PaperCity Magazine

April 2019- Dallas

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Page 71 of 99

(continued from page 69) 70 radically different reception. You are right, the context can definitely affect the work … or maybe the work affects the context differently. That sculpture was specifically for the show at Wellesley. But then it wasn't specifically made for that location on the campus. I've done three sleepwalkers. There was an older man — the one made for Wellesley. A female — a young woman. And finally a young man, like a 22-year-old. Did you appreciate the controversy at Wellesley? There was a dialogue that definitely came out of that installation. Maybe you aren't doing your job if there isn't a passionate response. I have mixed feelings about that moment in time and the reception that that work received. It spoke to the quality of the work that the reaction was so strong. It speaks to the sensitivity of the object and the way it was rendered. It would have had a different reaction if it was a different type of sculpture, perhaps not so realistic. The placement created such a strong response, I believe. This was 2014. It sort of pre-dated the #metoo movement. It predates it, but it was right at the beginning of the conversations regarding safe spaces and trigger warnings and deplatforming on college campuses. That was the first time I had heard any of those ideas. For me, that experience was incredibly interesting. I think that this was the first time that many people heard many of the terms that were emerging. Last night, while I was with some Dallas collector friends, someone brought up the Michael Jackson documentary on HBO. A conversation ensued about how would we now treat his music. We all felt very differently about it. I brought up the idea as it relates to art. Gauguin had relationships with very young women. Do we now take him out of the canon of great artists? That's super problematic. And of course, in the case of Jackson and others in the media, it is potentially rape and not just misogyny. Does any of this current media chatter inform your work? Not at all. I am interested in ideas that I feel are bigger and less specific — more open ideas. I find all of those conversations super interesting, but not for my work. The second you start engaging in current politics is the second you kill a work. The work starts to take on a prescriptive and a morality lesson. I was just looking at one of those Xeroxes done by Jenny Holzer. They are still really amazing. But they engage in politics in a meaningful way. What is your thing? Is it an irreverent quality? Or wit? Do you like those words to be used in reference to your art? Those are descriptors that I am comfortable with. I try and engage in some humor in my work. I think it's a really good way to engage an audience. If they engage in a humorous way they let their guard down and are more open. There is a fun and playful quality to your work. Some of the images I've seen in reproductions are from a white cube room. In that context, they take on a more high-minded interpretation. Showing them at the Joule will take on a variety of different meanings. I think it's going to be very interesting to see how my work functions there. We are going to put them on pedestals somewhere in the main lobby. I will be coming down soon to decide on placement. I find that it's really profound that there has been such an intersection between art and fashion in the past decade: the collaborations between Louis Vuitton and artists Takashi Murakami and Richard Prince. Yes, the work I am bringing to the Joule was part of the Margiela runway show in Paris last year. It wasn't a collaboration? It was a collision of two different things that just happened to work perfectly together. Margiela's artistic director who does all of his shows approached me. He brought images of my work to John Galliano, and Galliano said, "Yes." Attendees at the Maison Margiela show were touching some of the works. This goes up against the glass-wall mentality of art, especially in museums. Are you inviting folks to do that? No. However, the viewer often finds magic in my work — a suspension of disbelief. The best way to test it to see if it's real is to tap it. I like that. You comparing yourself to a magician. That's right. I think that's a really powerful aspect of working in this realist type of way. This mistake you make in your mind of what something really is … It's a really effective way of working in this type of language. I'm not a fetishist. I don't think that's what the work is. It's a kind of trick. Like I was talking about humor, I think that's a really great way to get someone involved in the ideas behind the work. It's not intimidating. It's accessible. It's seductive. It brings you in. I want there to be lots of things to look at and wonder at in the work. Do you think it's the over-stylized fruit that's seductive or the beauty of the Greco-Roman sculpture? The beauty of ruin is so integral to this body of work. Then there is the conflicting nature of the soft, juicy, bright, shiny things on top of it. The collision of those things. The tension of those objects. The formal quality of what those things signify and their seductive natures. The whole idea of Adam and Eve's forbidden fruit must come into play. And, of course, there's that too. Tony Matelli's sculptures will be on view at the Joule hotel and at the Dallas Art Fair, Thursday, April 11, through Sunday, April 14. Tony Matelli's Horse, 2017

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