In his sculptures and installations, Detroit-based artist Matthew Angelo Harrison traces intersections of labor, technology, and cultural heritage. The objects he creates, as well as those that he incorporates into his works, often speak to the impact of colonialism, capitalism, and racism while subtly addressing the aspects of identity formation and desire that underlie our relationship to objects. Harrison’s experience working as a clay modeler at Ford Motor Company established a fundamental framework that has endured in his interest in the prototype—a design stage the artist describes as “an in-between state as both a reality and a possibility,” and a concept that remains central to his artistic practice.
In his Dark Povera series, Harrison 3D-scans traditional African sculptures (often masks or busts) and replicates them with hand-built 3D printers, which operate on a low resolution, rendering forms in soft, coiled clay. The artist’s Dark Silhouette series features wood sculptures or animal skeletal remains from West Africa encased in vitrine-like solid resin blocks. In a more recent turn, Harrison has incorporated material traces of Detroit’s auto industry and labor organizing into his resin encapsulations. In these works, Harrison furthers his exploration of Blackness, labor, and technology, memorializing these artifacts as documents of both industry and humanity. For the List Center, Harrison is developing new “prototypes” that attend to the ways that the technological promise of robotics signals expansionist and imperialist desires and reinscribes categories of human and non-human in ways that harken back to the exploitations of slavery and settler colonialism.
Harrison’s exhibition will be complemented by the artist’s first monograph, copublished with Kunsthalle Basel and MIT Press, and designed by Practise, to be distributed in Fall 2021. Contributors include Taylor Renee Aldridge, Natalie Bell, Jessica Bell Brown, DeForrest Brown Jr., and Elena Filipovic.
Matthew Angelo Harrison: Robota is organized by curator, Natalie Bell.
Matthew Angelo Harrison (b. 1989, United States; lives and works in Detroit) completed his BFA at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2012. Solo exhibitions include Kunsthalle Basel (2021), the Broad Museum at Michigan State University (2018), Atlanta Contemporary (2017), and Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (2016). Harrison’s work has been included in important group exhibitions at the Whitney Museum of American Art and ICA Philadelphia (2019); the New Museum and MCA Chicago (2018); and The Studio Museum in Harlem (2017).
General operating support is provided by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; the Council for the Arts at MIT; Philip S. Khoury, Associate Provost at MIT; the MIT School of Architecture + Planning; the Mass Cultural Council; and many generous individual donors. In-kind media sponsorship provided by 90.9 WBUR. The Advisory Committee Members of the List Visual Arts Center are gratefully acknowledged.
Additional support is generously provided by the Henry Moore Foundation. The exhibition’s publication is made possible through the generosity of Pamela Joyner & Fred Giuffrida and through the support of the Jane Farver Memorial Fund at MIT List Visual Arts Center.