Compare The Dead: Belphegor and Proposition Player by Matthew Ritchie.

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epic-art-time | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Assistant Educator

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The Dead: Belphegor is a drawing in ink and graphite on plastic.  A figure of a demon is represented with a skeletal head and a rather human body.  The body is filled with brownish, yellowish swirls and abstracted objects that appear to be eye balls.  The figure is throwing its hands up in a gesture of either frustration or discovery.  There are lines radiating from parts of the picture that are reminiscent of lines from charts, maps, or possibly engineering blue prints.

Proposition Player is a far more complicated piece to describe.  It is not really one piece, but an entire show, in which Ritchie attempted to depict the entire universe; how it came to be; and how we, as players, contribute to it.  Within the exhibition Proposition Player there are drawings hanging on the wall, painted on the wall, painted on the floor, suspended above the floor, and projected in various parts of the space.  As you can imagine, this definitely gives the effect of viewing something extremely expansive.  Ritchie admits in an interview with the PBS series Art 21 that at the heart of Proposition Player is the idea of risk.  There are parts of the exhibit where the viewers are invited to participate in a kind of game which is intended to make them think about the randomness of the universe.  Ritchie wants to emphasize that moment in a game of chance, between placing your bet and finding out if you have won.  He says this is the point where creation happens and anything is possible.

The Dead: Belphegor is a more recent manifestation of the same ideas Ritchie was dealing with in Proposition Player, created one year later.  He felt the next step in the course of his art was to give his ideas figures to make them more real and understandable, possibly the same way that the Greeks and Romans needed their gods to have a human like manifestation.  In his Art 21 interview Ritchie talks about the relationship between figuration and abstraction compared to the relationship between ourselves and everything else in the universe.  Consequently, I would interpret The Dead: Belphegor as a 2D version of what is going on between the installation and the viewer in Proposition Player.

You can view the Art 21 interview with Matthew Ritchie at http://video.pbs.org/video/1239615688 .

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