Gary Tatintsian Gallery is proud to present Tony Matelli’s second solo show entitled The Idiot.
Concurrent with the inevitable spectacle and regality of the Moscow Biennial, Tony Matelli has chosen to install only three small and deceptively simple sculptures. Through themes of surrender, entropy, and misbehavior, the installation continues Matelli’s irreverent critique of socially sanctioned (art) spaces and values among other analogous concerns.
Conceived as an outdoor piece The Idiot is a bronze sculpture of an old Budweiser beer box mounted on the wall. Possibly a leftover from a drunken night, the box with two punched holes suggests a provisional head or effigy. A town drunk. The village idiot. Emptied of its original contents, Matelli has made this hollow head home to birds, who live, eat and shit within it. Flying in and out of the eyes of The Idiot and through the gallery, the birds function as visual thought bubbles. The gallery is no longer filled with empty space—dead space—it is now filled with Idiot space.
Fuck it, free yourself! represents a rejection of the status-quo and a violent withdrawal from society. Seamlessly realized in porcelain and steel, two hundred dollar bills burn casually on a table. The bills are mysteriously unconsumed by the dancing fire. It is a dream magically rendered; an eternal flame. This is an anti-social sculpture. It is what happens when the peasants run the castle.
Matelli’s signature hyperrealistic bronze weeds “overgrow” the gallery, occupying the marginal areas such as wall corners, fissures in the floor, and gaps around the edges. Often seen as symbols of neglect and surrender, the weeds here are a celebration of the mundane and vulgar over the rare and precious. Permanently rebellious, the plants are nagging reminders of infallibility and vanity, but at the same time act as unlikely heroic symbols.
Hypnotic, exquisitely rendered and densely layered, these small sculptures represent an aggressive withdrawal from the parody of ambition and terminal hollowness that has come to signify art spectaculars. Matelli treats the gallery as a left-over, a forgotten space, in fact a rejected space. He addresses a moral predicament he finds largely absent in the art of his contemporaries for whom the act of art itself is of unquestionable value. His work is largely sustained through questioning acts of worth and worthiness, often testifying that there are things we should not and simply cannot maintain.