Highlights from the Sculpture Biennale: a Conversation with Matthew Lutz

To mark the Sculpture Biennale in Geneva, we have spoken to 3 young exhibiting artists about their participation and their practice in general. The second contribution is from artist Matthew Lutz (b. 1984, Brooklyn, New York, lives and works in Paris)
by Lara Morrell
July 24, 2020
Lara Morrell
Matthew Lutz

Could you tell us a little about your practice and creative process? How do you define it? What sort of materials do you work with?

I work in large format paintings, ceramics and when luck has it, in live performance. At first I was producing these large scale paintings as projection screens and backdrops for performances, and through that work I was able to think through issues of scale and narrative. When I have the possibility I prefer to work on site,  and all of the materials, clay, canvas, bodies, physical scales and durations are understood as located in a site. It is the interactions between people, materials, histories and ideas that I enjoy working with so much.

More specifically could you tell us about your intervention for the Sculpture Garden Biennial and the ideas behind that?

This painting is divided into three panels, I think of it as formatted like comic strips stacked on top of one another. It is attached to a wooden structure and from behind, that maybe looks like the armature the Hollywood Sign.  I knew that I wanted to use this opportunity to reflect on the legacy of narrative public paintings. As we go through the pandemic and waves of global financial recession, as well as huge strides towards the rebalancing of power in society; I find a lot of inspiration looking towards historic muralists during the depression era of the USA.  During the 1930’s the artist Aaron Douglas produced an incredible cycle of murals for the New York Public Library. His work as a history painter is seeped in artist’s subjectivity.  His use of color, graphic characters and drama is totally unique and I have a strong connection to his desire to represent American history through his vibrant painterly lens.

How does this context (the exhibiting of your work in an outdoor / public space) add to or become an active component in the work?

Matthew Lutz, The Rising and the setting of the sun, 2020. © Julien Gremaud

So, the imagery in this painting comes from two works which were designed for the bedroom of Louis XV. Made in 1752 by François Boucher these works were private commissions for Madame de Pompadour. Boucher made these paintings which were to-scale models for tapestries, already an extravagant idea to oil paint your maquette, and the tapestries were  completed in 1755 and hung in the king’s bedroom at château de Bellevue. This imagery was made to fluctuate between a private space and a public display. The work exists in various formats and spaces: the narrative textile decoration for a sexually charged bedroom, is also a painting. The questions of paintings existing in multiple realms was intriguing and so I applied this allegorical imagery depicting day and night into this large public work.

Who or what has been the greatest influence to your practice so far?

Learning how to collaborate and meet artists over zoom has been difficult. I have been pretty isolated during the Covid-19 pandemic, and every social interaction I have had these last months has been very important; it just confirms that I can not wait to re-connect with the workshops and artists who I so much enjoy to create with! I thought the animated series by Meriem Bennani was wonderful . Seeing Tourmaline’s work “Salacia” acquired by the MoMA and screened on their website was a highlight during these dark hours. There is a lot of hope to be found in the spreading visibility and growth of mutual aid networks and Patia Borja’s is an amazing resource. On my horizon is a series of painted set design works for the show scalable skeletal escalator at Kunsthalle Zurich by Isabel Lewis with many talented collaborators which opens 24.09.2020. .  Also this September I will be directing a performance of ‘Filling Station’, a ballet in an outdoor venue in Vienna with the artist Lucie Stahl and produced by The Performance Agency .

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