Matthew Ritchie | The Essential Diagram

Matthew Ritchie | The Essential Diagram Photo by Jo-Ann Conklin

Matthew Ritchie
The Essential Diagram, 2002

12 vinyl decals
Dimensions variable
Gift of Susan Block Casdin and Alexander W. Casdin '91 throught the Public Art Committee

Installed in the stairwell of the Engineering Research Center


The lines and curves of Matthew Ritchie’s The Essential Diagram agitate, slither, and furl in complex, organic shapes. Variously resembling drawings of molecular structures, mathematical formulas, and amoeba-like alien creatures, Ritchie’s vinyl installation is affixed to the walls, corners, and glass of the stairwell of the Engineering Research Center like a spiderweb or spongy growth. Scattered letters reveal cryptic messages hidden among the slick black forms, including “(physical entropy) = (remaining ignorance) + (algorithmic randomness),” “You may already be a winner,” and “infinite possibilities.” 

Ritchie is known for his multimedia practice, which encompasses drawing, painting, installation, performance, video, sculpture, and digital art. His process begins with creating a drawing that he then scans into a computer program, allowing him to translate the original image into any number of two- and three-dimensional works. Ritchie’s choice of subject matter is no less expansive: he aims to synthesize the dizzyingly vast networks and constellations of information disseminated via mass media, “[presenting] it in such a way that it can be understood as a unifying aesthetic experience, rather than just a big pile of stuff.” 

This idea translates into projects that are formally complex, rich with literary and scientific allusions, evoking constellations of interlocking meanings and interpretations. Ritchie’s The Garden at this Hour, an environmental installation created in 2014 for the United States Food and Drug Administration, cites Milton’s Paradise Lost and references biological relationships among competing flora in an ecosystem. His 2004 work for the São Paolo Biennial, The Universal Cell, examines the idea of a cell as both a unit of life and a unit of confinement.

Matthew Ritchie (b. London, United Kingdom; lives New York, NY) studied at Boston University and earned a BFA from the Camberwell School of Art in London. He has had solo exhibitions at the Institute of Contemporary Art Boston (2014); Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York City (2015, 2009, 2006, 2002, 2001); White Cube, London (2008); St. Louis Art Museum (2007), and other major arts institutions in the United States and abroad. He has received commissions for public projects from the Getty Research Institute (2015); Institute of Contemporary Art Boston (2015, 2014); and the Guggenheim Museum (2010), among others. Ritchie is represented in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Denver Art Museum, among others, and is the winner of the 1999 Baloise Art Prize.

Matthew Ritchie | The Essential Diagram Photo by Jo-Ann Conklin