In downtown Kansas City, in the shadow of a giant green wedge that bears the name of the Kansas City Star, a smaller, less ostentatious structure that houses a commercial printing company sits quiet and unassuming. But its upper level, which has been cordoned off and rented out to a diverse group of Kansas City artists, is teeming with tightly packed activity. The resident artists have casually named it “Kunstraum” (art space), and though both the name and the long corridor that leads to each studio are rather bland and spartan, it seems each door has a surprise to reveal.
A peek inside Matt Jacobs’ studio gives way to instant delight—as though a child in the kitchen has found the small drawer that brims with candy of every kind. The artist himself comes across as an earnest young man ungrudgingly engaged in an inner war between work and play, wonder and contentment. The seriousness of his presence is dotted by pink ankle socks and blue tennis shoes. Likewise, the polychromatic anarchy of a studio full of his colorful, radiant work is given a deeper weight by a self-possessed maturity that betrays his youth.
“I work on what I’m most excited about,” Jacobs explains, “it needs to be enjoyable, at least at the outset.” Many artists aren’t so willing to openly name their relationship to pleasure. And yet, the parameters of his studio practice portray a reasonable agreement between id and ego. Though often colorful, structurally perilous, or even strangely confrontational, it seems nothing in his orderly, work-centric studio exists for sensation alone. His current sculptural work, a collection of strangely anthropomorphic adventures, is given stability by Jacobs’ honest language of means and exploration. “I work with what I have, and I play to figure out what something will or won’t do.”
Whether or not each of the many objects that cover every surface of Jacobs’ studio will or won’t survive their own precarious underpinnings is part of what makes their color keys and lavish textures both gratifying and mischievous. Like dazzling new toys, they are new and yet subtle challenges to the notion of new. They are gifts, but also warnings.
The work seen here will be viewable at Jacobs’ solo exhibition, Help Wanted, at the University of Kansas Art & Design Gallery from August 26–September 20, 2013.