Austin Considine reviews the exhibition Matthew Watson: Commission | Barter | For Sale at Joe Sheftel Gallery, New York, on view through February 24, 2013.
Considine writes: "For an artist to paint his professional circle might seem a bit cynical or wearisome in lesser hands. But the images' layers of commercial transparency add fresh complexity. Perhaps more important, Watson's portraits are rendered with such pathos and precision that their human subjects are compelling without the context. To an outsider unaware of who these subjects are, they could just as well be anyone's circle of acquaintances-a yoga instructor, boss or rich, flamboyant aunt. The clearest reference point for Watson is the painstakingly refined work of pre-modern portraitists, who painted the nobility of their day on commission. The social landscape has changed in the centuries since, but it hasn't eradicated class or patronage... Adding to the layers, Watson incorporates works by other artists in several of his subjects' surroundings. If each portrait is rooted in a transaction, it is merely one transaction in an infinite chain."