“Becoming Light”: Matt King’s solo exhibit glows neon at CONTAINER through Nov. 5

Caitlin Krause
5 min readNov 1, 2023

The “Becoming Light” exhibit of Matt King’s solo work, expertly curated by Han Santana-Sayles, is exquisite to behold. My own attempt to capture the beauty and verve of the art ends up a shade of what it feels like to be there. My intention here is to share how much it reached me, and to encourage everyone local to the Santa Fe area to go to see it in-person before November 5. It was a remarkable experience to be there physically witnessing Matt King’s art, interacting with it, and feeling a connection with creative inspirations. It’s a transmission, this show. Feeling light –becoming it, giving it, and receiving it– is part of what the exhibition is about, in my firsthand view.

Neon light is part of the installations, expressively filling the space. Matt King’s art leads a conversation.

It’s a whole process, being there with art. Attending to it. The show is at CONTAINER, and the spaciousness of the studio is ideal for the material. As King’s works line the walls, there are conversations with other artists, friends, and collaborators in the center. His art becomes interactive constellations, radiating outward.

The work itself pulses and radiates. Each piece is unique, and there’s a through line and signature style emergent: strong contrast, exuberant strokes and lineations that translate as impulsive joy. It’s astonishing to behold the exhibit as a full oeuvre, and then to narrow focus on a single part. Each painting is startling, provocative, filled with movement and gesture.

There’s a full spectrum of colors, with strong contrast, neon lights and lines in interplay. Parts of the canvases are white, not left blank or beneath color –but white painted over in a pentimenti that offers glimpses behind veils. Intentionally layered, and filled with a sense of wonder.

I’m awestruck by this exhibit because it offers me access to my own internal and external dialogues — and ideas flicker in, quite naturally. Symbolism and iconography surround me, and it’s jovial, layered, filled with music. It’s a space of brightness that left me feeling full: filled with light. I came with a friend, and we talked at times, yet also stood together in quiet contemplation and meditation. We encountered the art as it confronted us and asked us to respond, to conjure and to play.

Mallarmé famously said, “Anything is a symbol of anything.” I’ve always read that as a statement of possibility. Familiar shapes and symbols could become classic iconography… and with Matt King’s art, nothing seems heavy handed. It’s buoyant, layered with levity, nuance and complexity. And, the physical dimensionality of each work is part of its brilliance. It’s hard to get a feeling of size and scale until you are standing right in front of a painting: The canvas size in Matt King’s art are “human scale”– that’s the best way I can describe how I felt standing in front of them. I could even imagine his strokes and movements to create the lines. If you stand at the center of the painting, stretching out arm’s length is about the size to the edge of the canvas. Imagine, you can dance with the light of the colorplay. It fit my body.

The layout at Container plays much like a musical arrangement. It builds with intention. The first floor involves beginnings, setting a base, diving into history, evolution, and influences. Climbing stairs to the second floor, an ascent to a suite of works created in 2022. Styles playing off one another, colors in a scheme. Neon bursts and sweeps, and a lofted feeling. … Rounding the corner, a replica of Matt King’s art studio greets us, and Han introduces us to Mr. Pants there, keeping good company. The recreation of the studio space conveys trust and intimacy, showing parts of process that are as influential as product. Again, the conversation is important. Music plays here from the record player. It’s the music Matt King liked to paint to. While I was there, Han Santana-Sayles chose Willie Nelson.

Sometimes, I even felt invited to reach out into the canvas. Impossibility, yet the warmth of neon glow is alluring, and the heat palpable. I was feeling King’s art, feeling reached.

Then, just as in a spiral or labyrinth, you turn and walk back the way you came, yet you see entirely new views on the journey back. It’s a spiral inward and outward at the same time. Words and descriptions stop being as meaningful as the sensations and feelings… it’s pure.

My writing here in no way sums up the show. I did not have the privilege of knowing Matt King personally, though I was able to know him as an artist through his creations as a cofounder and builder of Meow Wolf experiences. Here, through “Becoming Light,” there’s a new dimension to appreciate, and it’s expansive. We are able to connect with Matt King’s art in a way that invites conversation with light itself. That, in essence, is part of the invitation, and the gift.

“Becoming Light” is on display at CONTAINER in Santa Fe through November 5.

details

Becoming Light

11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays, September 8 through November 5

CONTAINER, 1226 Flagman Way

505–995–0012; containertc.org

Han Santana-Sayles curated the show as a space for collaboration, for creativity, and to evoke lightness itself. We’re standing with Matt King’s works “Untitled Rug 001” (left, 2022) and “Untitled Neon 004” (right, 2022)

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Caitlin Krause

immersive story. experience design. wellness. MindWise founder working to build a mindful metaverse. Author of Designing Wonder. www.caitlinkrause.com