Matelli has transformed The Green Gallery into a den of ennui and neglect, a space less sanctioned for art than vetoed by it.
Fuck It, Free Yourself! forcefully underscores this rejection of the status-quo. Seamlessly realized in porcelain and steel, two hundred-dollar bills burn casually on a table, perpetually consumed by the dancing fire. It is a dream magically rendered: an eternal flame.
Occupying marginal areas such as wall corners, fissures in the floor, and gaps around the edges are numerous weeds (Abandon), hyper-realistically rendered in painted bronze. Often seen as symbols of disregard or surrender, the weeds here are a celebration of the mundane and vulgar over the rare and precious. Permanently rebellious, the plants are nagging reminders of our fallibility and vanity, performing as unlikely heroic symbols.
In a suite of faux-monuments entitled Yesterday, Matelli renders elaborate structures from likenesses of playing cards, beer cans, cold pizza and cigarette butts. These testaments to wasted time appear perpetually verged on total collapse, their attraction a result of their seemingly built-in failure. Composed of polychrome bronze, Yesterday is a kind of cairn to the future, a testament to the inevitability of obsolescence and catastrophe.
Tony Matelli's work is a well-crafted play of illusions. Superficially Matelli's sculptures are immediately gratifying, like the special effects of Hollywood, but his hyper-realistic sculptures tend to have a thoughtful and deceptive depth. From painted bronze playing cards to full scale human manikins with real human hair, Matelli's sculptures not only exhibit a sophisticated technical execution but grapple with ideas that range from a stylized romanticism, that delves into personal destruction and reinvention, to the negation of consumer society. Matelli's pieces are memorable because they solicit a wonderful reaction of repulsion, humor, shock, fascination and confusion, while remaining pertinent and significant through their conceptual connotations.
This is evident in his sculpture from 2006, Fucked Couple, that embodies the ideas of perseverance and love, as a man and woman are violently mutilated to the point of absurdity, and still stand together, holding hands. Fuck It, Free Yourself! is the objectification of an act of cultural negation through burning money. Often his sculptures depict a denouement whose beginning and end can only be inferred. Amidst Matelli's works we find ourselves plunged into an intriguing memorial of our world and the artist's world.
Matelli often portrays characters or things that are barely getting by, things nearly dead, hopelessly lost or otherwise totally unwanted. Serving as metaphors for our own social malaise and general struggle for survival, Matelli’s sculptures mimic inner states of desolation, panic, ambivalence and despair. These states are often associated with trying to locate one’s self within the configuration of our social world—a tenuous process wherein alienation is all but assured.
TV Commercial for Yesterday by David Robbins: