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Abstract Ancestry: Machine-Works on Paper

Matthew Angelo Harrison, Efroymson Emerging Artist in Residence
Apr 5  - May 11, 2018

For his solo show Abstract Ancestry: Machine-Works on Paper, Detroit-based artist Matthew Angelo Harrison ​will produce a suite of mechanical drawings with his homemade 3D printer. Using books and documents containing problematic historic portrayals as the substrate for his drawings, Harrison is able to explore issues of representation. The exhibition also examines abstraction; setting the printers to work at a low resolution ensures that imperfections and variability come through in these machine-produced drawings. Harrison will make adjustments ​to ​the printer as it continues to create new drawings for the span of the exhibition.

Curator’s Statement

Walking into one of Matthew Angelo Harrison’s installations, one senses almost immediately the process of dismantling and undoing, and a change in the order of things. Harrison’s past experience as a clay modeler for Ford Motor Company in Detroit serves as a trace back to the industrial era—both the empowerment and prosperity as well as the inequality in regards to gender and race.

Harrison builds his own 3D printing machines, which he programs to create replications of artifacts and cultural objects. His installations make space for air to breathe, time to think, to reimagine beyond the physical realm, like blank slates. At the same time, there is still acknowledgement of the weight to be reckoned with inherent in artifacts and objects within a cultural economy, what we value and why, and the accountability for false narratives in a long history of colonization and appropriation.

Often encased in resin or framed in Plexiglas, Harrison’s works sometimes seem to hover, like insects forever caught in the process of making amber, still murky and elusive. At other times, the works appear transcendent. Artifacts such as animal bones, skulls, or African masks are somehow less encumbered and more gestural, framed only by the transparency of the Plexi rather than steeped in our attachments and associations with them. Harrison’s installations communicate the accessibility of story as well as perhaps the protective need for opacity and impenetrability as it relates to cultural identity.

In an about turn, counter intuitive, the artist embraces machines and the manufacturing and replication of cultural objects as a means of stripping them down, offloading impartial and erroneous histories perpetuated over time that hang on like barnacles. Harrison builds new systems, programming new methods and repetitions, and in doing this, literally creates new versions of self without any presumption of omniscience.

—Amanda Krugliak, Institute for the Humanities Curator

This project was funded by a grant from the Efroymson Family Fund, a donor-advised fund of the Central Indiana Community Foundation, continues a long legacy of charitable commitment by the Efroymson family in central Indiana. The Efroymson Family Fund was established in 1998 by Dan and Lori Efroymson to promote the viability of communities and to date has awarded more than $100 million in grants in central Indiana and beyond. 


Artist Reception & Conversation
Apr 5, 6pm
Institute for the Humanities, 202 S. Thayer