About six years ago, those of us who knew him could all finally understand how unbearable it was to be Matt Condron. A single image could leave Condron haunted for days. In the summer of 2000 he writes in an email to a friend: "I recommend seeing the Argentinean film 'Man Facing Southeast', not only because it's one of the more interesting films I've seen but because there's a shot in the film that includes an incredible tree, what a tree! - I think you'd appreciate it. I have it on VHS if you ever want to rent it from me."

In late 2000, Condron, finding his lot unbearable, put brush to canvas in an attempt to alleviate a singular burden. The results - remarkable paintings of the otherwise unremarkable - located the Southern California native just left of center on the photorealism artistic map. Condron's works were notable not just for their technical ability - he's had no formal training to speak of - but for their emotional content.

In 'Granted'(2003), a 1970-style diner counter - complete with chrome-sided stools sits empty, its half-light shared only by an outdated coat rack. The stool's concave cushions betray decades of use. It's a recurring scene in Condron's work. "It's these lowdown diners," he says, "rich with history and the ass and elbow grease of generations of bacon and egg lovers...piss-poor coffee and white bread toast that I feel are taken for granted."

Condron's paintings can evoke a powerful nostalgia for something you didn't even know you were nostalgic for. Sometimes it creates nostalgia or even outright longing for something you didn't even particularly care for in the first place. In 'Whittier Blvd., Evening'(2005) the molded plastic tables and chairs of a chili-dog stand reflect the red traffic lights in the dismal street outside, where power lines choke a lilac sky. But oh! How you want to be there! Weren't you there? You come away feeling used, like Condron dug up a private experience you had not shared with anyone, of that time you bent down to tie your shoelaces and saw the secret world beneath the seats.

Lacking human figures, the paintings are forceful invitations: the viewer is immediately inserted into the position of Unwitting Subject. The result can be uncomfortable when you connect with an image only to realize that you have never been on an old school bus at midday in Moab, Utah 'Infatuation'(2001).

Like every Condron painting, 'Infatuation', explores his preoccupations, chief among which are a 1970's stylistic sensibility, his own temerity and simultaneous desire to get himself out of the way. Condron says that one of the things he's after is to create stillness and a sense of solitude. "I choose to paint the familiar, something that is recognizable at once. This way the work of deciphering the image is done, allowing instead for time to just "dwell" in the scene.

Late afternoon sun bathes an aluminum desk and the most scholastic of chairs in 'The Upper Division'(2005). You are an interloper in the otherwise empty classroom. At the chalkboard, elongated erasers sit beneath smeared words. Whatever was being communicated is gone with the communicator and those who would have benefited. You are precisely too late for whatever it was, and too early for whatever comes next: this is the in-between time that Condron cultivates and explores. Nothing in particular is happening but you are compelled to stand there, unblinking in the doorway. Turning away, as it must have been for Condron, is almost unbearable.

Jim Kravets
Managing Editor(ret.)
Pt. Reyes Light, May, 2006