Michael Chattem and Matt O'Reilly Tap into the Profound Reality of the Present in their Printmaking

Maps to now(here)

Michael Chattem and Matt O'Reilly met while attending the Cleveland Institute of Art (CIA). The two aspiring young artists bonded in printmaking classes as they struggled through the daily grind and disillusionment of art school politics. Since graduation, they have continued to explore art through a variety of media and platforms. Stop by Loop during this Friday's Tremont Art Walk from 6 to 9 p.m. for an opening reception for new work by Chattem and O'Reilly.

"Michael Chattem and Matt O'Reilly differ stylistically," explains Loop's art curator Amanda Lee. "However, I was interested in bringing them together for this July's Tremont Art Walk as they both share an absolute dedication to their work. Both patiently assemble and tweak smaller shapes into a larger work of art, letting the piece do the work for them. Both Michael and Matt see art making as a lifestyle, not a job.

"The gallery at Loop Tremont exists to represent young or new talent from Cleveland and beyond," she continues. "By functioning as a coffee shop, record store and art gallery, we are afforded the opportunity to share Michael and Matt's work to more of the general public than would normally attend a gallery show, allowing them to expand their already growing following."

Chattem was born in Queens, but spent most of his adolescence in Connecticut. After high school, he moved to Cleveland to attend CIA. He earned a BFA in 2010, but the experience took its toll on him.

"I left school burnt out on institutional influence and bureaucracy and disenchanted with art making," admits Chattem. "I spent the next few years focusing mainly on playing drums in experimental music projects while maintaining a marginal visual art practice.

"In 2012, for the first time since school, I had a sizable studio and my art practice flourished," he says. "I returned to drawing as a primary medium and explored the fundamental tools for image making. My work moved away from a concept-based platform and began concerning itself with things like text and image, compositional relationships, color, space, scale and structural mechanics. Subjects like anxiety, perception and coping began to inform the work."

Chattem and O'Reilly lost touch after school. The two followed similar paths until reconnecting last year.

"Matt and I met each other when we were both print students at CIA," explains Chattem. "Neither of us gelled well in the institutional setting but both of us were clearly driven to create. After school we both dropped low and followed similar paths down different avenues in the DIY music community.

"I reconnected with him last year and was inspired to see that he had still been going strong with his studio practice," he continues. "We bonded on the struggle of sustaining an independent creative livelihood outside of institutional safety nets. I'm excited to be showing with him. I think the show will offer works that will complement and parallel each other through aesthetics and sensibility but also round itself out with the great diversity of our output."

O'Reilly attended Columbus College of Art and Design from 2005 to 2006 before studying at Cleveland Institute of Art from 2006 to 2008. Some of you may recognize his work from Filmstrip's 2014 album Moments of Matter. O'Reilly is a musician himself, in the local psych/noise band Green Escalators, as well as a skateboarder. Recently, he quit his full-time job as a barista to pursue art. It seems a bit poetic that his first exhibition since leaving his job is in a coffee shop.

He draws inspiration for his new work from an eclectic array of sources, including Ram Dass, TED talks, the relationships between humans, technology and the Earth, and the recent issues of race and police violence in Ferguson, Baltimore and Cleveland.

"The concept of nowhere spelled now(here), as a mode of translating and presenting the ideas and practices associated with Be Here Now. This is where my maps are most highlighted. They began as a doodle in a notebook back in 2013. I was just beginning to paint them last year, and then with the Ferguson/Tamir Rice events, became more pertinent as I went along. I was saddened by these events, along with other personal stuff in my life."

He continues, "I first presented them as Maps to Nowhere, in a sort of satirical play on the direction we appear to be heading as a nation (at times, sometimes cool stuff happens like marriage equality). After working through the series over the course of several months it became meditative, it became a personal mode of being present in my work. At the same time, I was looking at the global community and how the turbulence and injustices are creating a universal cry for presence and mindfulness. The work took on its meaning when I saw it in that light. There is nowhere else to be, but now(here). These ideas can be applied to my practice as well, and most of my other work for the time being. The maps kind of just happened to be the project that really drove these ideas home."

The exhibition runs through August 10. You can view it during Loop Tremont's regular business hours: Mondays through Thursdays from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., Fridays from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., Saturdays 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The exhibition and reception are free.

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