Tony Matelli (1971, Chicago, USA). Lives and works in New York.
Tony Matelli is an American sculptor famous for his hyperrealistic works that reflect the subtle and ever-elusive combination of concept and contemporary technology. He received BFA from the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design and MFA from the Cranbrook Academy of Art in 1995.
Matelli’s work reaches beyond the boundaries of political correctness and the social conduct code. Every of his objects incorporates a provocation, a protest against the accepted rules and conventions that exist in the surrounding world. His sculptures can be described as anti-monuments, that re-interprete the tradition of hyperrealism in American sculpture and focuse on loneliness, defenselessness and, at the same time, resilience and resistance to unfortunate circumstances.
Matelli’s famous work “Sleepwalker” was first publicly installed outside Wellesley College, hosting a concurrent exhibition of his work at Wellesley’s Davis Museum. Public reaction to sculpture was similar to that of some people’s to Anthony Gormley’s figure placed near a ledge on the Empire State Building being called in to emergency services as a jumper. The college students claimed that the sculpture produced apprehension, fear, and triggering thoughts about sexual assault on the all-women’s campus. In 2016, New York’s High Line hosted Sleepwalker’s next major public debut. This time, the context was strikingly different: There was a celebration about the piece being up there. Sleepwalker was surrounded by tourists taking pictures with the sculpture. Turning into a hit on social media, in two years, Sleepwalker had transitioned from an alleged menace to a selfie prop.
‘What they see in the sculpture is not in the sculpture…’
In a female version of Sleepwalker (2009) the emotions to the statue are being pushed aside in favor of having a discussion about art, a question that Matelli called ‘issues of modesty and Victorian ideas people have about the human body’. Why did the nude male Sleepwalker create such angst, whereas nude female version has presumably not? This reaction can also indicate a larger problem: Why a half-nude man sculpture inspires such fear when the woman in her most natural appearance causes the sense of insecurity and defenselessness. What is most threatening about Sleepwalker is its reminder of how vulnerable and exposed we often are when we lose the illusion control of what is happening around us.
Tony Matelli’s works have been on display in a large number of prestigious museums and art institutions all over the world:
Mudam (Luxembourg), Museum Ludwig (Cologne), Altoids Collection. New Museum (New York), FLAG Art Foundation (New York), ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum (Denmark), Musee d’arte Contemporain (Montreal), Fundacion La Caixa (Madrid), Akzo Nobel Art Foundation (Amsterdam), Bergen Kunstmuseum (Bergen), FRAC (Bordeaux), Museum of New Zealand (Wellington), Skive New Art Museum (Copenhagen), Uppsala Konstmusuem (Uppsala).