Wednesday, September 28, 2011 at 12:15pm
VCU Student Commons Theater
907 Floyd Ave.
“Lost, absurd and debased, Tony Matelli’s figures experience the complexities of life with ever-present possibility of both death and rejuvenation on the horizon. Sleepwalkers, lost boy scouts, rotting vegetables, sprouting weed, beer cans and card stacks signal the banal passing of time. As hyperrealist bronze sculptures, these scenarios instead are frozen in time, captured in visceral detail.
… Matelli’s involvement in the power of simulation and the uncanny has drawn comparisons to such contemporaries as sculptor Ron Mueck, Robert Gober, Charles Ray, and Janine Antoni. His interest in the grotesque reflects back to the ancient mythology, where the earliest transgressions of animal and vegetable co-mingling are preserved in art and literature. Matelli’s Meat and Veg heads reflect more specifically the painted veg-head portraits by sixteenth century mannerist Giuseppe Archimboldo, a quintessential influence for the Dadaists and surrealists of the early twentieth century. As Roland Barthes says of Archimboldo, the painter constantly pursued “different forms to represent the same thing. Does he want to paint a nose? His multitude of synonyms proposes a branch, a pear, a pumpkin, corn, flower, fish”. But for Archimboldo, as well as Matelli , it is neither the pear nor the nose that is of interest, but the vacillation between the meaning of the two, and in Matelli’s case, also the third meaning of the bronze as material. Each form is both like and unlike another, predictable yet surprising.
Matelli’s work thrives on dualities. He engages both the real and the imagined, both the personal and the political. Like floating coins in a bucket of water, all of Matelli’s work embraces the simplicity, sometimes absurdity of everyday, questioning the social order, while relishing the magic.” -Natalie Westbrook