Matt Lipps’ work is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. In his own words, his practice is “in, with and alongside photography.” On the one hand, he is a prime example of a contemporary appropriation artist, similar to Thomas Mailaender, Penelope Umbrico, Corinne Vionnet, Willem Popelier and Mishka Henner. But unlike the aforementioned, Lipp bypasses the Internet and only makes use of printed sources. Moreover, he falls back on analogue methods and archaic forms of presentation in his practice. He also reuses iconic photographic imagery, thereby adding a new layer of meaning to these pictures.
Lipps combines three interesting principles in his practice. First of all, he appropriates images from various ‘analogue’ sources. For his series ‘70s for example, he meticulously cut out pictures of naked gay men published in porn magazines of that particular era. He then carefully placed them in an intimate setting by draping bed linen around them and theatrically lighting them before capturing them with a camera. In his series HORIZON/S he uses imagery from the publication Horizon. This was a highbrow magazine that ran from the late 1950 to the late 1980s with the aim to educate its readers on the icons of cultural and art history. By crowding the cut outs into a small space against a colourful background, Lipps creates a lively diorama. For both projects he comfortably positions himself in the director’s chair, directing the protagonists in their roles, steering them towards their designated positions. But he is also the set designer responsible for all the props on stage.
A recurring characteristic in Lipps’ work is the tension between the two-dimensional flat surface of the final image and the cut outs within it, and the three-dimensional space in which the cut outs are positioned.
Second, Lipps makes use of the flexibility of collages and cabinets of curiosity as organising principles. In his series Home he combines photographs of the interior of his parents’ house with details cut from Ansel Adams’ seminal pictures of imposing American landscapes such as the Yosemite Valley. In Library he makes use of cabinets of curiosity, a concept dating back to the Renaissance. Armchair intellectuals collected items that aroused their interests and displayed them on their shelves. They did this to sate their own curiosity, but also to show off their intellectuality and their broad range of scientific interests. For this particular project Lipps plundered Time-Life publications that ran from 1970-1972 and that specifically dealt with photography. A recurring characteristic in Lipps’ work is the tension between the two-dimensional flat surface of the final image and the cut outs within it, and the three-dimensional space in which the cut outs are positioned. In Library this tension is played out to the max. He uses saccharine backdrops that obviously bring out the details and the materiality of the cut outs. The shelves on the other hand are hardly visible.
Finally, by choosing particular images, and by rearranging them in his own way, Lipps questions their original categorization and rips them away from the original context. The artist is particularly keen to rescue marginalized groups such as LGBT people from their previous suppression in our collective visual memory. In this sense, his work is close to the oeuvre of Amirali Ghasemi and Eva Stenram. Lipps also researches the centrality of photographic imagery in our collective consciousness more generally. In Horses for example Lipps projects shadows of horses onto mono-colour backgrounds, implicitly referring to the role of horses for American pioneers venturing into the Wild West.
Matt Lipps (b. 1975, USA), received his B.F.A. from California State University, Long Beach and his M.F.A. in studio art from the University of California, Irvine. Lipps currently lives in Los Angeles where he is the photography lab supervisor for the Department of Art at the University of California, Los Angeles. His photographs and sculptural works have been included in recent solo and group exhibitions as HORIZON/S at the California Museum of Photography in Riverside (2012), Photography is Magic! at the Daegu Photo Biennale in Daegu, South-Korea (2012), Figure and Form in Contemporary Photography, Los Angeles County Museum of Art (2012), Out of Focus: Photography, Saatchi Gallery, London (2012), Living History II: Asad Faulwell & Matt Lipps at the Marc Selwyn Fine Art in Los Angeles (2009); BUMP: Recent + Rarely Seen Explicit Videos from Southern California Artists, Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (2008); APhF:08 | Athens Photo Festival, Hellenic Centre for Photography, Athens, Greece (2008). His work is part of various collections such as the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, the Saatchi Collection in London and the Pilara Foundation Collection/Pier 24, San Francisco.
This artist profile was first published in Foam Magazine # 38 Under Construction: New Positions in American Photography. To purchase a copy, click here.