Matt Haffner’s eccentric new show drew a big crowd to the whitespace opening reception of The Old Gods and Their Crumbling City. The warm night created the perfect atmosphere for families and friends to gather around the grounds outside whitespace and enjoy food and drinks. Some of Haffner’s black aluminum crows were even able to join the outside crowd since they are exhibited on the exterior patio outside whitespace. The exterior crows create instantaneous intrigue for anyone who notices their presence. The gatherings of crows cluster outside one of the large window walls and seamlessly continue to the other side of the glass inside the gallery space. Each crow is unique: some seem enthralled by a specimen on the ground while others are frozen in the midst of what should be a wild motion. Ultimately, these sixty-two crows have chosen their gathering space because of its close proximity to “The Banshee and Her Conspiracy”, a large painted plywood installation of a reclining nude that takes over an entire wall in the gallery. The sight in its entirety is mesmerizing, disorienting but also strangely logical. The placement of the crows and their relationship with the wall installation make sense and the viewer is pulled into the scene.
Both large glass doors were left open on Friday night so visitors could wander from outdoors into either room of whitespace. If the clustering crows did not entice you to enter the Carriage Room, then the massive portrait covered with crawling cockroaches was enough to draw you into the Stable Room. Entitled “Cockroach Shepherd”, this large plywood wall installation depicts a rather serious man with large black paper cockroaches crawling up his shoulders and onto his face. Some cockroaches have fallen from the installation wall and lay haphazardly along the gallery floor.
Adjacent to “Cockroach Shepard”, visitors will encounter the aluminum silhouettes of three large black dogs. These figures have a confident stature and seem to survey the gallery space from their installation spot.
Haffner intends for the crows, cockroaches, and dogs to act as three main characters in his exhibition. These animals embody important characteristics of deities from mythology and oral narratives that drive the inspiration of the show: crows can be equated to the messengers, guides, and watchmen of the world, cockroaches suggest everlasting life, and dogs are considered guardians.
In addition to presenting these three characters, The Old Gods and Their Crumbling City also aims to incorporate salvaged urban materials in mixed-media works. Haffner has strategically spray painted the surfaces of scavenged signs, panels, and rusted steel to create various compositions found in an urban environment. The large wall installations, individualized crows and cockroaches, and engaging compositions displayed have left whitespace buzzing with activity.
Written by: Margaret Gregg
Photo Courtesy of: Erin Branch