At the moment, Matt Scobey’s back yard is his studio — and he’s been putting in ten-hour days there, laboring over the concrete forms he molds over things like grapefruit halves, basketballs, plastic water bottles and IKEA-shelving modules, getting ready for his solo showcase, Come Dig the Essence, which opens August 28 at Leon Gallery. That’s turned into a rush job, after Scobey was sidetracked for six months serving as a 2015 Biennial of the Americas Ambassador. That post included a ten-week residency in Mexico City and a culminating Biennial exhibit, all of which stretched into a six-month effort.
His current project is not easy work, and Scobey is not a hefty man. He matter-of-factly notes that he’s gone through 5,000 pounds of solid material this year experimenting with concrete. The new pieces he’s working on right now — stacked columns of concrete shapes and light features that sandwich LEDs and acrylic panels within the geometric concrete shapes — consist of components that can weigh thirty to fifty pounds each. He’s tired.
“I play with forms instead of making sketches,” Scobey explains. “I need to experiment and play with materials — that’s the essence of me.” His process begins with immersion in what’s possible with his chosen material of concrete, which operates with its own set of rules and limitations. It’s a little bit obsessive, he admits. Moving it around is just part of the job.
In Mexico, where he had the opportunity to work with a production company, Scobey began to imagine new possibilities within his chosen medium, including large-scale public art facilitated by a professional fabricator. “Bringing the knowledge that I picked up in Mexico and working with a production company changed my mind about what I'm capable of producing with concrete,” he says. With the right funding, he notes, it’s not out of reach — but it’s also a big change for the artist, who’s known in art circles for making small-scale, affordable work. “But I can't make a living doing that,” he says. And nobody’s working with concrete right now — it’s a wide-open field.
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For all the work he’s put into it, the Leon show represents a kind of respite for Scobey, who is appreciative of the freedom to experiment that it’s afforded him. After that, he’s looking forward to taking a break, spending time with family and maybe trekking back to Mexico for a while on his own. And the love affair with his difficult medium is still intact. “Concrete and trash is weird, but I like it,” he says.