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Works by Matt Grote's Alter Ego at Villa Maria College

New Ogre

Matt Grote—he of the boisterously whimsical murals often found in conjunction with Chuck Tingley and Max Collins, the street art troika working out of Marcus Wise’s Gallery 464—has put up a little show of his own in the cloistered confines of Villa Maria College. I found the William Beltz Art Gallery and angled my way into the exhibition, which was crowded with the artist’s friends and family. Little clots of viewers easily half my age stood drinking wine taking a moment to step away and look at an artwork then stepping back into conversation. The gallery was small but brightly lit, the better to catch the reflective depth of shiny gloss resin coating nearly all the painted works.

Since his last show, OGRE Hungry, Grote has worked in mixed media, recombining various, earlier Photoshopped, stenciled, and spray-painted pieces, slicing them up and reassembling them in measured lengths, creating out-of-sequence compositions that are arresting yet completely at rest, sealed under generous layers of pristinely poured polymer.

Although his appearance may suggest a wild-styled bohemian, with grafittied sport coat and no-nonsense ponytail, Grote’s artwork is flawless—the resin pools on the surface of the work shows no streaks, no drips. Each piece is a singular whole. Grote’s sense of graphic play and studied alt-streetwise bravado relieve the viewer of the slightest hesitation to accept his fastidious art process, whether it is mixed-media wall art, pen-and-ink graphics, or marker illustrations on chunks of industrial foam.

Speaking with OGRE, I naturally anticipated guttural monosyllabic responses but he was politely articulate and didn’t once try to bite me. I understood what he was doing—how giving himself an alias with fiendish fairytale overtones helped to distance his work from the more predictable aesthetic humors of traditional art-forms.

Coming from an industrial design background at University of Cincinnati, he interned at Fisher Price, and was later hired by the company, where he works now as part of a toy design team.

This professional structural underpinning creating high-concept fanciful playthings has allowed him to push past boundaries that might give pause to artists driven by more quotidian concerns. Grote, interviewed, allowed that his work is a respite and release from the strictures of corporate design parameters, giving his imagination free rein while keeping his academic discipline and aesthetic clarity of material process in the forefront of composition.

At the far end of the room was his most compelling work, a large, planked wood piece spray-painted in candy-colored hues in a decorative stenciled motif made gloriously glossy, giving the effect of the whole being captured in aspic. It is the culmination of what OGRE says is a transition to more formal work.

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