This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: The Tony Matelli exhibit that opened recently at the White Flag Projects gallery is undeniably fun.
The installation is very unfussy. There are only five objects. But all are perpetually active, so giving them space seems advisable.
Walk in and you face a long black (painted bronze) rope that dances up into the air like a charmed snake. The black rope, Untitled, is forever moving upward, as does Josh. Josh is a convincingly life-like sculpted figure formed from silicone, foam and steel. His face is flushed from the blood that rushes to his head as he levitates, feet toward the ceiling. Like the rising rope, he is a perfectly impossible figure.
The other two installations in the main gallery space are a glass of water upon what appears to be a cardboard box, Glass of Water, and a mirror mottled with purple mist and dust, Hand Drag. The cardboard box should show the weight of the glass, but gravitational force is conspicuously missing and the box holds firm. The mirror reflects your perplexed face as you ponder. Curiouser and curiouser.
Around the corner, presented on a table with small tin boxes (what is in them?), burn hundred dollar bills. The American money burns only at the corner. The flame, and the threat, is constant. Lying next to the burning money are bills that await destruction. When shown in Europe, the burning currency was, of course, Euros. The title of the piece, Fuck It, Free Yourself, defines this state of constant threat as an act of release. A likely desire to blow out the flame and pocket the Benjamins gets the viewer involved again.
Matelli uses real objects (a mirror, a water glass) and representations of real objects (sculpted currency, sculpted man, sculpted cardboard box) and employs them for the purpose of illusion. He turns your world upside down and then has you peer into the smudgy mirror.
Matelli’s repurposed objects create lived moments of bewilderment. He tangles art and magic to perplex. Matelli’s five philosophical objects will put you into an Alice in Wonderland state of mind. Just try not to smile.