Matts Leiderstam at Andréhn-Schiptjenko Stockholm

In this refined and subtle exhibition, Matts Leiderstam sets out with the stated aim of questioning Western art conventions from a queer perspective, focusing on the often invisible structures of grid and gaze. Beautifully crafted and fastidiously presented, the work consists of a group of numbered abstract paintings on poplar and oak panels, all titled Panel, 2017–23; a purpose-built cabinet stocked with small paintings (What Does the Grid Do? [Cabinet], 2022); and a series of prints and drawings, “Archived,” 2017–23. The wooden supports refer to early art of the Renaissance, when architects and painters were discovering perspective but before canvas became common.

The aesthetic of the paintings, though clearly invoking modernist geometry, also conjures vintage computer graphics. Take Panel (3), 2017. With a sequence of diminishing rectangles applied in thin red lines and placed in various angles on a dark blue background, it suggests the space of early first-person shooter video games such as DOOM. Perspectival painting and 3D computer imagery, breakthroughs reached centuries apart, are conflated here to suggest that illusionistic space is also a kind of cage. This impression is further strengthened by the drawings, where black-and-white inkjet prints of Old Masters such as Caravaggio are overlaid with penciled grids. While mimicking the pictorial analysis of classical art training, Leiderstam obscures much of the images, foregrounding the scaffolding underneath. As if to say that any iconographical criticism that leaves this hidden structure unquestioned is merely to scratch the surface of the ideological basis of the pictures.

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