MATRIX 167 features Philadelphia-based artist Virgil Marti. For twenty years, the artist’s sculpture and textile-based installations have engaged with high and low culture, in particular, with the ornamental excesses of interior design, including Venetian and hunting lodge chandeliers, faux-fur and chintz ottomans, and flocked black-light wallpaper. Recently, Marti took on a curatorial project. He mined the collections of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and restaged them in inventive juxtapositions for the exhibition Set Pieces at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia.
For his MATRIX exhibition, Marti will employ both approaches in an installation featuring new work inspired by various objects in the Wadsworth’s collection, including Hudson River School paintings, Charter Oak furniture, and the fused metal revolver parts from the Colt Armory fire of 1864. The installation will also showcase the museum’s nineteenth-century Death Mask of John Keats.
John Keats (1795‒1821) endures as a major figure of English Romantic poetry despite his premature death from tuberculosis at the age of twenty-five. The youthful death mask, with the addition of a life mask of Keats, forms the centerpiece of an installation that explores notions of Romanticism in literature and the visual arts. In typical fashion, the artist employs methods and materials incongruous to his subjects. Marti’s “hippie craft” foray into Romanticism includes candles, driftwood, pillows, and stained glass. In a sensual and artificial environment with references to English gardens and expansive landscapes, Marti evokes the picturesque style as a midpoint between the beautiful and the sublime.