Matthew Langley: "In the gallery: Deconstruction that’s carefully constructed"

By Mark Jenkins

The precedents for Matthew Langley’s handsome abstractions include Gene Davis’s stripes and Barnett Newman’s color fields punctuated by the thin vertical absences he called “zips.” Like Newman, the Alexandria-bred Langley usually divides his territory with white zips, but he sometimes employs black or dark gray ones. These are less emphatic than white lines but suit Langley’s palette. Most of the hues in Langley’s show at Susan Calloway Fine Arts, “Gravity,” are cool and restrained. They evoke water and forest, evening shadow and winter sunshine.

There are few bright tones among the loosely graduated strips, and Langley occasionally permits more than one color family on a single canvas. Typically, though, the contrasts don’t stray far from the central theme. “Cold Mountain,” for example, flows from white to gray via pinkish variations on the former and brownish ones on the latter. The sense of motion is palpable, but so is the artist’s rigorous control.