Survival in A State of Shocking Reality

For MTTony Matelli's silicon sculpture "Old Enemy, New Victim" depicts three warring chimpanzees. "All of my sculptures are in a state of compromise," he said.
Tony Matelli's solo exhibition "Survival" is showing for the first time in Moscow at the Gary Tatintsian Gallery.

Matelli is a promising American artist, famous for his provocative and hyperrealistic silicon sculptures of humans and animals.

His work as been shown in Paris, New York and Berlin, and appearing in Moscow are several of his best-known pieces, including "Old Enemy, New Victim" and "Sleepwalker" -- a life-size sculpture of a man in white briefs with his arms outstretched, as if he is about to walk into something.

"His art is not at all provocative. It's concerned with the ideas and emotions of ordinary people," said Victoria Pukemova, the gallery's director.

"We have been cooperating with Tony since the opening of Tatintsian Gallery in 2005, when his works were displayed in the 'We Can Do It' exhibition," Pukemova said. "Since then, we have kept an eye on the development of his technique. ... The artist has been progressing with his work in the States."

While some of his works are shocking, there is a grain of humor in his self-portrait, "Double Meat Head." The sculpture is a puzzle of real meat products representing two stages of Matelli's existence. The first stage is abundance, signified with fresh meat. The second is decay, in which the flesh falls into rotten disorder.

"These states exist in every other being," Pukemova said.

"Sleepwalker" also embodies some of Matelli's own feelings and experiences, his perceptions of society.

"It shows how Tony felt outside this world and its universally accepted rules," Pukemova said. "Tony Matelli often describes himself as a communicator."

Each sculpture takes several months to create, and it can take several years for Matelli to put together an exhibition.

He started his career as an assistant to Jeff Koons, one of the highest-paid artists today, who is renowned for his kitsch works, such as a giant puppy made out of flowers and grass, as well as his tacky sculptures like the gold-plated statue "Michael Jackson and Bubbles," representing the singer and his pet chimpanzee.

Koons' influence is evident in the transparent themes of the installations. One of the sculptures, "Old Enemy," shows one chimpanzee strangling another, while a third chimpanzee is chewing on the victim's leg.

"All of my sculptures are in a state of compromise. They are lost, wounded, tangled and shitty," Matelli said. "This is everyone's general state at one point or another."

"Survival" runs through Nov. 15, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays and noon to 7 p.m. on Saturday at the Gary Tatintsian Gallery, located at 3/8 Ulitsa Ilyinka, Bldg. 5. M. Ploshchad Revolyutsii. Tel. 921-2102, www.tatintsian.com