Art That Does Not Always Look Like Art


Woozy Blossom, Katonah Art Museum,  Katonah, NY (temporary installation) 2010


A noted public artist who lives and works in New York, Matthew Geller is particularly drawn to overlooked or underutilized environments, from private imaginary worlds within brick walls, to back alleys, to sprawling open public spaces. It is in these environments that Geller teases out small fragments of narrative by augmenting or amplifying the raw materials of a given place, asking the viewer to engage both with what was always there, as well as what might be.


“In the 1980s,” he writes. “I switched my studio practice from primarily sculpture to the production of video works, reworking the structure and style of television storytelling with comic narratives that played off conventional genres—documentary, fairytale, melodrama. My focus on video culminated with a solo show, From Receiver to Remote Control: The TV Set, at the New Museum in New York in 1990.”

“Beginning with my fellowship at the American Academy in Rome (1991-2), I integrated my skills as a storyteller and sculptor by creating intimate observed worlds in miniature. For the past 15 years I have taken these ideas, changed the scale, and extended the possibilities for site and a chaotic viewership by producing temporary and permanent public art, which has been described in various ways, from ‘urban earthworks’ to ‘industrial baroque.'”




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Cypress Landing, Zoo Miami, 2016


Nautical Swing, Hunters Point Shipyard, San Francisco, 2015


Art That Does Not Always Look Like Art

I ought to, Myrtle Avenue, Brooklyn, 2017


Babble Pummel and Pride, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore (temporary installation) 2010


Open Channel Flow, Buffalo Bayou Park, Houston, 2009


Anticipator, Florence Griswold Museum, Old Lyme, Connecticut (temporary installation) 2013


Awash, Collect Pond Park, New York City (temporary installation) 2006


One Puck Hollow, Great Plains Recreation Centre, Calgary 2016


Chroma Booster, downtown Public Plaza, El Paso, Texas 2015


With my public artwork I set out to engage the public and foster a sense of community around an unlikely object or site. The works are spirited, accessible, and very often unexpected. By using industrial materials and disparate elements—including everything from swings, to showers, to wind—in functional and playful ways, my artwork aims to encourage engagement with the site, the work, and among the public themselves. I do this by combining strong visual elements and dynamic elements activated by people and/or changes in the weather

I often work with a visual vocabulary that doesn’t immediately telegraph its status as art. The idea is to surprise while fostering a sense of community around an unlikely object or site. As my starting point, I like to use sites and vernaculars that have been marginalized in some form: the controlled chaos of industrial infrastructure (Chroma Booster, Open Channel Flow, I ought to), the abandoned part of an amusement park ride (Nautical Swing, Greenway Blueway Byway Skyway), or the aging tree in a public park (Woozy Blossom, Cypress Landing, Anticipator). I take these abject artifacts and retrofit them to create a micro public square or landmark.  —Matthew Geller