May welcomes artist Matthew Palladino to the New York gallery circuit. The painter began his career in the Bay Area, spending time at California College of the Arts and with the Mission School before relocating to Philadelphia. He now works in both locales, regularly exhibiting throughout the country. With subjects lurid and macabre, his current paintings examine how our perceptions of historical atrocity are distorted through distance and recapitulation. The opening of his solo show at Fredericks and Freiser gallery in Chelsea now gives New Yorkers the opportunity to view Palladino's art in all its eerie splendor. The artist recently took some time to answer a few questions about his life and work.
For plenty of ambitious artists, a solo show in a Chelsea gallery is something of a holy grail. Do you see this as a significant triumph in your career?
Matthew Palladino: I am just excited to show in New York, due to the sheer number of people who come out to support art. It being in Chelsea is of course great, with their first Thursdays art walks getting a lot of people seeing my work that wouldn't necessarily have seen it otherwise. But I'm not sure that Chelsea is the center of the art world anymore. It probably moved back to Europe somewhere. Or even more likely it's on the internet.
You now operate primarily in the art communities of San Francisco and Philadelphia. How do the two cities compare?
MP: Here is the trade off as I see it: San Francisco has more money to spend on supporting art, but the cost of living in the city is very high. In Philadelphia, cost of living is very low, but there are fewer people financially patronizing the arts. I've heard Philly is pretty good about supporting nonprofit projects though, and there are definitely just as many people enthusiastic about going to view art in Philly as there are in San Francisco.
What's your relationship with the business side of art? I imagine you like to sell your work, have you had much success with past exhibitions?
MP: Art business is a strange thing, and while it's good to have a basic understanding of how things work, I've found it's best to hook up with people who you like and trust to handle that end of it. I'm not great with money, I kind of have a binge/purge relationship with it. I've had shows that have sold out that went great and I've had shows where I sold nothing and it was still a great experience.
How did you get in touch with the folks at Fredericks and Freiser?
MP: I showed at NADA Art Fair in Miami with my San Francisco gallery, Baer Ridgway Exhibitions. A collector from New York was enthusiastic about the work, and the Baer Ridgway guys, knowing that I was looking for a place to show in New York, asked if he had any galleries he thought the work would fit well in. He suggested Fredericks and Freiser. After some back and forth and a face-to-face meeting, they offered me the viewing room to do a solo show in conjunction with one of their represented artists in the main gallery.
The work in this show takes graphic, objectifying subject matter--lynchings, mass graves, tarred and feathered dismembered bodies--and dehumanizes it further through stylization and a flattened perspective. What can you tell us about this motif in your paintings?
MP: I think my focus on dehumanization began with a series I did on Jim Jones. I was having a dual impulse to identify emotionally with the people of Peoples Temple, but also with Jones himself. He was a human--very flawed, and very sick, but a human nonetheless. Finding the human in the monstrous is very important to me. At the same time, I realize I'm responding to someone else's portrait of him and framing of the events. I'm removed by place and time from these important moments in humanity, and have to rely entirely on other people's representations. In the current work, as the distance between the original event and myself has grown exponentially, as the events referenced--such as the Massacre of the Innocents--become more distorted by retelling and re-presentation, the visual impulse towards the mechanical/rigid/controlled/inhuman becomes more pronounced.
MP: No plans. Maybe take a little vacation, then back on the grind.
Matthew Palladino's new work is on display at Fredericks and Freiser, 536 W. 24th St. in Manhattan, through June 11th, 2011.