Abstraction, Unnerving: Matthew Carter's Scary Clowns

Abstraction, Unnerving: Matthew Carter's Scary Clowns

Geometric forms typically add a kind of serenity to art. Matrices, grids, and colors establish comforting patterns that draw the viewer into a contemplative state. 

Not so Matthew Carter’s hellequinharlequinclown paintings, on exhibition at the Luis De Jesus Los Angeles gallery through Aug. 23. Inspired by the literary and artistic figure of the harlequin through the ages, Carter’s abstractions preserve an ambivalent–and uneasy–tension.

Clowns can be scary, Carter points out, noting that one of the paintings in the series, Pogo, takes as its subject the serial killer John Wayne Gacy, one of the scariest clowns ever to wear the harlequin mask. 

Other pieces are more whimsical, including Nice Guy and Acid Bath, both of which balance primary colors in arrangements that suggest the makeup of a court jester, more the Fool of Shakespeare than the legendary predator of Chicago.

The paintings are composed from a variety of materials, including glitter and craft store paint, that give some of the images a “tacky” feel, Carter notes. He built the frames, too, from scraps, symbolizing the patchwork cloth of harlequin costumes and integrating the images with the physical structure of the paintings themselves. 

The result is a series of works that feel mature, if somewhat unsettling–and deeply satisfying precisely because of how unnerving they really are. These are paintings whose draftsmanship points to the abstract but whose conception is brightly, frighteningly concrete.

Carter originally hails from Moline, IL, and attended Southern Illinois University and the Otis College of Art & Design. He has already had several exhibitions in the Los Angeles area, and hellequiharlqeuinclown has been widely covered and praised by a variety of local critics. Several of Carter’s paintings from the exhibition have been sold already. 

For more information see: and Matthew Carter’s own website.