Brother-in-laws Matt Messinger and Peter Healy seem to come from the same imaginative womb. While legally bound by family, they’re betrothed to crafting art. They are hard workers, natural born visual communicators, and I’m pretty sure you’ll want to be their friend. Their easy going attitude is a notch above optimistic, paired with an eager to conquer attitude. You can’t fake this awesomeness.
I knew of their work from my frequent ventures to Hardy and Nance. The exhibition they’re putting together this week, Works from Studio E, hails from their shared studio space. It’s a nest of their eclectic and refined abstractions. While Studio E absolutely functions as their operating studio, it can’t help but subsist aesthetically as a highly curated oddity shop and antique store. There’s an unspoken balance to their studio that lives between fine art and the warmth of familiarity. Messinger’s larger works dominate the south walls, while his smaller dimensional projects occupy the eastern wall. Healy’s works flank the west and north walls of the space. While there is no natural light, the studio hums with the warm glow of neon lights, and I imagine we are inside a buzzing, kitschy diner. A worn table stood freely and balanced in the center of the studio, elbow marks worn into its surface from daily use.
I got to catch up with them over a cold beer that they didn’t have to convince me too hard to take. The cracking open of the lid, the effervescent hiss emitting from the bottle — it’s a frequent soundtrack to their artistic routine, I’m sure. Each artist manned one side of the table, standing across from one another playing an intensive match of metaphysical table tennis. We started by discussing their closeness, their current works, adopted behaviors, and works in progress.
Together, they’ve been working on and off, when the mood strikes, and have been maintaining their free-flowing work ethic since they’ve had the studio space. They’ll be using the gallery space to display new works created since their move in October.
Peter Healy, a native Irishman turned LA dweller to Houston transplant, is an abstract oil and watercolor painter that utilizes colorful hieroglyphics of rounded geometric splotches. His incorporation of color field blobs on his trademark mellowed background range in their density of opaqueness and have shifted from tight, intertwining line work and patterns to dominating a large section of the canvas with recently integrated negative space.The globules ruminate feelings of the surrealist aftereffects of dreams that we, as poignant humans, yearn to recall years after. Their containment looks like the handiwork of a skilled cartographer, mapping excitement and tracing feelings that words cannot be attached too. The most impressive of his recent work he’s shown me features sherbet pops of quirkiness.
Messinger’s work is unflinchingly valiant but never in your face. It’s calling. It’s beckoning. One of the most consistent themes is his use of negative space as a backdrop for a mega-impressive borrowed symbol or image, sometimes from advertisements, especially in archived work. The works ranging from sculptures to works on canvas and muslin and sometimes paper, and they remind me of a traditional stamp and stencil factory with machinery used to carve out beautiful stencils. His depicted mythological images and focal points are concentrated and unpolluted, paint rolled on and then metaphorically stamped onto the canvas. While most of his paintings are not woodcuts, he has not shied away from the technical application. His meticulously cleaned up, organized, and ethereal imagery of mythological creatures and antiquated pictures have a practiced control system that leave the viewer impressed as it’s execution teeters whimsical and highly performative. Symbolism and icons dwell across the stacked gallery wall in snake-bodied forms: a woman, a woodcut whale on ledger paper, a palm reading.
The two artists have bubbled over with palpable excitement, in unison sharing that they’ve been wanting to show together for a while. Their friendship has existed since Healy lived in LA, and they currently live next door to each other in a duplex. It appears like every aspect of their personal life just seeps into each other’s, homogenized, yet their personal expressions couldn’t be any more different. Complementary.
There’s a continual air of fraternal camaraderie, and it’s contagiously encouraging. They chatted with verve, starting and finishing each other’s sentences when I asked about their independent work. It turned into Messinger nodding his freshly shaved head in agreement to Peter’s poetic digression of what political issues and moral debates he’s encountered as Northern Ireland native. The duo took polite turns articulating their subjective opinions on each other’s growth as artists and current works in progress.
A similarity they share is that they practice sculpture, and in which a plethora of their sculptural and free-standing work comes from found objects. They give big thanks to the Texas Junk Company whose lovingly decrepit wood and furniture lend to the substrate of their sculptures. They also favor spots like Texas Art Asylum and Reuse Warehouse. Sometimes it’s slim pickings, but Messinger created a beautiful ledger from his finds there that hang like a wall sculpture.
Healy has 2-D wall assemblages that will be shown at the exhibition, and they’ll retain sculptural elements with painterly facets. Messinger himself hopes to display a small sculpture he’s been working on. Balancing the idea of a wall assemblage, he hopes to have his miniature ladders tied together with colorful string showcased. In all, they look like trinkets displayed in a curio cabinet.
Of course, their work has begun to influence each other. That’s just like how people begin to adopt their friend’s catchphrases or behaviors, expressions nonetheless. Messinger, when asked if their work influences each other, paused and took a moment to truly reflect on any osmosis that has existed in their shared space.
“In a way, he [Healy] may have influenced the color. I’ve done color a bit before but it’s becoming more prominent now,” he says. “We do bounce ideas off each other but we stay in our own.”
“Matt’s influenced my usage of space. Build [sic] a breathing space for my [shapes] to exist,” quips Healy. “I’ve borrowed assembly techniques and explored their possibilities.”
“What I want to learn from Peter is to loosen up, just to be exploratory without worrying about perfection,” replies Messinger.
Healy and Messinger’s new exhibition will take place in the studio’s artist warehouse, Hardy & Nance. Opening night is Saturday, April 27 from 5 to 9 p.m., with the exhibition running through Sunday, April 28 from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.