Marlborough Contemporary presents Past-Life, Tony Matelli’s first solo exhibition in the U.K. Comprising six new sculptures made from marble, stone, and painted cast bronze and glass, the show serves as a concise expression of the artist’s iconoclastic temperament, technical facility, and a guarded romanticism.
The works originate in found garden statuary that is subsequently sandblasted, truncated, decapitated, patinated and painted to achieve a look of plausible antiquity. Further embellishment involves the unexpected addition of cast bronze perishables such as vegetables, fruit, meats and bread that, in stark contrast to their ancient host, are rendered in eternal freshness. In a recent development, Matelli has utilized cast glass to evoke the translucence of citrus flesh, adding another subtly powerful layer of physicality to his beguiling hyperrealism.
In choosing such arresting juxtapositions, Matelli retains the enduring allure of the Classical while confronting its conventions of pose, subject and allegory and subjecting these well-travelled tropes to his signature irreverence. For example, the regal stone head of an ancient warrior casually reimagined as a pedestal for a ham and cheese sandwich, upends hierarchies of a complexity well beyond a mere high/low binary. Similarly, a reclining draped figure, with attendant cherub, is strewn with a fruit salad of ripe produce, somehow short-circuiting both kitsch and classicism and moving into more poetic territory.
Tony Matelli was born in 1971 in Chicago, Illinois, and received his MFA from Cranbrook Academy of Art in 1995. Matelli has exhibited widely, mounting solo and group exhibitions at The Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, MoMA PS1, The Davis Museum, Kunsthalle Wein, ILLUMInations at The Venice Biennale, ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum, Palais de Tokyo, and The High Line. The artist lives and works in New York.