Tony Matelli’s hyper-real sculptures of meat and vegetable portraits, sprouting weeds, stacked cards, sleepwalking humans and malicious chimpanzees captures your attention with immediacy, a visual poignancy that would make it hard not to react with curiosity and amusement. This initial response opens the door to a slightly somber and disturbing environment where each series tackle concepts of death, resurrection, failure, pessimism, loss and reinvention. Matelli’s own personal concerns are projected onto these works buliding a relationship between object and artist that is further extended to the public.
Matelli’s Veg Head and Meat Head series tackle the idea of death and decay but more importantly the natural order of rebirth as a result of death. This story of resurrection is seen literally in these sculptures where on one a bust stands fresh and colorful, each notated ingredient at its highest fruitition. Next to it you’ll find either a before or after scenario with the vegetables rotten and pathetically sprawled along the pedestal. Their hyper-real element of imitating real objects with such careful precision might further stir a sense of reality and immediacy and feed your reaction to not only sympathize but relate wholly to this natural cycle of death and rebirth.
In his Weed series, Matelli molds, casts and paints pestilent weeds found in nature and appropriates them into an interior space, specifically that of a gallery or museum where they violate a rarified space with such intrusive power it’s astounding that such a small pesky object can suck the air out of a room. Imagine walking along a gallery wall appreciating a series of minimalist paintings and you happen to peek down and BAM there’s a branch of weeds sprouting out of the floor catching you completely off guard. This reactionary element to Matelli’s work helps ignite the conceptual sensibilities of persistence and fitting where you might not belong.
Here again we encounter a triumph of the underdog where two starved chimpanzees attack a much larger more gluttonous master and we can’t help but cheer them on.
The artist continues to tackle these concepts of frustration and entanglement in a series of jumbled ropes laid out in a heap of hopeless mess. Another work takes an expressionistic approach where loops and knots suggest a standing figure who would not exist without these irredeemable tangles.
Matelli’s uses his own struggles and pessimisms as a launching pad to his work, a romantic artist with a diaristic approach sharing stories of problems and trying to undo those problems which only risks being less interesting and even inhumane.