Exhibit explores intersection of classical painting, digital age

Mathew Zefeldt’s “Desktop” runs now through Dec. 18 at the Soap Factory.

Mathew Zefeldt poses for a portrait in front of one of his paintings during his gallery opening at the Soap Factory in Minneapolis on Nov. 12, 2016. Zefeldt, a University assistant professor of art, will have his exhibition

Maddy Fox

Mathew Zefeldt poses for a portrait in front of one of his paintings during his gallery opening at the Soap Factory in Minneapolis on Nov. 12, 2016. Zefeldt, a University assistant professor of art, will have his exhibition "Desktop" on display until Dec. 18, 2016.

Maddy Folstein

Iconography and symbolism are common themes throughout art history and Mathew Zefeldt — an assistant art professor at the University of Minnesota — is exploring how these ideas carry over in the digital age.

In his exhibit, “Desktop,” running now through Dec. 18 at the Soap Factory, Zefeldt examines digital icons that stood out to him growing up with technology.

“When I was a kid I was really interested in choosing my desktop background. You could tile it or it would stretch to fit the screen. A lot of the images I have in the show [reflect that],” Zefeldt said. “I’m interested in the intersection of digital technology and painting.”

Zefeldt’s main focus is not media or digital work. “I’m a painter. I choose to spend my day moving paint around on a canvas,” Zefeldt said.

The gallery also exhibits paintings that draw inspiration from Dutch still life and Roman sculptures. These works have the Zefeldt touch, too, of course.

“A lot of it has to do with mortality. I first came across these old, crumbling Roman statue heads. They’re sort of life-size … but then you see the nose is crumbling,” Zefeldt said.

In Dutch still life works, much of the emphasis is on fruits and flowers. However, these typical symbols of life are, “not fresh for long, rotting, with a fly on [them],” Zefeldt said.

Keeping with the theme of digitization, modern symbolism is also on display. “There’s a lot of imagery from ’90s video games. 3-D first person shooters [and] genre video games,” Zefeldt said.

When examined separately, these classical works and modern digital motifs bear no resemblance. Zefeldt creates something entirely new.

The gallery’s title hints at this intersection. “The show is called “Desktop” [because of] the tradition of still life painting, but also digital desktops,” Zefeldt said.

“It’s like making a collage.”

Zefeldt finds new meaning in the repetition of symbols. “A lot of the images already exist. I’m copying a 300-year-old painting, but I’m copying it over and over, so it almost looks like an Andy Warhol painting,” Zefeldt said.

“I’m really interested in painting as a meditation. It feels physical. The repetition is important.”

What: Desktop

When: Now through Dec. 18

Where: The Soap Factory, 514 2nd St. S.E., Minneapolis

Cost: Free