Fade in, NOON Projects, 2022
In Matt Lifson’s Fade In at NOON Projects, Lifson explores the impact of film on queerness as both a personal investigation and a cultural critique. Lifson looks back to his identity-forming teen years and turns to our image culture to find a language for self-sense-making. The particular films don’t matter so much as the way Lifson pulled from the stew of mass media images floating in his memory, his personal exploration suggesting the viewer could do the same. In the gaps between seemingly disparate images laid atop one another, a narrative is suggested, left for the viewer to piece together.
In both (Music Playing) and Hunter’s Dream are scenes of two male figures sharing intimacy, a perennial theme of Lifson’s work, although perhaps more sad than erotic here. The intimate scenes—taken from a Russian porn and the 1996 film White Squall—are overlaid with a layer of sheer black silk that hovers a half-inch in front of each of the two paintings with pastel drawings of suspenseful horror scenes. Viewing from the side has the effect of one image tearing away from the other and disappearing. Sketched onto the black silk, the horror film scenes suggest different kinds of danger. There is a horror in meeting a stranger from the internet, in becoming a person we were warned about, in becoming other, in being attracted to someone we might also like to become.
In Time Out three lonely figures stare out from their own corners of the painting into an empty space with the ghostly trace of the other two, like a jammed slide projector or 1990s music video, as if waiting for or searching for one another. To each other each figure is an other, never on the same plane despite being right there. There’s a musicality to these paintings, just like memories and fantasies become atmospheric in your mind. In the anchor piece of the show, S for mom, is another kind of interplay between surface and submerged. A rope in water moves like a body in space, shaped like the letter S for Lifson’s mother Susan. Is the rope an attempt to save? Did someone not make it?
Echo and Me, Myself and I add color to the show in a grainy VHS hue. A boy is positioned horizontally, looking down contemplatively and in the other, looking up, relaxed, with sunglasses. Or are these sex scenes? We’re still in a filmic narrative here, the lyrical and dreamy on full display. The washy nostalgic figures are Lifson—and us—and the primordial soup of ocean waves and night sky become the erotic space for imagining a self.
—Stephen van Dyck