Matthew Angelo Harrison explores the experience of the African diaspora and the violent histories of colonialism through the lens of technology. Harrison frequently scans historical artifacts—sculptures, masks, and busts of African origin—and then interprets them in three-dimensional prints modeled in clay, a transformation process that explores Black identity as it is impacted by industry and labor in cultural production. Harrison is deeply inspired by his upbringing amid Detroit’s declining auto-manufacturing industries; the artist has previously worked for Ford Motors, producing commercial prototypes in the clay-modeling department.
Harrison’s “Dark Silhouette” series (2018) features twelve readymade wooden sculptures and skulls of animals native to West Africa. The artist interprets these displaced artifacts in acrylic resin, plexiglass, and industrial modeling clay, and then molds, cuts, prints, and sculpts these pieces into resin encapsulations. Dark Silhouette: Timid Male Figure, a prime example from this series, features a wooden replica of a generic African sculpture of unknown origin made specifically for the tourist market, which is suspended in an ash-colored resin block that evokes the translucent geometric forms of the Light and Space movement. Harrison says, “The wooden figurines are modified through being placed in a resin purgatory and transformed when the hand-carved original is sliced and notched by machines.”
Matthew Angelo Harrison (b. 1989, Detroit) lives and works in Detroit. He has held solo exhibitions at the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University, East Lansing (2018); University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (2018); Atlanta Contemporary (2017); and the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (2016). Harrison has been included in a number of group exhibitions, including those at the MIT List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge (2020); Musée d’art moderne de la Ville de Paris (2019); Whitney Biennial, New York (2019); Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia (2019); Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (2018); New Museum, New York (2018); and the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami (2017), among others. His works are held in the collections of the Broad Art Museum; de Young Museum, San Francisco; Fondation Galeries Lafayette, Paris; Musée d’art moderne de la Ville de Paris; Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, among others.