In true California style, Matt Rogers’ paintings engage both landscape and Pop art, often creating an uncanny synergy between the two.
One of his best-known bodies of work is the Dark Horse series, comprised of often large-scale, highly graphic, black-and-white paintings of horses and riders, or abstracted images of racing hooves. While the subject matter of leisure and sport nods to Pop art, the paintings hum with a sense of movement not often felt in the stillness of pop imagery: a broadening of our understanding of Pop that is rogers’ own contribution to the movement.
In Rogers’ series of aerial nightscapes, the city that unfurls below dilates, transforming into a seething network of electric energy and constant motion. His landscapes, meanwhile, are fantastical confections whose cotton candy trees and vertiginous depths take us far from realism. The lineage of California landscape painting that he engages here includes Elmer Bischoff, Richard Diebenkorn, and David Park— but first and foremost, Wayne Thiebaud, with whom Rogers has maintained a close relationship. From Thiebaud, he has learned to continually ask questions of his work, weighing each painting’s entrances and exits, the mechanics of the picture, and the temperature and volume of its colors.
Rogers has lived in California his entire life. He is aware of its precariousness, that it represents the California dream — sunsets and palm trees — but also devastation. The California landscape is subject to earthquakes, fires, and mudslides, which Rogers has experienced firsthand. In California, sunshine and noir are always two sides of the same coin. Utopia coexists with dystopia, and beach culture rubs shoulders with counterculture—a paradox that infuses many of Rogers’ paintings. In his work, we can sense his deep understanding of California’s complicated, dark, bright, beauty.