Matthew Satz creates handsome paintings with lines and marks that are pleasing to a modernist eye, yet the East Hampton artist is driven by concept and process, not aesthetics.
“For me to make a painting, it has to function on a bunch of different levels,” Satz said, explaining that he’s never been satisfied with simply painting a pretty picture.
For the last 10 years, Satz, 40, has been painting full time and his success continues to grow. He recently completed a commission for Prince Albert of Monaco, another is in the works for Sloan Kettering Memorial Hospital in Manhattan, and his pieces are in demand from galleries and collectors alike.
In conversation, it becomes clear that Satz know his art history. He reveres many of the artists that came before him, but he has also made it his goal to climb out of their indelible shadows. “That sets the high bar,” Satz said, explaining that he wants to make his mark on art history.
Satz moved out to the East End to be closer to his artistic heroes in 1995 after attending the Artist Alliance of East Hampton Studio Tour. He met fellow painter Terry Elkins during the visit and he showed Satz that living as an artist could be done in the Hamptons. “He wasn’t going to steer me wrong,” Satz said of Elkins, noting that the older artist was his first friend in the area and over the years he has become something of a paternal figure.
Before he had the luxury of painting full time, Satz worked a steady stream of odd jobs locally and taught himself to create conceptually driven art. He soon arrived on a formula where content drives process. Satz said his tar and feather paintings probably best exemplify that formula because the idea of humiliation and punishment has equal significance to the process of applying tar and feathers to a canvas.
The painter did his first tar and feather paintings in 1998, the idea was further realized in 2004 with a tar and feather installation at the Parrish Art Museum in Southampton, and Satz is now revisiting the technique.
He is probably best known for his series of “strip” paintings, which feature multiple stripes created by allowing drips of paint to descend the canvas from top to bottom. The series has evolved and changed, but Satz always follows a chain of logic to create a tight and interrelated body of work. “There’s always a system,” he said. “I need an excuse to make a mark.” Just as the strip series uses gravity to achieve results, many of Satz’s paintings require little use of the artist’s hand. “I’m utilizing forces greater than myself to make marks,” he said, pointing to his well-known smoke paintings, which are made from lighting hundreds of matches and capturing the coils of smoke they release.
The latest evolutions of his strip paintings are called Tondos, which are made from drips emanating out from the center of a round canvas. “It’s a 360 degree strip painting essentially,” Satz said, explaining that he came up with the idea for Tondos and made studies five years ago, but he only just started painting them recently.
“I’m trying to catch up,” Satz said, noting that it takes time to really refine and produce ideas beyond a study or a few written notes. “The idea to me is paramount,” he said.
Matthew Satz is currently showing at Local 87 and Glenn Horowitz Books in East Hampton and at the McNeill Art Group Tribeca Project Space in Manhattan.
Satz is showing work in the Artists Choose Artists exhibition, opening on Aug. 21 at the Parrish Art Museum in Southampton. He was also a juror for the show and selected two local artists to participate.